Andrew Pettigrew

School: The Royal Blind School

A Brief Explanation of Death

What is death? This is a common question that is often brought up in one’s mind but hardly ever transmits into speech. Is there anything after death? If so, what will happen when we arrive? And is there a god?

The truth is we don’t actually know. But that doesn’t at all prevent humanity forming theories, nor trying to persuade the mind that death is, as a poet once quoted, ‘just an open door’. But what the quote doesn’t include is that there is no telling where the person is going to appear, and if there IS anywhere to appear in at all. But the reason why man has been continuously fascinated by the question is that there is no official answer, and no cease to the imagination.

Several religions have, of course, very strong beliefs that describe in detail about locations such as hell or heaven. But however meticulous the belief is, it is still not truth, still not fact, it has not been experimented on to form an average with strong verification.

This article doesn’t aim whatsoever to question each and every religion, nor to offer personal opinion about the matter. I’m writing this to try and open the mind a little further, to accept possibilities revolving around life and death without instinctively dismissing the apparently foolish concepts and to give various pieces of evidence.

Firstly, what is the scientific meaning of death? Usually, death in science refers to a living organism that stops to function and slowly decays. The organism is then decomposed by bacteria and the elements of the body are released to be reused. It is the ending of life, which brings us to our next question.

What is life? Life is the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death; or the existence of an individual human being or animal. Again, that is the scientific summary of it. Yet the following statement was made by a young child and frankly I believe it has a clearer meaning.

‘Life is when your heart’s pumping and you’re not dead, and you can love.’

Amusing though some people might find that, it is extremely accurate. The muscle called the heart emits fluid known as blood, generally scarlet, and which is, as another poet once quoted, ‘the nectar of the body’.

As the child said, it is the state of the body before death and yes, you can love.

Love appears to everyone to seem almost symmetrical to ‘live’ and there is a reason for that. Love is actually an essential part of being alive, for if you cannot love and you do not receive pleasant attention, then the unconscious voice of the brain shall spike its owner with dark depression.

Depression, as you know, can terribly envelope the whole body until the world is a grey and dangerous place – which, of course, it is. Perhaps, and this is merely my thought, when you are depressed you realise the horror which humanity has constructed around you, while not able to appreciate the benefits.

Depression, therefore, can quickly destroy you, can transform you into such a desperate grieving wreck that life has no further meaning and death is a more sufficient option. Suicide can sound cowardly to some, pitiful to others, but can we actually judge? I’ve already noted that we have no clear idea of what death brings.

Another subject that is closely entwined with ‘life and death’ is the meaning of life. People have taken guesses to what is the mysterious meaning of lif. Some films and songs have concluded lyrics about it with the result that love is the meaning of life.

Whether this is correct or not, I’ll slip in my opinion here. As important as love is to the steady progression of the human race, I doubt very much that love is the meaning of life – if it was, then what would be the point of humanity blossoming at all? If only to produce more of us, that is.

I believe, and nothing more, that there is either a meaning of life that involves protecting ad ensuring the earth’s growth, not ours, and in which case we are neglecting that duty very finely indeed; or there isn’t a meaning at all.

The earth has been alive much, much longer than any organism, including bacteria. It is much more likely there’s a reason for the world’s existence, rather than the unique but far smaller one of ours. Speaking scientifically it is remarkable that earth is the only planet with human presence in this particular solar system, as Earth was as uninhabitable and poisonous as neighbouring Mars billions of years ago.

If there isn’t a meaning then that would be probable too. It is likely that we just exist to fulfil our own needs and longings, to make a more developed and advanced multi-layered landscape for us to dwell in – and perhaps that’s a meaning in itself.

There are religions, as noted above, out there that believe in a god. It is extremely comforting to have a god or gods, a supernatural and ultimately wiser being or beings, around us or high above us, paving our way for us. When humans began exploring this world in their many tribes, constructing buildings and hunting, learning the geography around them, it was undoubtedly fearsome for them, and nothing makes a deeper fear than the unknown.

Humans are supposedly terrified of darkness, and of night. That is explainable, as without light we lose a very fine gift whose significant qualities are not often considered – sight.

Whilst scribing this article, I was questioned, ‘Why so cheerless?’ but death fulfils such a crucial role in the production of organisms its effects causing powerful emotions in us all, that only the weak or the ignorant could look upon death and say it was fearsome.

Many people humour children, telling of the personification of death, commonly known as the Grim Reaper. Captioned as a skeleton clad in black robes and holding a scythe, often possessing jewel-bright eyes. This is yet another segment of evidence that proves humans have always been frightened of death.

Nevertheless, in ancient mythology, such as Greek, the god of death – usually mistaken as Hades, the ruler of the Underworld, comes mosaicked handsome and beautiful, portrayed occasionally with wings. In Greece, the god of death was Thanatos. However later, in Rome, unlike so many of the Greek gods who passed into Roman worship, Thanatos was rejected as the Roman community did not wish death’s presence to ‘haunt their city’.

Finally, as the reader hopes to find a happy ending to this essay, I have to disappoint you further.

When someone you know or care about has passed, you will always feel grief. Even in some religions, when people believe that a paradise will accept their loved one. In present times, it is less mourning the dead and more celebrating of their achievements while alive.

I shall now leave you to conclude this article, to pause and be mindful, to approach death mentally, not with consternation or trepidation but with understanding, respect and perhaps appreciation.


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