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Sunday, September 5, 2010

In the back of our minds, there is a secret desire for a good death or dignified death. I've written about this; I suppose that the notion of a good death is proof that one has lived a good life. Is it intended to be the unexcelled performance of a lifetime? I pray not! I am no more interested in performance at the end of my life than I have been throughout my life. Dignity cannot be rooted in outward appearances.

How does one preserve one's dignity in the face of losing control over one's bodily functions? Is a baby less dignified because he or she depends on others to wipe its butt? Babies don't care who wipes their butts. We don't tend to think in terms of dignity when talking about newborns; and why is that? You might be inclined to say, "Well, because they don't have a sense of self yet." Is dignity only possible when selfhood is born?

I think not. Dignity is not dependent upon consciousness, upon selfhood. Dignity is either present by virtue of being, or it is not present at all. This is true of non-humans as well as humans, as far as I am concerned. Where being is regarded as sacred, precious, there is a reverence for life--all life.

I don't confer dignity on another. Dignity is there by virtue of being alive. Even this is not all together accurate, because a dead body is still deserving of dignity. So, dignity must be rooted in something deeper than life only. Indeed, dignity is grounded in the realization that life-and-death, as one, not separate, is sacred. That is not a grammatical error in the last sentence; it is intentional: life-and-death is sacred. I use the singular because they are one, inseparable. Dignity is the affirmation of this holy truth in the one who is dying and those around the one who is dying. Perhaps dignity returns to, or melts into, innocence at the end of life because innocence is the purest form of holiness. Innocence is not dependent on conditions or circumstances nor appearances. It is a pure manifestation of the unnamable.

the way it flutters
to the ground
any leaf

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