Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How can we speak of life properly when we can't speak of death?

Today in Lebanon, it is the day of the dead, Chistian churches hold masses for the souls of the dead and prayers are held near burial places. But if I am writing this today, it is because I noticed how difficult it is to speak of death in Arab cultures, Lebanon included. It could not be treated as a normal event bound to happen. When my close friend who happens to be European asked me "so when you parents die, what will happen to..." - the visible shock on my face stopped him from continuing the question. I politely told him that I come from a culture where we do not speak so casually about it. His incomprehension spoke droves as to how death was seen and treated in his country.
Actually, not only death remains taboo but also our bodies, how we treat them, even sicknesses (cancer is still referred to as "haydak el marad" (that sickness)). But I am digressing, let us go back to death. I come from a generation which has lived the war fully, and recognize that whereas death became "cheap", the banality of it - yes, even if it was accompanied by gunfire during funerals of youngsters and shrines (mazar) were built for them - and its ubiquity was a bit too much. One of the positives (yes, no other word) for such features was that, as death became a "normalcy", it was devoid of its usual halo and paradoxically, it had a side effect.
Before correlating the side effect, I know that is usual reason is denoted as "we lived life to the full because we never knew when we were going to die". So the side effect in question was a certain naive joie de vivre which engulfed Lebanese (apart from those heavily sedated on tranquilizers) and basically drove them to live, in a way much less inhibited than before.
But if one looks at this from a different angle, the reasoning becomes "we lived life to the full because we were going to die anyway", whereas this could be semantics it is actually a totally different way of understanding our behavior during the war, when, as I said, death became less mystified than under normal circumstances.
I truly believe that, with death becoming a normalcy, there was "life" at the other end of the equation.
The more we hide from death, speak about it reverently, or not speak about it at all, the more we are hiding from a fulfilling life. One where death is not the ultimate goal, but rather a station in the journey.