Death studies for college students. Now that is an uplifting thought.
But actually it is. As members of a death-denying culture the introduction of THE subject that makes us all uncomfortable is absolutely necessary. It seems natural to avoid pain and the subject that we choose to distance ourselves from only takes on more importance and power through our denial.
There are stories about Buddhist priests who are novices. Apparently there were placed into rooms with corpses in varying states of decay. The shock was intentional. Once they faced up to the reality that our physical bodies are temporary and impermanent, they could move on to explore the world of spirit.
Kean University in NJ is at the forefront of such classes. Besides visiting cemeteries and coroners offices they are required to write letters to deceased loved-ones and compose their own eulogies.
Facing death does not mean becoming obsessed with it. It does not lead to morbid thoughts or actions. It can allow us to experience the death of loved-ones with a deeper understanding and acceptance. What cannot be changed must be accepted. Of course death can be tragic. We tend to categorize deaths by cause and age. Of course we can accept the death of a loved-one more readily if they lived a long life or were suffering towards the end. But ultimately we need to keep the prospect of death in its proper place–acknowledge its inevitability and use it as a tool to embrace the gift of life.
How do we ascribe value to the intangibles in our lives. They must be ephemeral, not guarranteed. Love and life are like that. The awareness that physical life is temporary gives it value. Death does just that. It also opens us to explore the world of spirit. Death has less sting when it is viewed from a greater perspective.