Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sickness unto death

  “It is in the face of death that the riddle of human existence becomes visible and most accurate. Not only is man tormented by pain and by advancing deterioration of his body, but even more so by dread of perpetual extinction”.

Camus? Sartre? Heiddeger? No, these words are taken from a document written by the fathers of the Vatican Council II, speaking to the world about its own idiom. The same document goes on to claim that the Christian teaching on death provides the answer to the anxiety that man experiences in the face of death. Even for Karl Rahner, death is a humiliation. It reduces the individual to the total impotence. It removes every bit of self-delusion. One important truth about death experience is that it is faced utterly alone. There is no family, club, national, or even religious accompaniment or means to moralize the event. It cannot be faced in the costume of deception, as symbolized in the funeral directors lies and pornographies. At the moment of death we will be alone and morally naked, uncomforted any specious slogans, fads or devices. But the ‘we’ in the preceding sentences is misleading. In every case it is the ‘solitary’ who undergoes death.

Then just as the child grew more rapidly the younger it was, so the old man ages more quickly with every day and just as the child was protected by insensitivity on its entry in to the world, so old age is eased by an apathy of sense and will, and nature slowly administers a general anesthesis before she administers time’s scythe to complete the most of operations. As sensations diminish in its intensity, the sense of vitality lapses; the desire of the life gives way to indifference and patient waiting; the fear of death is strangely mingled with the longing for repose. Perhaps, then, if one has lived well, clearing the stage for a better play.

But if the play is never better, always revolving about suffering and death, telling endlessly the same idiotic tale? Ther’s the rub. And there’s the doubt gnaws at the heart of the wisdom, and poisons age. Here is shameless adultery and brutal calculating murder; and well, they have always been, and apparently they will always been. Here is flood, sweeping before it a thousand lives and labor of generations. Here are bereavements and broken hearts, and always the bitter brevity of love. Here still are the insolence of office and the laws delay; corruption on the judgment seat, and the incompetence on the throne. Here is slavery, stupefying toil that makes great muscles and little souls. Here and everywhere is the struggle for existence, life inextricably enmeshed with war. Here is history, seemingly a futile circle of infinite repetition: these youths with eager eyes will make the same errors as we, they will be mislead by the same dreams; they will suffer, and wonder, and surrender, and grow old, and die.

For Kirkegaard life itself becomes a form of death. There is his inborn melancholy in this understanding. He wrote in his book Either/Or: “I die death itself. My soul is like the Dead Sea over which no bird can fly. When it gets half way, it sinks down spent to its death and destruction”.

Heidegger called man, a being unto death- a sein- zum- tode. Death becomes the remarkable phenomenon of being which may be identified as the change over an entity from daseins kind of being to no- longer dasein. The disease has abandoned the world in terms of being. The dead can be closer to us more actively with us, more fully a part of our being, than the in terms of being than the living. They show how the death of an individual is very often a modulation toward, resurrection in other men’s needs and remembrances.

So death man lives in a respectful solicitude. “No one can take the other’s dying away from him. Of course someone can go to his death for another.” But this always means to sacrifice oneself for the other, in some definite affair. Such dying for can never signify that the other has thus had the death taken away from, in slight degree. Dying is something that even dasein itself must take upon itself at the time. By its very essence, death is in every case mine in so far as it is at all. And indeed, death signifies a peculiar possibility of being in which the very being of one’s own dasein is an issue. In dying it is shown that ‘mine-ness’ and existence are ontologically constitutive of death. Dying is a sort of an event. It is phenomenon to be understood existentially.

Death is a way to be, which dasein takes upon it as it is. Death is in the widest sense a phenomenon of life. The possibility of dasein depends upon the impossibility of dasein (death). “Angst is the taking upon oneself of the nearness of nothingness, of the potential non-being of one’s own being. Being toward death is in essence, anxiety. Those who robe us of this anxiety-priest, physician, and mystics-they insult us from a fundamental source of freedom.”



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