On Our Fragility

I just read a nice piece by Courtney Martin in OnBeing. In it she talks about our Western aversion to facing the difficulties of life, including death. She writes:

If we have the courage to acknowledge our own frailty, and the frailty of those around us, then we would treat healthcare as a human right, not a partisan football. We would resource our institutions differently — creating the space for all children who are going to die to live in settings like George Mark. We would design public transportation and workplaces and schools with the disabled in mind, and as blind architect Chris Downey points out, they would therefore be better designed for everybody.

One of the great benefits of aging is that as we daily get closer to our own death the urgency of facing it becomes more pressing. I remember being shocked in my late forties reading these lines from W.S. Merwin’s “For the Anniversary of My Death”.

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me

Every year we do pass the day on which we will die – the anniversary of our death. That was a wake up call, a shock, but, I think, the beginning of me being able to look at and face my death.

May poppies in an Umbrian field

May poppies in an Umbrian field

Now, in my middle 60s I think about it. I read about it. It is making me more sensitive, more aware, more appreciative, more humble, more joyous, more alert, more in the moment. It is quite beautiful.

We are fragile. We do fall apart. We do age. We die. We become larger when we choose to face these aspects of life. Not as an affliction, but as a teacher as to the joy and privilege that life is.



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