Thursday, June 18, 2009
death shapes us
The knowledge of our own death was a major turning point in the cognitive, behavioral and cultural evolution of our species (again to reference thoughts introduced and simutaneously reiterated to myself by Dr. Leonard Shlain). To live with this monkey on our back , to only be able to shed it when the fear of the experience has passed is something that has plagued and enriched our being. Do we experience death anyway? Is it the bodies preparation for eternal blackout that our brain is flooded with endorphins? A last high before perpetual nothing? We can always discuss the implications of ideas of an afterlife, whether existing on this terrestrial plane as a desk lamp or stickbug next time around, on a pillowy white precipitated groundspace with the sounds of prestine pipe organs, or on a hotplate whose energy comes from the mandate of the work of those who are being punished by being subjected to the heat of their labors (feel free to bring that up if you prefer...).
The fear of death produced Religion. The fear of death produced greed and the survival of the gluttoneous. The fear of death produced the desire for longevity of survivors to remember the ideas and action of ME (I refer to the universal idea of a "me"). The fear of death produced fatherhood by understanding that the passing of genes was a way to escape death and to ensure survival of those genes (one's own children) resulted in fatherhood (Shlain). Art is a product of the fear of death in combination with the free time to decorate functional objects, oneself for a ceremony which in itself was inspired to be performed by the idea of death, or in present times to perform the act of creation for aesthetic ends, to comment on aspects of the human condition in its various facets, or to live up to the degrading idea stemming from Minimalism of "art for art's sake". This free time to make art, of coarse, stems from the time allotted from the benefits of the invention of agricutlture.
It seems that everything that we do comes from, either consciously, or subconsciously, from the omnipotent anxiety that comes from the understanding that one day, the inescapable event will occur of one's own death. To rack up as much digital capital as one is able in order to leave it to offspring is to ensure that one's own genes have the capacity (materialistically) to survive. These kinds examples can go on and on I am quite certain.
Would anyone inherentely want to be forgotten? Would this go against evolutionary conditioning from survival? This has possibly changed from physical survival, resulting from the luxurious western lifestyle (on average, and I use the word luxurious because being able to purchase anything that supercedes basic necessities can be seen as a luxury in my book) compared to lifestyles when physical survival was the ultimate concern, to the survival of memory of ourselves to give meaning to this existence, each of us, individually.