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No Parroting Allowed!

Learning Emergence by Asking Questions



Emergence Group Babies

"Teaching and Learning about Death"

Questions for the Week of October 2, 2006



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When asked, "how do you best learn?" most people usually respond with either a technique, like, "in a classroom," or by naming their favorite sense, like, "I learn best visually." Unfortunately, this implies most people define "learning" as the ability to parrot the correct answer.

What is wrong with this? We believe that "parroting the correct answer" creates parrots, not students; dullards, not Einsteins. So how can we create more Einsteins? By asking questions which are intended to provoke the student's own questions. More important, we see this as the best way with which to reawaken in students the love of learning.

This week's topic is, "Teaching People about Death." Would you like to actually learn more about this topic? You can, simply by reading the teacher's questions and then, by asking yourself, "what questions did these words just provoke in me?"

"Teaching People About Death"

Teacher's Questions (asked by Ed)

As you all know, my mother died in March. Currently, I am waiting with Gary to hear the fate a mutual friend who was found unconscious in a swimming pool. Today, Father’s Day was an emotional day, and I spent a surprising amount of time mourning and thinking of my mother and my friend. As usual my experiences around death leave me with uncertainty and that uncertainty creates the need for answers to questions that I feel are there, I just don’t have the words for yet; they are in a hole. As unusual as it sounds, I would like to teach people about death.

  • I suspect that what most people know about death is, like all things, more about how they are wounded, than the nature of death itself. The most obvious place to begin is to admit I know very little about death. Really, I think what I know is more about the function of death: the end of physical life on our planet, or at least, the end of a specific form of life. I understand that when something dies other life uses the remains to make more life. So is it death? Is it change? Is the word "death" simply synonymous with change?
  • I know that some people have relationships with people, even after their body dies. I know that my relationship with my mother died many years ago, and that functionally, there is little difference today than 6 months ago. I know that I stopped picturing my mother many years ago. Did she die then? Is death the cessation of picturing?
  • If a person stops picturing someone, how does that affect both people? Can that contribute to the physical death of a person? Is that what is effective about prayer? How does it help to keep a picture or a person vital?
  • If death is natural, is there beauty? I am sure that road kill is beautiful to a vulture, or a crow, but I can not directly see the beauty in it. Can a person picture death? Can the moment of death be seen, or is it analogous to Steve’s observation that a person can be early or late, and there is no such thing as "on-time"?

When my mother died my sense of pain began as a dull ache and rose to a sharp pain when I released her ashes. A few days later my pain diminished to a dull ache. Dull or sharp, it was always with me. Now, I can only access "death consciousness" seemingly randomly. I know that the "randomness" indicates that what draws it to my conscious awareness is unseen to me, and therefore a wound.

  • What would happen if we could make this experience conscious? Is it possible? What would happen if people had a conscious, loving picture of death? Would we lose our will to live? How would being conscious of death affect a person’s life? How does not being conscious of death affect our lives?

Possible Student Response Questions (asked by Jen)

[1] Death as a change? I feel that most cultures believe death to be only a transition phase to another form of life/energy/etc. I have been thinking a lot about it myself and find some similarities to birth. It may be more or less physically painful from person to person, it is wounding because of the aloneness of the journey from utero to life and life to death. Or is it? I personally believe that there are many "people" present during every birth and death but we cannot "see" them because of the bullet hole obtained by the birthing moment. Then there is the progression of our human condition to move away from the divine towards the outer layers of connection. I feel this pull like the tide every single time I picture being in labor again and how I fled to personal non-existence Layer 1 between contractions. It was so frightening to be in layer 8 aloneness, then symptoms of layer 5 when the pain was at its worst and I could not escape it. Death must be terrifying until a certain point because we are unaware that we are not alone.

[2] Is Death the cessation of picturing of a person and does that contribute to the death of that person in reality? I am so intrigued by these questions. I have no idea but my gut feeling is no to both. It is only a wound, because picturing is reversible and something you can change on your end. And no to the second question because no amount of picturing a person could bring them back to this plane of existence. Where it becomes so poignant is in our plane of existence and what I believe is that the picturing and memories revisited can sort of re-create their lives within us. I guess what I mean is that being able to picture is very powerful in dealing with the loss of a loved one and should be retrieved by all means. Seeing my grandfather as a 60 something year old, tan and healthy smiling at me in my dreams has helped me tremendously to get over watching his physical decline. He was lucid and afraid of dying. I could see grief and regret in his eyes and in everything he said. It was so sad. As picturing heals wounds (the loss of your relationship with your mother years ago) even though her physical self is no longer with you. She will exist in your pictures that are within the containers of your subconsciousness that need to come up to the surface of you consciousness. Here you can possibly find the loving picture of her death and heal wounds that create the pain.

[3] With a loving picture of death, would we lose our will to live? I doubt it but I think that it would create less fear and shrink the bullet hole that most of us living have about death. Some people (the Dalai Lama?) don't fear death or as much because of their connection to the divine. Perhaps the easier we connect to each other and the divine, the more we can see the death transition is fleeting and important to the next plane of existence. I always try to remember myself that the only thing that will come with me are the experiences of people and events. And maybe not them in their entirety but only the connection I experienced with in those moments.


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