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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Death - how to prepare for it?

Let's be frank. I don't think anyone of us would want to die. Everybody wants to live and live. As long as we are healthy, that is.

However, I would be lying if I say otherwise. There were times - and recently, there were many - when I had just wanted to die.

Such wish would present itself, for example, when I was reading some decisions of our Federal Courts. Or when I was having dinner and the missus switched to channel 104 to watch Akademi Fantasia or some idiotic programme which the people at ASTRO call "comedy" starring the most so-not-funny group, Senario et al. Or when I saw the "new" Proton car, Inspira. Or when I read about some perve marrying an 11 year old girl. Or when I read things which they pass as news and articles in Utusan Malaysia.

These moments are to be distinguished from moments when I wish I could make somebody die. These are many too. Like when I read about another death in police custody. Or about PLUS being "compensated" by the government for making billions.

Whatever it is, my point is, I am sure not many of us could accept death in a good way. How could we? Death however, like Dr Mahathir and his crooked bridge, are a certainty. We cannot escape from it.

The next point is, realising that death is a certainty, how do we prepare for it?

Umberto Eco has a perfect answer. In his text, "Come prepararsi serenemanente per la morte" (reproduced in English in Turning Back The Clock; Harvill Secker, 2007), Eco writes:

"Recently a pensive disciple of mine (a certain Criton) asked me, "Master, how can we best approach death? I replied  that the only way to prepare death is to convince yourself that everyone else is a complete idiot.

Seeing Criton's amazement, I explained. You see, I told him, how can you approach death, even if you are a believer, if you think that, as you lie dying, desirable young people of both sexes are dancing in discos and having the time of their lives, enlightened scientists are revealing the last secrets of the universe, politicians are creating a better society, newspapers and televisions are bent on giving only important news, responsible business people are ensuring that their products will not damage the environment and doing their utmost to restore a nature in which there are streams with drinkable water, wooded hillsides, clear serene skies protected by a providential ozone layer, and fluffy clouds from which sweet rain falls once more? The thought that you must live while all these marvelous things are going on would be intolerable.

So try to think, when you sense the time has come for your departure from this vale, that the world (six billion human beings) is full of idiots, that the dancers at the disco are all idiots, the scientists who think they have solved the mysteries of the universe are all idiots, the politicians who propose panaceas for all our ills are idiots, the journalists who fill page after page with vacuous gossip are idiots, and the manufacturers who are destroying the planets are idiots. In that moment would you not be happy, relieved, and satisfied to leave this vale of idiots?

And then Criton asked me: "Master, when must I start thinking like this?" I told him that one mustn't start too soon, because a person of twenty or thirty years of age who think everyone else is an idiot is an idiot himself who will never attain wisdom. We should begin by thinking that all the others are better than us and then shift bit by bit, having our first doubts around forty, revising our opinions between fifty and sixty, and attaining certainty as we aim for one hundred, ready to call it quit just as soon as the telegram containing the summons arrive. (My addition - ROFLOL!). Convincing ourselves that everyone around us is an idiot is a subtle, shrewd art, not at the disposal of the first Cebes to come along with a ring in his ear (or nose). It requires study and toil. You mustn't go at it too quickly. You must get there gradually, just in time to die with serenity. Right up to the day before, you must still think that someone you love and admire is not an idiot. Wisdom consists in recognising only at the right moment (and not before) that he too is an idiot. Only than can you die.

The great art lies in studying universal thought a bit at a time, scrutinising changes in customs, monitoring the mass media day by day, the statements by self- assured artists, the apothegms of politicians who shoot their mouths off , the philosophemes of apocalyptic critics, the aphorisms of charismatic heroes; studying theories, propositions, appeals, images, and visions. Only then, in the end, will you experience the insight that everyone is an idiot. And at that point you are ready for death.

Until the end, you must doggedly insist that some people say sensible things, that a certain book is better than others, that a certain leader really desires the common good. It's natural, human, and proper to our species to resist the idea that all people are idiots, otherwise why go on living? But at the end you will understand why it is worth the effort and why it is a splendid thing to die.

Then Criton said to me: "Master, I wouldn't like to make hasty decisions, but I suspect that you are an idiot." See, I replied, you are already on the right track." (all emphasis are mine).

I tell you. It is so easy to accept death and die serenely in Malaysia.


abdullahjones said...

-Death however, like Dr Mahathir and his crooked bridge, are a certainty. We cannot escape from it.- whoooooo!

and thanks. hahahahhaah.

PahNur said...

I m down wt flu n tot of death. Then I read this. Ah well, even if death takes me today, I'll go smiling .. d advantage of dying a Malaysian eh ?

siewchinteo said...

ahhhhh yes Art - do let the idiots drive you to death for "death is the dropping of the flower, that the fruit may swell." LOL

God loves idiots - that's why he made so many of them.

Navi said...

Thinking of the Malaysian politicians especially the goons in the cabinet in itself is enough for us to accept death.

Navi said...

Thanks Art, you made my day.

UP41 said...

I like the last line!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

We are all being bled to death. Slowly but surely. Like the line on the crooked bridge though...the crooked bridge and the equally crooked or rather crook owner.

Anonymous said...

Death however, like Dr Mahatir and his crooked bridge, are a certainty.

this is great but i would like to add:
not forgetting the crooked politician found aplenty especially in Malaysia