Sunday, August 21, 2022 - column #7096
‘Natural causes’ is a term worth thinking about and talking about because we easily use it without questioning whether we understand or think through those words or understand the concept. And let’s explore other ways or contrary ways to explore this subject.
C’mon along, it might be fun …
The common usage, I expect everyone agrees, is when we describe someone’s death in a news story or obituary – describing someone as having died of/by natural causes.
What does that mean?
Is that an inevitable death by having your body wear out and then expire with no particular ailment, disease or organ failure to blame?
If I fall off a cliff because the cliff collapses, that’s a natural cause.
If I fall off a cliff because someone pushed me, that’s not a natural cause.
If I fall off a cliff because I wasn’t careful, is that a natural cause too, or a sign of stupidity?
No, I’m not going off on a tangent about stupidity or murder. Still, I’ve fixed my thinking for now on our approach to life and death while trying to better understand the differences in our experience and accomplishments from living on-purpose rather than coasting on-accident.
If we can die from natural causes, how about if we consider if we can ‘live by natural causes’ too?
So, what is natural?
And what is not?
Nature, the planet’s behaviour (without mankind’s assistance) in terms of weather, sunrises and sunsets, seasons and revolving around our sun star seems natural. Plants and animals – the behaviour of carbon-based life forms seems natural, right?
I know, I know, we’ve had six billion years of evolution, but it is natural, isn’t it?
If all life of all species other than humans has a natural cause, that would involve birth/hatching, living and dying – all natural. That seems easy enough to understand, so why is this concept not as easy to grasp for us, the smart ones with the biggest brains?
We think we have something to do with the causes of living and dying – that we can influence nature and that we can impact by whether and how we live, and whether or how we die. If you doubt that, how do you explain gym memberships, car seat belts, rigorous testing of drugs before trying them on humans, companion animals, diet cookbooks, diets, dieting, religion, biofeedback, home blood pressure testing, the Canada food guide, ingredient and nutrition labelling on food, speed limits on the road, space travel, and ultrasound testing on unborn children?
Because we don’t want natural causes – we crave better than natural.
We want to improve upon natural.
Our culture is tuned to ‘new,’ ‘improved,’ and ‘new and improved’ to the point of triggering everyone’s gag reflex.
I want simpler and better and lower lifecycle costs. I like things that last, and I want fewer things – and I want for fewer things. And everything I want, everything I buy, could be better – not so I’ll replace my phone or car more often or discard very functional ‘anything’ in favour of its shinier 2.0 replacement or upgrade. I’ll keep using it until it breakdowns and can’t be fixed or until it really is worn out or obsolete. I think products die of natural causes – some because they were terrible ideas that did not deserve to survive, or they were ideas that didn’t improve. Then, somebody else built the better mousetrap and captured that market niche. Is that some form of natural selection or something dying of natural causes?
The problem with big brains is thinking. Not because we have too much time on our hands, but because we don’t have enough, we don’t take enough time to think things thoroughly through.
What is my takeaway message for you from all this rabble?
Our desire to fight aging, dying, and ill health – as much as our desire for thrills, spills, entertainment and achievement – is not about natural anything or letting nature take its lazy path to an ordinary life or an inconsequential death.
We don’t want natural; we want exceptional.
We don’t want to go through life unnoticed, of no discernable cause and effect, with no footprints to follow or big shoes to fill.
We want to matter, solve things, enjoy and make each other and the world better – we want to defy nature/natural, improve natural, and fend off dangers and death with all our tiny power – because we wish for neither an ordinary life nor an inconsequential death.
We are – every one of us, much more than a statistic. We are more than the space between two dates, we don’t acknowledge our best-before date, and we celebrate survival and overcoming the odds in everything we judge as good in life.
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
From the beginning...to the end
He noted that first came the date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years
For that dash represents all the time
That they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
Know what that little line is worth
For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars...the house...the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what's true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we've never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering this special dash
Might only last a little while
So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life's actions to rehash...
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent YOUR dash?