Thursday, February 9, 2012

Death Is Good

Scott Bradley


Death is good. Or do I have that wrong? In any case, this is the kind of consideration that is the stuff of the Taoist attempt to understand the world as it is and to frame an honest human response to it. Or do I have that wrong, as well? Such considerations are not for everyone, I suppose, and this may not be everyone's 'Taoism', so perhaps I should say it's the kind of consideration which I find fundamental to my quasi-Taoism.

Nature is good. That is my most fundamental point of departure. Nature, in this understanding, is not just the robin on the lawn; it is also whatever lies outside the ever expanding and accelerating universe. And it's all the other universes within the multiverse, too. Let's cut to the chase, it's Everything. It may be that Everything is Nothing; it does not matter. It is 'Tao', the Totality. And it is good.

'Good' is innocent of moral content. It is not 'good' in opposition to 'bad'. Reality is transcendent of moral considerations. It makes no distinction between God and the Devil; their fight is not Nature's concern. Nature is good because it is. A rock is good. But it's maya, illusion, one might protest. Maya is good. The Devil, if there is one, is also good.

Death is an event of no great consequence in the context of the Totality, but it seems to be a serious matter for us humans. And that suffices to make it a matter for our serious consideration. The concept of a Totality does not diminish the minute particular; quite the contrary, it imbues it with the infinite. Infinite what? Whatever you care to imagine is as good as what I can imagine.

Zhuangzi's formula, "What makes my life good also makes my death good," addresses the singularity of the life and death experience. If life is good, then so also is death, for in the context of reality as we experience it, there cannot be one without the other. If death is good, so also is life. So you need not needlessly abandon it.

My death is good. So here I am dying of a gunshot wound inflicted by a fellow quasi-Taoist of different opinion. (I belong to the Church of Pernicious Oneness, a heretical bunch if ever there was one.) This death which I am about to die is good. What, you want to rob me of the goodness of my death because it was wrongfully inflicted? Is the goodness of my death conditional? No. However I might die, my death is good.

Because death is good it does not follow that killing is also good. Death is good because it is a given of Nature. Gratuitous killing is not a given of Nature. Although the human is also Nature, it is capable of acting contrary to Nature. It is capable of disharmony. Gratuitous killing is bad. And the killer is bad — bad for the human — though he is also ‘good’.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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