On Truth, Power, Denial and Death


Today is the last of my eleven-day odyssey with my four-year old, which means tonight I will be back on The Motherfucking Boat, and hopefully not too hungover tomorrow. In the meantime, someone left this comment the other night on my recent post Morning Commute, Melancholy and the Human Face:

I wonder if instead of “too much power” in the human face, there is too much “truth” in the human face. It’s harder to look at truth, easier to avoid. Power is compelling and draws our fascination. Just a thought.”

I disagree. It’s the power of the glance and perhaps the corresponding play of the features that we are struck most by and averts our eyes. The reason: the face is a hologram of all a person’s thoughts, and thoughts are infinite and mysterious and therefore powerful, whether they’re true or not. They’re often more powerful when they’re untrue.

The only time I can imagine there being “too much truth” in the human face is when the onlooker is in denial of something.

Do you want to know what there’s “too much truth” in?

A human corpse.

That’s why we immediately cover them and shuffle them off into obscurity, as if with disgust. The truth they represent – Death, something most of us live in constant fear and denial of – must be suppressed. Our Western sensibilities must not be cognizant of man’s ultimate destiny. We must not know that

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing

Which only shows we keep way too wide a berth from ordinary reality and fact. Now I’m not saying we should be like the tribes of Papua New Guinea who keep the skulls of their ancestors in their living rooms. But we should be a little closer in our acquaintanceship with Death so that when it does ride in on its ghost horse it’s not such an unnatural shock to the system.

If you live in harmony with nature you will never be poor; if you live according what others think, you will never be rich.” ~ Seneca

We should also keep in mind that Death is not the greatest misfortune of all, despite what we are bred to believe and led to believe at funerals and on the news, etc.

It might, however, be the greatest fortune. We’ll never know.

More light!” ~ Goethe’s last words.


4 thoughts on “On Truth, Power, Denial and Death

  1. I can see where you are going with the death thing, but the truth isn’t known until it is in the moment.
    Therefore I can see death has a bad press, when for some it might be “Not now death!” for others it could be “I’ve been waiting for you my friend, where the heck have you been?!”
    It just is what it is.
    Another journey or the destination?
    What it isn’t is our business, ours is the moments of life, the times we can be alone or with others.
    Our last moments are just as important as the ones between the first breath and the last, to be lived with compassion.

  2. I love your comment, ‘What it isn’t is our business, ours is the moments of life, the times we can be alone or with others.’ It reminds me of what Epicurus said: “Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.” It’s totally true, but also we shouldn’t be deceived into thinking we’re going to live forever. That kind of attitude inspires miserliness both with our money and with the kinds of risks we’re willing to take, which only makes life worse, not just for you but for the people around you. Have you ever seen someone who just clings to their money and possessions and never dares to break out of their comfort zone? I have to believe it’s because they’ve forgotten to realize they’re perishable.

  3. This is quite interesting, and you’ve opened my eyes on the subject of death. I’ve always been terrified to die, in denial that I possibly could die every time I go home to such hostility. I have been unable to tap into my true power because I go by what others believe. However, I don’t necessarily believe that death is my destination. “Death was made for someone else, someone who isn’t me.”

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