Death is so entirely integral to the experience of life on earth, some single celled organisms excepted, that I have to keep asking myself: what is it that seems so wrong about all these deaths that surround us in this era we are coming to call the Anthropocene? How is it that when I lay a loved one to rest in the grave I honour death, and when I walk across barren, eroded, scalded ground, stepping around animal skeletons and remnant tree trunks, I think that death is dishonoured? As I wrote once, when I was feeling particularly afflicted by all this death: the balance between life and death is over-run, and a relentless cascade is piling up corpses in the land of the living.
Something is happening that involves us as participants, and that we struggle to witness. The fact that much of the current tidal wave of death is caused by humans is certainly relevant. There is an affront to our very being as creatures of earth in the fact that we are doing so much to destroy it.
Something is going on here that matters in ways that many of us are not adept at understanding. Perhaps we lack awareness of the beauty of death, and therefore fail to perceive that it is being violated.
~ so many losses occur that damaged ecosystems are unable to recuperate their diversity. The death of resilience and renewal, at least for a while.
~ so many extinctions that the process of evolution is unable to keep up. More species die than are coming into being. The death of evolution itself, at least for a while.
~ the unmaking of country, unravelling the work of generation upon generation of living beings; cascades of death that curtail the future and unmake the living presence of the past.
~ the death of temporal and material relationships across generations.
~ the destruction of the future of one’s own death, which starts to collapse along with the future of flourishing others and ecosystems.
Double death is a despoiler. It smashes the relationship between life and death, fracturing a compact that has been integral to life on earth. The despoliation of death throws the lives of earth creatures into a barren place with no future and with a rapidly unravelling past.
Double death is an open secret, and an open wound. At this time it is driven by humans: it is the mirror on the wall.
©Deborah Bird Rose (2012)