“I Only Have One Prediction for You … We Are All Going to Die” by Dougald Hine

This is an excerpt. You can read the entire essay here.

We are all going to die.

… This is not an apocalyptic prophecy, it is only to state the quiet fact of our mortality, the undramatic reality of personal extinction that waits for each of us, sooner or later, somewhere down the road. Yet many of those who study or work with death have come to the conclusion that there is something strange about modern Western society and the way it handles this reality.

The Canadian author Stephen Jenkinson, who worked for decades with patients approaching death, suggests that North America has become a ‘death-phobic’ culture. Across the developed countries, there seems to be a difficulty in facing death that sets our current ways of living apart from the ways in which people have lived in other times and places.

I want to suggest that this difficulty is tangled up with the difficulty we have when it comes to knowing, coming to terms with, and acting on our knowledge of a thing like climate change. …

To know a thing like climate change, with all that it implies, to see and speak clearly about it, I need to start with death: to come to terms with my own mortality, not as an inconvenient fact, a thing to try and avoid thinking about, nor as a world-ending event, but as an intimate knowledge, a mystery that makes me who and what I am. Knowing that the body in which these thoughts are cradled will someday be burned or buried, that the world will close quietly around my absence, that this is the ordinary course of events, releases me to be vulnerable and dependent as I always was, a part of processes whose time is vastly other than my own. …

All life feeds on death. All enduring human cultures have been shaped by the need to be worthy of what we take. Much of the ritual and story by which humans have found their bearings in the world has at its heart the cultivation of awareness and gratitude for the deaths of the animals and plants that give us life. The need to be worthy is not just a moral aspiration, a desire for a sense of dignity or self-justification, but a practical necessity. Either we make our lives a part of a cycle of gift, or we become an engine of depletion, bringing about a desolation from which we will not escape. The tapestry of myth carries memories of the ways we have ruptured this cycle and the work that has gone into mending it, time after time.

The fossil economy breaks the possibility of such a cycle. How many million years of dying in the forests and seas of the ancient world goes into one generation of living the way we have been doing around here lately? How could our lives ever be worthy of so much death? What could we possibly give back? Committed to dependence on these vast underground reserves of death, the only response that remains to such questions is to silence them, to extinguish the ways of living which embody them, to make them unthinkable.

This is an excerpt. You can read the entire essay here.

Published by John Halstead

John Halstead is the author of *Another End of the World is Possible*, in which he explores what it would really mean for our relationship with the natural world if we were to admit that we are doomed. John is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is a co-founder of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which worked to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the Statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post, PrayWithYourFeet.org, and Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of HumanisticPaganism.com. John also facilitates climate grief support groups climate grief support groups affiliated with the Good Grief Network.

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