Making Friends With Death Essay

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There is only one certainty in life and it is this: we all die. From the moment we are born, we are in constant transition towards an unavoidable death that can occur at any moment. Although being consciously aware of our own human frailty may cause considerable anxiety or fear, the act of avoiding it leads to suffering. For to fully embrace life one must in turn accept the reality of death, as they are truly one and the same. Different cultures have their own unique ways of dealing with the inevitable. The experience of death can be largely dependent on the cultural lens from which it is viewed. For example, Buddhists regard life and death as a series of transitions; from birth to death, and then from death to birth, birth to death, death to birth and so on. While most of North American culture, with its emphasis on scientific discourse, tends to have a more biological determinism. Once the heart stops beating or the brain quits functioning, then the journey is over. This can lead to an avoidance of thinking, talking or even reflecting on death. We can see these belief structures manifested in the attitudes towards the elderly. Chinese Buddhists incorporate a concept called filial piety (Xiao shun). It literally means respect for the family; particularly the relation of child to parent. It is a concept that consists of many factors, the most important being, honour, loyalty, politeness and duty towards one’s parents. This contrasts with the North American viewpoint of advanced age, which can be considered a handicap. To be young is most desirable. Nowhere is this more evident than in mainstream or popular culture. Advertisers are well aware of the society’s obsession with youth and manipulate it accordingly. Some market research suggests that the annual revenue for anti-aging products and services in the United States is upwards from 160 billion dollars.

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