Why do most people fear taboos?
From helicopter parents who do not let their children out of their sight, to Hollywood old people who undergo surgery to become young people: Renate Georgy and her husband Thomas Hohensee say that behind many modern lifestyles there is fear of death. In the book "Death is better than its reputation", the Berlin couple of authors put forward provocative theses, criticized the Catholic Church as a fear-maker and called for a more relaxed approach to finitude. And what about the serenity about its own end?
SZ: Were you afraid of death yourself before you dealt with the subject?
Renate Georgy: Not as much as others. I come from a family that deals with the topic constructively. That was also the beginning for me to this book. But I can understand the fear.
How are these fears expressed in our society?
Thomas Hohensee: Our culture is determined by fear of death. This is reflected in the cult of the body and youth mania. Greed, lack of time, hectic, the feeling of missing something, the panic that you are running out of time, the pressure that you absolutely want to have children or that you have to create a work - behind this is always the fear: My God, me will disappear, something of me urgently has to live on! But you won't be happy in your life like that. Nobody can deny that the body is dying. On the other hand, anyone who believes in a consciousness that is independent of the body does not ask what remains of it, but rather: Where does consciousness go?
Would that be a constructive way of dealing with death?
Hohensee: There are several ways to deal with it. It is helpful to look at what goes through your head when dealing with your own death, as it does for all other stressful feelings. You can't control thoughts and feelings, but you can distance yourself from them. For example, I can concentrate on what makes me happy. When you know where the key to it all lies, it dawns on you. My worldview has completely changed.
What culture has the most relaxed way of dealing with death?
Hohensee: Buddhism and Hinduism. In the two religions there is no concept of the end; rebirth is an integral part. Hindus and Buddhists have at most one problem with having to come back. That can also be seen as something positive or something terrifying - just like death with us.
Georgy: In Germany, too, considerations are increasingly going in this direction, which is also changing the funeral culture. More and more dying people wish that the mourners do not all wear black and listen to sad music. This is a first step towards a more relaxed approach. The next one would be to ask yourself: Can death be completely different from what I imagine it to be?
Why do so many people in our country have this extreme fear of death?
Georgy: Our religion is materialism. We cling to things, to the body and everything else that is perishable, and we believe in what we see. If you then deny the existence of the immaterial, it becomes difficult. We have too negative an idea of death. Why not think the other way - maybe it's not that terrible after all. Perhaps it is not the annihilation of our being at all, the ultimate extinction. What if they are right when they say there is another world there and it is really great? This is an exciting thought experiment.
Hohensee: There have been reports from doctors who were clinically dead or who have consciously witnessed a stroke. These are not dreamers, but rationally thinking people whose views have changed fundamentally after such extraordinary self-experiences. The US psychologist Raymond Moody began collecting near-death reports 40 years ago. At that time one had to fear of being declared crazy. The topic has been left out for far too long - not to our advantage.
What can induce people to come to terms with death?
Hohensee: Spiritual crises. The phenomenon of death cannot be suppressed. Unfortunately, most of them only deal with it when they become seriously ill themselves or when people who are close to them die. It is a big taboo, there is hardly any natural way of dealing with death. It is pushed out of consciousness in such a way that you get a shock when you realize that nobody lives forever. That is a very bad way of dealing with impermanence.
Two people die every second worldwide, in the half hour in which we are now talking there are 3000 people, 50 million a year. If there is a big accident somewhere with 200 deaths, it seems enormous to us. But that's only 200 out of a total of 150,000 who died that day, the latter is just ignored. It always means: Death came suddenly and unexpectedly, which is completely absurd. The only thing that is certain is death.
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