Life after life

dandelion

Disclaimer: It’s really sad when I feel I need to connect a disclaimer to this  particular post. I’m doing it because I was accused of suffering from depression and not being able to function as a father. That happened about a year ago after I had written in general terms about different types of mental disorders, and exploring the vast unknown in me as well. I’m using this blog to try and understand myself and the world better. It is estimated that 30-50 percent of the population in my country will suffer from a type of mental disorder during their lives, so I think it’s a pretty important topic to write about.

Am I  the only one being hampered with dysfunctional people?  It is a dysfunction when we can’t talk about some of the most important aspects about life, which mental health and death clearly are. This post is about death, but i can assure you I have no desire to leave, and it’s just as much about life.

They are repulsive, repugnant, ugly, hideous, horrible, sickening, appalling and disgraceful! Yes, we would gladly use the entire thesaurus to describe dandelion and coltsfoot. They are far from being popular, except for when professionals within the field of psychology and sociology describe children that have come seemingly unscathed through a difficult adolescence (like abuse and alcoholic parents). They are frequently referred to as the dandelion-children in Norway.

Both the flowers are popular among insects as well, which is why they blossom early. That is a smart strategy because they get a head start on the other flowers. I am surprised every year when I hear how much most people hate them. Apart from being very pretty they also help to maintain biodiversity. The flowers attract insects early, which will be food for many types of birds. The best thing you could do is to leave some of your garden wild, if you have that option.

There's something magic about the world where dandelions come from.. Dandelion seeds.
There’s something magic about the world where dandelions come from.

After a long autumn and winter when nature hibernates, summer is magical and it reminds me of the supernatural. Many people associate the word metaphysics with something vague, unexplained or even something hypocritical today, but some centuries ago this was a serious philosophical discipline that asked some of the most fundamental questions you can imagine.

I especially like dandelions and butterflies because they remind me of fairies the way they are soaring through the air. Incidentally, the idea of fairies is very old, but they were not originally the friendly characters we know from Peter Pan and Disney. That doesn’t suprise me when I think about what Norwegians used to believe in. We had goblins, draugr (an undead creature), hulder (a seductive female forest creature), Neck (water spirit), trolls, fairies and elves, and they were not always nice. Even the Norwegian version of Santa Claus, tomte, was whimsical. I suspect we have J.R.R. Tolkien and J.M. Barrie to thank or blame for elves and fairies being popular today.

It’s a fascinating idea in Tolkiens books that the elves envy us humans. Some of them want the mortality of mankind at least. We might think of immortality as freedom, but it’s a prison some elves want to break out of. The elves want the gift of men in The Lord of the Rings. This has probably confused fans since the books were published in the mid 1950’s. I don’t know if Tolkien envisioned a Christian interpretation or not, but that is a possible explanation. The elves belong here because they are closely related to nature, while we are sort of passing through on our way to somewhere else. This is not our final destination.

I like to believe that Tolkien wanted to reduce the fear many people have of dying, and to tell us that we can expect something rather nice on the other side. The gift has a price, though. We have to give up what we have, and we can’t choose the time of death. I would still add that no one has the right to judge. It’s sad when people in the part of the world with the greatest material wealth sometimes become so desperate that they don’t see any other solution than death. According to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health 150 women and just under 400 men commit suicide every year, while there are only 40 murders a year in Norway. That is a scary statistic, and yet we don’t talk about death.

a dandelion seed resting on a leaf
A dandelion seed looking for a new home.

I believe Tolkien’s friend, C.S. Lewis, had the same ideas. The Chronicles of Narnia emphasised stronger on reducing the fear of death in children. I think J.M. Barrie tried something similar with Peter Pan. In one of the most famous lines Peter says that “to die would be an awfully big adventure.” I’ve never really reflected on the dark side of Peter Pan, but I think that those who interpret Neverland as the place where sick children go to in their fantasies have a point. There are some that never come back from Neverland because they die, which could be what Peter did.

It may seem morbid to have these dark thoughts in children’s literature, and Astrid Lindgren was also accused of encouraging children to commit suicide in The Brothers Lionheart, but at the same time I think it would be a good idea if we became less obsessed with death. When Astrid Lindgren tried to get her first book published she was told to go home and knit, or something like that. It’s interesting that the same woman was criticized for trying to help children deal with death. I haven’t heard anyone say that about the Tolkien, Lewis and Barrie.

I don’t know whether these authors succeeded or whether it’s possible to remove the fear completely, but since death and loss is something we can’t escape, it’s probably not a good idea to avoid the subject completely. Death was present in my life from a very early age. I think I was 7 or 8 when one of my uncles died, and my father died when I was 11. My paternal grandparents died before I was born, and my maternal grandparents died before I finished senior high school. I quickly learned that, even though everyone talked about how wonderful it was going to be in heaven, death was something all the grownups around me feared. That is perfectly understandable because no matter what happens after death there will be a long separation.

We are too enlightend today to believe in fairies, but whether it’s real or an illusion, there is some comfort in thinking that there is another world. Some people like the idea of fairies, while others prefer angels. It is nice to lie on a meadow on a warm summer’s day and imagine that the end is not the end, that some day those angels might be guding me to that other place, whatever and wherever that is. It’s nice to think that the people who have already died are there. I had a friend in my teens who killed herself. I hope she found something better. We are too rational for this kind of thinking today, and there’s no room in our society for anything that goes beyond the physical world. Nevertheless, there is a reason most cultures try to make it easier to deal with death. The vikings had their ideas of the underworld or death realms. They didn’t exactly have a hell, but they had different death realms and ending up in Hel wasn’t exactly concidered honourable. That’s where sick and old people went, while men killed in battle went to Valhalla.

Roman and Greek mythology, the Mayan civilization and some African religions had their ideas of some sort of existence after death, so this really stretched across the whole planet. It’s even possible that people had these ideas long before any religion.There are several dig sites suggesting that Neanderthals buried their dead 50 000 years ago. That doesn’t mean they believed in an afterlife, but it is interesting that they cared for the dead and that they probably mourned them. I have a feeling they saw death as a transition to something else. Read an article in National Geographic about a find in France.

Spring and summer is the time for rebirth. That’s when life begins again, and it may seem strange to some that it gives me association to the contrary, but as I mentioned earlier the reaction from adults around me told me this wasn’t as simple as the Bible says. There are some who say they don’t fear death. I am sorry to say I’m not one of them, but hopefully I will be able to deal with it when my time comes. I suspect I will, but I still wish I was more spiritual and less rational. I’m probably a little like the actress Carrie Fisher, known as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars films. She is quoted saying “I love the idea of God, but it’s not stylistically in keeping with the way I function. I would describe myself as an enthusiastic agnostic who would be happy to be shown there is a God.”

She is describing bigger difficulties with focusing on God than most Christians express. I think there are many hypocrites among those because believing without doubting isn’t as easy as many claim. I expect to have many years left, but when my final days are approaching I hope I will be thinking about hope. My thoughts won’t be exclusively about God, but perhaps a mixture of perfect summer days together with my family, dandelions, butterflies, fairies, elves, angels and God. I still might think just as much about the two girls I’ll be leaving as the gift I hope awaits me, but I can’t give up hope that it’s only a temporary separation. Life with my family is a gift I intend to keep for as long as possible, but another life together wouldn’t go amiss.

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