To live is to die
Life is a strange thing for us human beings. We are born into life as small, sensible and wondrous beings, curious as to what life is and what it might give us. Then we age and slowly become more and more like the earth we walk on; full of memories, a will to still live on and experience, explore, but not - death is our only friend when the time for our transmission to eternity comes.
It is a paradox, as life never "begins" or "ends" - it is eternity and eternity lacks the concept of time. Us humans know this, but emotionally we cannot understand or accept this fact. Our logic tells us that we, too, will become dust and continue onward through eternal exchanges of energy, from one state to another. Because that is how our universe operates; letting energy travel between different positions and either climb up, in exploration, or down, into decay and death. That is life - and eternity.
One of the most emotionally intense feelings one can experience, is to whitness a close person climb down from such a ladder, leaving energy behind, as if the will to live is stagnating and fading away. A person, that from the early youth, started to create and build up a society for the next generations to come. A person with many capablities, with many skills and abilities - only to slowly becoming unaware of the reality around, the world in which we all live in.
When you meet such a person having become 100 years old, not knowing who is visiting, what is around and moving, where to go, what to think, what tomorrow will bring, the emotional logic sets in; why? Why are we to continue living, when our lives are drained from energy? What is life without a burning soul? People who resist, fight, marching onward into battles and peace, into bonds of hate and love - do we not admire them for just this; the transcendance of the body to satisfy and develop the mind - to break free from the material and join conscious with the abstract. Our world consists out of ideas and those who realize this, will actively work towards goals that leave the material functioning merely as a way of causing change and re-working these ideas.
As you encounter age, become face to face with death of the soul, you quickly come to realize certain things; 1) that there is a major difference between living, and actually living life, and 2) that nature must have its course, and that there is no way we can escape from this. 1) goes back to the romanticist view on the world; to live is to gain new experiences, to always strive towards higher goals and states of the mind, to explore and enjoy the fine sensibilities in life and to hold on to the eternal that shapes and nurtures us as human beings - to conquer with honour and die in a manner alike.
This is an ancient view on age and becoming old; in pre-christian times, the Nordic men and women, when they felt that they no longer could contribute to family or society, either walked out over cliffs, or simply wandered off into the woods to die. They, unlike the modern man who views life as a state of only materially being alive, realized, that without the strength to explore and challenge, without the meaning which their ancient gods and goddesses gave them, without something to live and fight for - life was not worth anything. Simply put; being alive was to actually live, and not simply breathing and existing.
While this was a very hard and brutal way of life, it was also a very realistic and more meaningful take on reality; we are born, only to die, so why not live for something that transcends death? Modern people cannot see past their own death, and as they are accustomed to the modern society and the way modern lifestyle works, they emotionally become impotent when faced with a person of old age, where the mind is broken down so far, that children and memories become things of fragmentary pictures, as if a photo album was scattered around and torn into pieces - unrecognizable situations and experiences now gone.
For the modern man, life is simple: grow up, study, work, family, decay, death. There is only repetitive and unmeaningful tasks waiting ahead. It is in one way amazing, as all people long for something else, deep down inside. While going to work and receiving money that can pay off this month's rent, no one is feeling happy or satisfied inside if the streets are crowded with violence and anarchy, if culture is demonized and replaced with consumer products and plastic ideals, if family business is a mess and man and woman cannot agree to what positions they play, if children are unstable, insecure and emotionally broken - like a tree, we cannot stand without roots that nurture us and give us life. Even the hardest working individuals in our society face the same eternal principles as our ancient forefathers did; love, cultural bonds, natural experiences, and war. Either we face them and value them for the experiences they are, or we relapse into modern lifestyle: "I have to work, I have to vote, I have to obey, and I have to support this, because all alternatives are evil". Not surprisingly, most people in our society are either insane or emotionally broken inside.
This material view on life; that as long as we breath, we are "alive", eventually denies itself, as no human being feels satisfied with simply "being alive". To be alive is to take active part in life and what this world has to give us. To spend 8 hours in an office and lifting papers that just lead to more paper work, to unquestionably go through life and never explore the other side of the river, to trap oneself in one's own mind and never see beyond what lies in front, is not to live - it is death. For death is not simply a state where our material body decay and rot, but a change of mental state. For a person having spent years, not knowing who is around, not able to read, write or listen to music, not able to tell who is your grandchild and who is your milkman next door, is to die - is simply not to live.
The modern man cannot, do not, want to see this, as it means a re-valuation of what it means to be alive. Most people don't want to ask this question, as it may lead to the realization that their lives lack meaning and that death may be more than simply a material loss. A romanticist do not fear material death, as it is inevitable - we will all die, sooner or later. Instead, he fears that day when the mind has become so numb, so confused, so decayed, that it cannot think clearly, when the thoughts are drained in a cloud of fog. When we imagine ourselves running through empty streets, trying to find an exit. Where the houses, the air, the forests, where fog is everywhere and where we are lost in our own reality. Where we hear a voice, trying to lead us: "Do you remember me? Do you see me? I am your grandson, do you remember?", and you run towards that voice. You turn into a back-alley, look around, but see - feel only - fog.
Vague, aimless, not knowing where to run, where to hide, where to live at all. For a romanticist, this is death. This is the state where life leads nowhere, but to an eventual end. The ancients were intelligent, in that they realized that life must be meaningful, or else life is not worth to live. The Nordic pagan religion starts from a point where emptiness is the beginning, which contradicts itself, and then automatically relapse into a neverending construction of a growing reality. Ancients lived this way; they went to war to challenge their strength and courage, they had children to live after they were gone, they worshipped gods and mother nature, to nurture the continuation of life - their view on life was not that of a material one, but of a idealistic and brave one. He who dares to face death, has truly known what life really is. To live, is to die.
The modern man fears this idea, and romanticism in general, because it means that most people in our modern society live lives that are empty and useless. That they wander, onward, not knowing of what to think and what to work towards. For to consume products to remain happy, to grow lazy and overweight on unhealthy food due to personal incompetence, to live in a family that is broken within, to destroy that which shouts "I am life, I am the past and the future - I am your life, but also your absolute death" - is to have already died. The modern man will never grow old, and cannot grow old. He will never experience the day when decay sets in and death becomes closer. The modern man is already dead, because he has never lived.
July 13, 2006