Monday, March 19, 2012
The Great Equalizer - Guest Post by John Brian Fountain - Potential Baby Daddy
Whenever the discussion about 'babies' comes up, a lot... quite understandably... is said about 'birth'.
I'd like to talk about death.
It's amazing how much stuff it seems parents try to jam into the heads of their children before they've even begun to teach them about some of the fundamentals - one of which is that one day, we will all die. Now before you start calling me a ghoul, stay with me on this...
It never seems to occur to almost any of us that life has one absolute guarantee attached to it no matter who you are: You are going to die.
It doesn't matter if you're a prince or a pauper... famous, infamous, or just your everyday Joe... The one absolute in life is that we ALL eventually die. It could happen 108 years after you're born or you might not even make it out of the womb, but it WILL happen to everyone. Death is supposed to happen... it's part of the natural order of things. Why shouldn't we have a better attitude about something that is so clearly a cosmic staple?
We'll overload kids with math, science, history, sports, entertainment and a million other things, but when it comes to the subject of death, the majority of us tend to get very skittish, and many parents I've known ignore the subject entirely. When it comes to teaching our kids, we seem to put a lot of importance on rote memorization and 'feeling good' about ourselves. Even the most well-meaning of religions seem to drop the ball on the whole issue of death. You can preach about Heaven until Judgement Day, but most people are still afraid of death, even with promises of a "better place" for those who are deemed deserving.
How is it that as a society that seems obsessed with deconstructing every aspect of life becomes so painfully bashful when it comes to talking about the ONE thing that we all have in common? Some people get to live longer and do more stuff, but if you spend your life comparing yourself to others and perpetually charting what other people have versus what you have, you're essentially wasting whatever time you actually have here. And that being said, whenever people say, "life isn't fair," I'm inclined to respond, "Well, yes it is... we all die. It's the great equalizer."
Fortunately for me, I'm not afraid to die. Early on in my childhood, I was taught not to fear death. Their method happened to be in the form of Christianity and religious conviction, but I feel as though that's just one possible way to handle it. I believe that as long as you have an open dialogue about it, the particulars aren't nearly as important as an overall sense that "this is how it is." As a result, it has freed me from a lot of the anxieties that seem to cripple a lot of other people, including Exhibit A - my beloved wife Leigh, your gracious blog host here. In all other ways, she's as tough as nails, but when it comes to the idea of being dead, it freaks her out to no end.
How many folks out there can trace their deepest demons to the fact that they are terrified of death? I'm not saying I'm a perfect specimen, but I don't waste a lot of time fretting over the one thing that I know for certain will happen to me one day - as well as the distinct possibility that when it happens, I may not even see it coming. I will die - and so will you - and so will your children. Yes, your children will die one day. And they need to know this, and embrace it early on. Perhaps it will enable them to lead a more fulfilling life and a life without fear of the inevitable. Yet, it seems that the fear of the one guarantee in life is the very thing that drives people to all sorts of kooky and/or destructive behavior: drug and alcohol abuse, crackpot religions, self-loathing, self-doubt, etc.
Don't misunderstand me, either... I'm as afraid of the process of dying as the next person - and I most certainly fear potential pain and suffering that may accompany that process, but 'being dead'? No problemo.I guess what I'm getting at here, is that if we have a kid, one of my primary goals will be to instill in them a healthy attitude about death. I don't think it does anyone any favors to tiptoe around it and treat it as this big, awful secret.
Likewise, Leigh and I have already agreed that if we decide to kid, teaching them about death will be my domain, and I embrace the responsibility wholeheartedly.
To quote Epicurus, my favorite of the Greek philosophers: "When we exist death is not, and when death exists we are not."
Grim Reaper drawing by artist AellaPax of DeviantArt.com.