Years ago they used to say that the biggest repression was that of sex - at least way back in Victorian times. I remember our English Lit. lecturer at college telling us that the Victorians used to keep the legs of their pianos covered or veiled in case they could be interpreted in a phallic way. They also say that the past is a different country - Victorian times could just as well be on the planet Mars. Today we are obsessed with sex among many other addictions and obsessions that 21st century humankind is addicted to. However, to stand things totally on their head, most experts today say that death and dying are now the ultimate repression. Modern society does not want to know about mortality at all. Our very repressions have changed.
Hereunder, I'd like to quote a few lines from one of my favourite books - The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche (Rider, 1992):
When I first came to the West, I was shocked by the contrast between the attitudes to death I had been brought up with, and those I now found. For all its technological achievements, modern Western society has no real understanding of death or what happens in death or after death.
I learned that people today are taught to deny death and taught that it means nothing but annihilation and loss. That means that most of the world lives either in denial of death or in terror of it...
Our society is obsessed with youth, sex, and power, and we shun old age and decay. Isn't it terrifying that we discard old people when their working life is finished and they are no longer useful?..
In the Buddhist approach, life and death are seen as a whole, where death is a beginning of another chapter of life. Death is a mirror in which the meaning of life is reflected...
As Tibet's famous poet saint, Milarepa, said: "My religion is to live - and die - without regret."
(Opus citatum. 7-12)
We have a lot to learn from all the various great religions of the world, especially Buddhism. Our own Christian tradition(s) have a lot to teach us, too, except that the power structures of the various Churches somehow have strangled its spirituality to death. All religions have great spiritual traditions which for one reason or another have been corrupted, emasculated and asphyxiated. That's where the spiritual masters and mystics come in, because these fellows see clearly the corruptions of power. Real spirituality refuses to be chained by any doctrinaire or dogmatic stances.
I will finish with a few more lines from Sogyal Rinpoche's great modern spiritual classic which I have quoted at length above, because I think and feel deeply that what he says contains not a little wisdom for modern human beings alienated from their very selves, abandoned on a sea of moral and spiritual confusion. The following lines I love for their sheer poetry and wisdom:
And doesn't this point to something fundamentally tragic about our way of life? We live under an assumed identity in a neurotic fairytale world...Hypnotized by the thrill of building, we have raised the houses of our lives on sand. This world can seem marvelously convincing until death collapses the illusion and evicts us from our hiding place. What will happen to us if we have no clue of any deeper reality?
Above I have placed a picture I took of a small boat on the Garravogue river just a little outside Sligo town, Summer 2006