Monday, 27 June 2011
As I sit, cocooned in the warmth of my little cottage house with my canine friends, awaiting the arrival on this frosty morning of techies from my Internet Service Provider (and I really hope they can fix the speed which sees an email arriving 2 and a half days after sending it), I'm thinking about a reminder of my own mortality, and a conversation with friends which both took place last week.
The mortal reminder was early last week - Monday I think - when I was being pushed and harried a bit at work, and found myself in great pain from a spreading contraction of my chest. I got up and walked on the balcony for a bit, wondering if my unhealthy past and only somewhat healthier present had finally caught up with me, and I was having a heart attack.
And I realised in that moment that I was not quite prepared to die there, at work with these friendly strangers all around me, that the last sight my dying eyes would see was one of my colleagues, panicked and concerned. One of my Sparrow friends flew down at that moment and, perched upon the steel balcony railing, began to chirrup loudly and insistently almost into my face.
His feathers were fluffed to a degree that he resembled a brown and grey ball of life, with sound at its heart. And I smiled at him, knowing that, as far as last sights went, he would be a most welcome and comforting one indeed.
The other point of reflection for me took form during a casual conversation with friends on Saturday. Warren and I had been invited over as their first guests in their new (and first owned) house in southern Joburg. It's a lovely place, all airy and wooden-floored, built in the middle of the last century, if I don't miss my mark, and they purchased it for, as the saying goes, a song.
Since these friends are middle-aged working folks, with two almost-grown sons - one gay, and the other a super bright intuitively intelligent rugby player - I was happy for them that they had managed to buy their own place at last. It's sometimes not easy for white folks in this country, either.
Anyway, we were chatting about this and that, and I found myself in the middle of an explanation of how, as I see it, we are so unprepared as a culture to encounter our own, or anyone else's, death.
Death has indeed been hurried under the carpet in this society. Unlike birth, it is rarely celebrated with congratulations and joy, although song is a big feature of many black South Africans' funeral rites. Whites seem to know only how to be anguished and devastated.
And I was asking, is it right that we are taught by our parents and peers all about birth, to some degree, but nothing about death?
We don't know how to die.
As a journeyman Shaman, I have been privileged to take the death walk with a few transitioning souls. Right up to the point of exit I have accompanied them, and then turned and made my way back to this plane, joyful in heart and knowing that was one less concentration of energy left alone and lost. But mostly, we don't have a clue on what to do when our own turning point comes - or how to help anyone else over that final/first hurdle. It's just not spoken of, much less is it a subject of teaching, in this culture.
As far as I'm concerned, the plethora of strange objects seen in our skies over the past century, intensifying at the present time, is a sign that we are badly disconnected from our souls, both personal and collective. So disconnected that the only way they can get us to notice them is to appear as great rotating disks of light in the skies above our heads. Or triangles. Or 'space aliens' intent on abducting and interrogating us.
The symbol of freedom, even in this culture, is the butterfly. We need to learn how to acknowledge and handle our own metamorphoses, before those transitions start handling us. Or maybe, it's too late already.
Oh, and that heart attack fright? Very likely a combination of muscle-spasming cold, a cramped sitting position, and a touch of over stress. Now, just excuse me as I make the dash outside to hang up the washing. I'll be mighty grateful when this winter gives way.