On the Soothing and Consoling Side of Death

11Sep08

In which The Gay Recluse reflects on those who died on 9/10 and 9/12.

Every year on 9/11, our thoughts inevitably drift to those who died on 9/10 and 9/12.

And whether their deaths were any more or less tragic than those so aggressively memorialized.

Those who try to elevate themselves on the shoulders of the dead always sound shrill and artificial.

They forget that in death, we are all equal.

And on some level, everyone understands this.

This is another example of how our culture has devolved.

In some ways — thanks to medicine and technology — death is more remote to us than it has ever been.

So perhaps it should not be surprising that — by the same token — it has never been more misunderstood.

As death, when we consider it closely, is the true goal of our existence, I have formed during the last few years such close relations with the best and truest friend of mankind, so that his image is no longer terrifying to me, but is indeed very soothing and consoling! And I thank my god for graciously granting me the opportunity (you know what I mean) of learning that death is the key to our true happiness.

–Mozart, in the year 1764 and at the age of 18 in a letter to his father

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3 Responses to “On the Soothing and Consoling Side of Death”

  1. 1 c.

    Alas, if TV and the movies are any indicator, death has become yet one more sensational tool for grabbing the attention of a distracted, technologized public. In many cases, the depiction of death has become just one more commodity, thrust into the market for the sake of profit, rather than insight or awareness.

    On 9/11, there is, in fact, devastating loss to contemplate. This loss did also exist on 9/10, and continued after the 11th, but the 11th is as good a day as any to think about it. I can recall the awful grief of that day, and of the following months, even if, at the time, I could not exactly name what was lost. Now, with hindsight, and after seven years of post-9/11 American politics, it seems plain: we’ve lost a particular, rational perspective, a dream, a hopefulness, a belief and faith in ourselves. In ways the terrorists could not have dreamed, they succeeded in abetting, if not necessarily launching, the demise of our democracy and economic might, while encouraging us toward the worst, self-destructive kinds of cynicism: contempt for truth and freedom; devaluation of the individual; a taste for deceit and head-in-the-sand denial; a preference for bullying and exclusion over civility and tolerance; a policy of hysteria over level-headed courage. These, via the choices America has made since the Towers fell, are the gruesome legacies of 9/11.

    Memorials or not, we haven’t honored the dead by forfeiting our principles and retreating into ignorance.

    Each anniversary of 9/11, I find myself mourning lost leadership, and lost ideals from a lost culture which our predecessors once toiled to construct. Worse, the day is also a reminder of a population, and a culture, which appears to have lost its self-respect. (Perhaps not altogether — November will tell.) This kind of loss is even less media-friendly than the equalizing, intimate truth of death. It’s also harder to reconcile: no one has a say in the matter of death; while alive, however, how we see ourselves is in our hands.

  2. Well put, CBNY…thanks very much for sharing. I found myself wishing for a day of true reflection along the lines you describe, which is why the artificial tone of the media and corresponding “festivities” feels all the more disturbing.

  3. 3 gary

    thank you for the Mozart quote; I’ll keep it in mind the next time I hear “Don Giovanni.’


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