Monday, October 03, 2016

Face it: Death happens. We feel sad.

For a long time now, I have set up my Facebook page such that nobody can post anything on my "wall."  Because, I got sick and tired of the platitudes.

If I care to, for instance, wish a Facebook friend on their birthday, then I message them.  I write stuff that has some meaning, other than merely copying/pasting a "happy birthday" note.  When a friend's family member dies, I almost always take a couple of days to think about what I want to say and then I compose a message.  If I have their snail-mail address, then I hand-write my greetings or condolences.

All because I value the human aspect--even though I might come across as an ant-social hermit.  To merely scrawl on their Facebook wall, or to send a text message, is a gross insult to the human.

You can see why I, therefore, loved this piece on "The art of condolence."  As I read that, I was shocked--yet again--how bizarre our behavior has become these days.  We are fast losing even the little bit of an understanding that we had on what it means to be human. For example, it says a lot that we have to be reminded of this:
 “Zero platitudes. If you’re feeling the urge to panic-talk and fill the air with clichés, don’t.”
I have seen and heard a whole lot of platitudes.  Especially in digital communication where people write stuff that perhaps they might never say when face-to-face.

I have always been concerned that people do not even want to use the word "death."  The religious might say something like joined god, gone to heaven, and the likes, while the less religious also use strange secular phrases.  I like the way the author put is here:
Death in our culture has become so sanitized, we have become afraid to mention it by name. While this instinct may come from a good place, it often lands in a bad one, the treacly territory of euphemism and happy talk. Loved ones don’t “die” anymore; they’re “carried away” or “resting peacefully.”
It is all about the happy talk anymore, as if it is stupid to express one's sorrow.  Whatever happened to mourning?  We immediately want to transition to happy talk so that we can engage with that cliche of the times: Move on.  Face it: We die. Eventually.  We use euphemisms when we talk with a five-year old on what happened to the family dog.  But, at some point, even that kid needs to understand that death happens.

Perhaps it is the change in the seasons that once again draws me to this topic, about which I have not blogged for the longest time.  The temperature has dipped.  Clouds have moved in to stay.  Leaves are dropping, and dropping fast.  The change in seasons promises that spring and summer will arrive in a few months.  The regeneration of life is, thus, such a pleasure to watch and experience.  I hope to enjoy it for a few more years before I rest peacefully die.


Ramesh said...

For once I agree. I completely agree with you on the personal message of condolence or greetings. Empty words or a random Facebook post is utterly awful. Where we see this most is the birthday greeting. Absolutely awful routine happy Birthday. Completely meaningless. Thankfully I don't use Facebook, but I am cursed with that child of Facebook - WhatsApp.

As for "platitudes" I would not be so critical. Everything does not have to be expressed starkly. A more dignified expression like passing away is not a platitude. What's wrong with resting peacefully either. Its not happy talk. Its just a way of expressing an event, perhaps with more dignity.

You can tell the five year old kid that the dog passed away, and try and explain that parting is something that happens and I don't think there's anything wrong in saying for example that the puppy went to a happy place. Words and comfort are so important when it comes to grief.

Sriram Khé said...

I don't use WhatsApp ... but from people who (ab)use it, I understand that life is worse in the WhatsApp world than in Facebook. So, my condolences to you ;)

Resting peacefully is the kind of euphemism that we will want to use when talking with a five year old. Not with a thirty-five year old. A note to readers: After I die, please DO NOT refer to the event as me "resting peacefully" or having "reunited with his maker" or any such bullcrap. Say it loudly and boldly that sriram died. ;)

Anne in Salem said...

Sometimes people use platitudes because they don't know what else to say. They don't want to upset the grieving more by mentioning something specific about the deceased, so they stick to generalities. Platitudes = safety, not necessarily less respect or feeling.

Sriram Khé said...

Therefore, platitude is explicit evidence of our inability to deal with death. More on this in my post that I just published ;)

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