Tag Archives: gothic

Why death is good for you

It’s generally claimed that awareness of our mortality is what sets humans apart from other animals. I’m wholly convinced elephants have some pretty good ideas about death, and I’ve no reason to think any species of mammal entirely oblivious. I find it harder to make any kind of guess about what creatures other than mammals are thinking, there’s so much less to go on.

Thinking about people though, most of us, most of the time clearly do not live with a consciousness of our own mortality. As the saying goes, no one lies on their deathbed wishing they had spent more time at the office. Come the end of your innings, all the material wealth is of little account. I do not believe the culture I live in is particularly aware of death. We see it as something to delay and avoid (although we won’t drive slower to avoid it for ourselves or others). I think mostly we assume death is for later, or for someone else, and we act accordingly.

I gather (New Scientist article last year) people who are conscious of their mortality tend to move away from rampant materialism and towards a more spiritual way of life. Thinking about death, properly, will make you more willing to enjoy each precious moment you have, not squandering it on worthless things. Death makes you care for your loved ones more. The death consciousness can bring life into focus, making us work out what matters and what does not.

Looking at the consumerist culture I live in, where politicians preach long work hours and adverts sell materialism at every turn, I do not see an intrinsic awareness of our own mortality. Quite the opposite. I see a lot of distractions designed to help us forget that we were all born to die. We’d be so much better off if we gave a bit of thought to how we might feel in that death bed scenario. What might we regret? What will we look back on joyfully? That’s one of the best guides to living you could find. If anything, the animal kingdom is more death conscious than we are. They don’t go around repeating actions that are likely to kill them, whilst convincing themselves that it will be fine. (Binge drinking, drug taking, driving too fast, too tired, to drunk, never getting any exercise, courting heart attacks and diabetes etc).

If you feel the overwhelming need to raise your awareness of death, or someone else’s, I’d like to try and sell you a thing. (Yes, I know what I said before about materialism, and that there may be some irony here, but we all need to eat and I promise, this is a good thing!) It’s the tale of a girl who murders her family for money. This does not go well for her. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1412864360/clemency-slaughter-and-the-legacy-of-death

Clemency Slaughter and the Legacy of D’Eath: A Grim Gothic Tale without a Happy Ending, written by Steampunk author Jonathan Green and illustrated by gothic artist Tom Brown. (Tom being my other half). Having read it and seen the art in progress, I can vouch for this being both lovely, and full of dead people.


Death (it being Samhain)

“Denial of death is the route of all evil.” New Scientist, 20th October 2012. Possibly they meant ‘root’. It’s a good time of year for thinking about death, and the place of death in our lives. I read this observation a week ago and have been mulling it, on and off, ever since. The article in question argued in part that death-avoidance underpins much of our cultural achievement – agriculture, medicine, clothing, architecture, it all comes down to trying not to die. But as we extend life ever beyond our scope to make much use of it, is this a fair observation?

Thinking we are immortal can certainly encourage us as individuals to behave in bloody stupid ways that may well result in our becoming dead sooner rather than later. Interestingly though, the same article suggested that a higher awareness of death changes how we behave. Death consciousness leads to more interest in spiritual and personal growth, relationships and a life well led. Death consciousness takes us away from selfish and greedy behaviour. Arguably then, the hiding and avoiding of death so normal in western civilization, feeds collective greed and materialism.

With my quiet revolution hat on (it’s got very small bells on it) this excites me. I’ve been looking for a long time for the point at which to apply myself. Being one, small, finite and not going to live forever sort of person I’ve been aware that my scope for causing international change has never been good. Especially given my unwillingness to either enter politics or start killing people. But I can talk about death. I can spread death consciousness, and I can do it in good ways.

This may in fact, be what I am here for. That may sound arrogant, but bear with me. You see, pretty much as soon as I was able to talk, I started asking awkward questions about death. Maybe I was born death conscious. I carry a keen sense of the fleeting nature of all things, my own self included. Add in my weakness for all things gothic and my fondness for storytelling, and Tom’s dark and moody art and you may see where I’m headed.

Tell stories about death. More importantly, tell stories about death that put life into a meaningful sort of perspective, moving people from the material greed towards the good stuff. I have my calling. I feel like I have a clear sense of direction for the first time in more than a decade. Dead things, and extra teeth. Stories with malice of forethought. Revolution.

Anyone who has not wandered over to the gothic side of my life, www.hopelessmaine.com is out there waiting for you. Take a moment for the dead people today. They have a lot to teach you about the bit that comes before being dead, and how not to waste it.