Sunday, August 01, 2021

On not being in denial

Apparently, society is 'in denial of death'. We get told this so often, and with such frequency - that we are in 'denial of death', and that we never talk about dying, and that why aren't we talking about dying in morbid detail right now, or if not now, two seconds ago - that one starts to suspect the motives, and indeed the veracity of the speaker. Are we really 'in denial of death'? Or are the people telling us that we are 'in denial of death' themselves in denial of our not being in denial of death? 

Then there are the people who do more than this, who not only say that 'we are in denial of death', but who will open their conversational gambit, in the manner of a flatmate drawing attention to one's cleaning roster, by saying 'we need to talk about death'. (And if there's one thing I'm in denial about, it's the cleaning roster - any cleaning roster, really.) Really? We need to talk about? Right here over the dinner table? Just when I was about to bring out the steamed sheep's brains?*

Perhaps all these professional gloom-mongers and harshers of the collective societal mellow are themselves afflicted by a want, or perhaps more a wistfulness - a wistfulness for a world in which you can announce 'society is in denial of death' and be instantly feted with applause and veneration for their profound insight - rather than the actual world, where all such an announcement does is cause another social death, the death of any wish of people to be around you whatsoever. For it's quite one thing to talk about death and dying - in fact, a topic of some conversational fascination (you can barely open a book or watch a film without some character dying of some extremely hideous and therefore extremely interesting cause). But it's quite another to talk, seemingly endlessly, about how we don't talk about death and dying, and thus never get around to talking about the actual thing. 

It is, I suppose, a victory of the theoretical over the practical. Why talk about the real thing when you haven't actually done it yourself? And once you do, you can't actually talk about it, either. Bit of a problem. 

It's probably what Sartre meant: Hell is other people.... going around, talking about how we are in denial of death and dying, for eternity. 

*My wife's a vegetarian. I wouldn't really do that.**

**Unless you start saying 'our society is in denial about....'

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