Life Compared with Death

Religious leaders of several faiths have told us that we live in a world of contrasts. Light/dark. Good/evil. Day/night. Peace/war. Man/woman. Included in this “wisdom” is the “life/death contrast.”

Excuse me. Life as a human being has nothing to do with death of other humans. The other contrasts are actually interdependent: light/dark, good/evil, day/night, peace/war, man/woman. But human life is not dependent on or interdependent with human death.

Though the differences may seem immense at times, man and woman have more in common than they have in contrast. The other “pairs” are related by virtue of one being the absence of the other. But when you or I experience the death of a loved one, and not just postulate about it in our heads, death is not simply the absence of life.

(Human) Death is the denial of life as we experience it. Death is the loss of experience gained by the deceased and given by the human community. Death is the severance of connections we nurtured and cherished. Death robs humans of meaning and purpose. Death is also the stripping of two other characteristics that make us human: free will and self-determination.

It is possible that the religious leaders mean well by saying death is just an interdependent contrast with life. And we might be inclined to take that on faith. We might be willing to look from the irrationality of that in hopes that the existential pain will go away. But looking away doesn’t change the fact that human life does not need the death of other humans to survive, develop or find meaning.

Death is unlike any aspect of life. It is unnatural and debilitating for the survivors. It is up to us survivors to recognize and denounce any connection between our lives and the state of death. Death is the ultimate enemy, not a companion.

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