Life and Death
That life is a cycle is self-evident. There are two miracles of being human: (1) Life (unique; unlike the inert chemicals associated with its occurrence, mysterious) and (2) Consciousness (of course animals have consciousness too but only humans actually think about their own consciousness). But his is not going to be an upbeat blog-post. It’s about decay, after all, when everything dies.
Yet decay is really part of the life cycle. Dead matter feeds new life. Witches make a point of honoring that side of the cycle. The Crone, the dark side of the Moon (or the new moon if you prefer), the Crow (who eats decaying animals). Scavengers keep the world clean. They remove decaying substances which would poison the living. They also transform decaying matter into living substance (themselves). The life cycle is also served whenever an animal eliminates waste or when a plant dies and is reabsorbed in the earth. The life cycle can be compared to the four turnings (decay being the fourth, of course).
People usually focus on the new and growing aspect of the life cycle. That focus is healthiest in this world. But there have been times when people longed for and reached out to the other world. Such a period was the Romantic. Poets and composers focused on death. It is, after all, the gateway to other worlds (if such worlds exist). Richard Wagner accepted the metaphysics of Arthur Schopenhauer that beneath the veil of appearances, we are all one. Tristan und Isolde romanticized the Liebestod or love-death.
I once read a novel in which a family of poor orphans looking after themselves. They discover, in the freezer, meat which has decayed is kept frozen. This struck me as horrible for some reason. Maybe it’s because things kept in the freezer are supposed to be preserved and still edible. Something already decaying, frozen…the frost and snow, concealing it like a really deep evil. The movie, Angel Heart, starts with the sight of a slum street at night in winter. The snow is all slushy and dirty. A kitten on one of the fire escapes stands, immaculate (as only cats’ fur can be). A dog, dirty, straggly, feeling the worst of the weather, walks bye and then the camera allows us to see the dog is sniffing a body that has been desecrated. Evil accomplished and stored like a horcrux. Frozen evil. Only decay isn’t evil. It’s a necessary part of the life cycle.
Even for Pagans, decay must be rather forbidding. For Christians, it’s terrifying. Although they cry, “Hallelujah! There is no death!” they often seem more in the spirit of denial than overcoming. We use euphemisms for death. “So and so has passed on.” Horror movies give us a small taste of what we most fear.
It’s become trendy to revel in what the culture as a whole regards as ugly. A makeup company calls is brand, Urban Decay and calls it’s various products with names like addiction, frenemy, shame, etc.
Attraction and repulsion are functions of the ego. Nature doesn’t care. In The Stranger, the protagonist who is scheduled to be executed the next day transcended such prejudices:
“He had opened his heart to the sublime indifference of the universe”