I don’t want to deal with this, but here it is. It is writer’s (or any artist’s) job to stare at things and expose what is hidden, to dig through all the layers of crap to unearth the truth, to entertain and inform and to stimulate thought in the reader or observer. It seems to me that a writer needs to come to terms with certain things, at least within her own self, for they are forbidden, prohibited language and visibility, yet they are fundamental to reality.
Today’s post taps into an unsavory subject. It has to do with what most of us prefer to deny. For that reason, I doubt it will get many views because we all know that life is but a blink and we will all be there at our own end party. Halloween is a few weeks away. I love Halloween. But what is it, really? It is All Hallow’s Evening, which honors the dead, yes. But Western society has turned it into a profitable euphemism of cute/dramatic costumes, candy, and decorations so we don’t have to see what really happens to the body before it gets there. We carve jack-o’-lanterns and stick humorous Styrofoam grave markers and plastic skeletons in our yards. We honor the dead–the host of other people who are dead, vast centuries of people whose bones moulder in graves.
Unless it’s sudden, death is the entropic process of life. But death, and what precedes it, is a freakish abomination to those of us concerned with how we look, with fashion, music, technology, and money. That is why we are a culture of death, since we ignore the very thing that we most fear. We don’t fear birth because we can see what comes of it. We don’t fear living because we are doing it, no matter how sad we are or how painful our circumstance. But we fear what we cannot know. I blame this fierce denial on institutionalized religions, which have for millennia crushed us beneath mandatory myths of death and “the afterlife” in order to fill us with fear so their hierarchies could control us and force us to tithe.
Here is a series of works by Japanese photographer Manabu Yamanaka whose art depicts the most basic and important aspects of suffering, aspects which Westerners loathe and abhor and refuse to acknowledge as outside their ability to fathom for longer than a moment. There is no averting the camera’s gaze here. The photos disturb me, yet they are entirely natural without embellishment or interpretation. They depict what we don’t want to see, don’t want to think about. They are the diametric opposite of how we prefer to think about life and death. They disgust and terrify us. Why is that? Have human beings always relegated such phases of life and death to the periphery, behind curtains, hidden away, or left by the wayside? I find it interesting that the photographer sees these taboo images as beautiful and Buddha-like.
- The Way of Death, Or the Way of Dying. [For Rachel] (vonfaustus.blogspot.com)