Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lies We Tell Ourselves #109

I'm going to take to screaming if I hear one more serious person say that humans are unique in that we are the only animals aware of our own death. I read this all the time. Come on people, that's just bullshit. Animals are aware of death every single second of every single day. Have you not seen the looks on their faces, how they react to movement, sound and smells? Their expression says: "I could die!"

Animals are frantically eating, so they don't die, running, scurrying and hiding so they don't die, drinking quickly and nervously so they don't die. They live every moment with death. We humans, at least modern western ones, are very nearly the opposite. We go out of our way to repress thoughts of death, and tell ourselves soothing stories about how we never "really die" so we don't freak out about the fact that we die.

I remember seeing a show that postulated this theory of humans being uniquely aware of death, and the proof was an ancient burial site on which they found flowers. Somehow this proved that we were "aware" of death in a way that animals were not because we had a ritual we performed around a dead person. Well, what do we call the pacing a deer does around her dead fawn? What about the rook that defends its dead mate from carrion eaters, or the elephants that slowly pass around the bones of their deceased kin? These are rituals as much as placing a flower on a grave is a ritual.

People are ridiculous in their presumptions - and perhaps it's this ridiculous presumptuousness that distinguishes us from all other animals, not our awareness of our own death.

No comments:

Post a Comment