American society carries a profound taboo against thinking about or talking about death. This is evident in our obsession with being youthful. It is also apparent in the way the funeral industry and our customary behavior around death focus on sanitizing the physical evidence of death and suppressing public emotional reactions to death. We know that we will all die, but we have yet to learn to accept this reality and to normalize the conversations needed to comfort ourselves and each other around the issues surrounding dying and death.
Ernest Hemingway was familiar with these thoughts, he wrote:
“Dying was nothing and he had no picture of it nor fear of it in his mind. But living was a field of grain blowing in the wind on the side of a hill. Living was a hawk in the sky.”
“Living was an earthen jar of water in the dust of the threshing with the grain flailed out and the chaff blowing. Living was a horse between your legs and a carbine under one leg and a hill and a valley and a stream with trees along it and the far side of the valley and the hills beyond.”
In the movie, “Midnight in Paris” Woody Allen paraphrases Ernest Hemingway’s ideals perfectly when he wrote him into the script as Gill Pender’s guide,
“I believe that love that is true and real, creates a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving or not loving well, which is the same thing. And then the man who is brave and true looks death squarely in the face, like some rhino-hunters I know or Belmonte, who is truly brave… It is because they make love with sufficient passion, to push death out of their minds… until it returns, as it does, to all men… and then you must make really good love again.”
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”