Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Don’t Hold Back

Reading of the recent case of 200 strangers turning up to a lonely veteran's funeral in the UK - in response to a Facebook plea by a vicar - has once again brought to the attention of The Spear the capacity for humans to neglect the living.  As welcome and innocuous as this case is (The Spear is sure there were benefits for those who attended), why is it that we seem to be more respectful, appreciative and compassionate toward the dead, as opposed to those still among us?

The definitive question is thus: which do you think more people would show up for – a lonely veteran’s funeral, or a lonely veteran’s birthday party?  The Spear is going with the funeral.  Why?

1.       The dead typically have less competition for our time/attention than the living.

Dying is a once-off event, specific to each person.  Typically those we know tend to die in rather small numbers at a time, and thus our living counterparts greatly outnumber those for whom we may be expected to grieve.  The death of a person brings them to the fore in our minds, and calls for us to focus a disproportionate amount of our time to evaluate their character and personality and remember their touch on our lives.  Perhaps that is the rationale behind the quote “The death of one man is  a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic,” in that if the dead are so numerous as to overwhelm the living, then less time is likely to be given for reflection on any one individual’s life.

Deaths are also seen as a fairly serious business due to their potential effects on the living, and thus society and business are wont to give us more time to pay our respects and to grieve.  Funerals, unlike birthdays, anniversaries, holidays or even weddings, are given priority by business and the like over other deadlines.

2.       It is easier to pay respects to the dead once, than the living many times.

The living are in constant need of our attentions, our affections and our friendship in order that relationships be maintained.  This calls for a rather large amount of our time and energy if it is to be done properly.  The deceased, on the other hand, ask for nothing.  Taking the time out to show respect to a person once at their funeral requires a lot less effort than sustained relations during life.  The Spear is sure that if the deceased could talk at their own funerals, some would be saying ‘too little too late’.

3.       The dead are good listeners.

It is much easier for us to say what we really mean and to get our feelings off our chest when we are essentially talking to ourselves.  The dead don’t have opinions, talk back or argue.  There are no chances of any personal clashes with the deceased.  A funeral gives us the chance (a last chance?) to say what we always wanted to say, but never could, even if it is a bit late coming.

4.       We only miss something when it’s gone.

It’s an old saying, but seemingly a true one.  Taking things for granted: it’s just what we do.  Humans are animals who are always looking for patterns; finding them even where there aren’t any. We grow accustomed to things and people, and mentally label them as ‘every day’, like the rising of the sun, and think nothing further of it.  Only on rare occasions would anything happen to make us re-evaluate our existing relationships in terms of their possible fleetingness (if even a ‘long’ life can be said to be anything other than fleeting).  It is not ‘nice’ to dwell on one’s own mortality or that of others, but, in the stoic sense, it is necessary that we do so on a semi-regular basis if we are to appreciate what we do have.

So let us show more respect and appreciation for the living in an effort towards maintaining our relationships and building a society where no one should feel a Facebook plea for funeral attendance is necessary, because we have all been so valued whilst alive. 

Get ‘one up’ on death, and, as The Potbelleez say, “Don’t Hold Back”.

Engage me
Let me breathe the courage of your actions
Don't hold back, make it be for the good 

The truth is 
I am not your cure but I can help you 
Find a way to reconcile the dark 

Don't hold back 
Is there anybody out there feeling something? 

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