Till death do us part
Till death do us part
The scale of life lies between two points: birth and death. In between these defining moments of one’s existence, life is a journey in forward direction albeit infinite twists and turns, accomplished milestones, incomplete aspirations, and beautiful emotions.
While to experience one’s own birth and be receptive to the thought of coming to life is beyond jurisdiction, humans do have the ability to think about their impending end. It is this unique ability of human evolution to visualize future events which forms the basis of our fear of death.
Animals have no ability to think about future events and therefore are not perturbed about the inevitable end through a process of death. Animals do have the instinct of getting harmed or killed and thus display a variety of defense mechanisms which they use to protect themselves from predators or situations of impending harm.
The inevitability of life coming to an end, naturally, even without any harm or external force has conditioned human psychology in many ways. Our actions and thoughts reflect this abstract fear in almost all dimensions. The fear of death is made more worrisome when the realization dawns that no one knows what happens after death.
We are made to believe that life has two components, a body, and a soul. Death annihilates the body but the soul is intact. The subscription to this assumption makes a perfect setting for the mind to accept the consequences of death. Lest no harm happen to soul, which humans consider as eternal, we continue to do good deeds in life. The elusive soul is either thought to reincarnate or be a part of heaven or hell, depending on the deeds which its compatible body performed while living.
Living systems, not just humans but all creatures, are made of small complete units known as cells. The cell itself is a complicated assembly of a few types of biomolecules which have amazing functions. It took eons with a time span of a billion years for infinite chemical reactions to happen which produced these biomolecules. The unique assembly of these biomolecules in a particular format somehow made possible a set of reactions to happen. This complex entity which originated from lifeless molecules was capable of replicating and so began life!
It took another 3.5 billion years for a small chemical beginning to add complexity to its structure and create a myriad of life forms that we now see on earth. Humans are perhaps one of the million creatures which owe their origin to the same chemical event which took place when life originated on earth.
Chemically death is an event when the chemical reactions between different constituent biomolecules of the body cease to happen. It is in this condition that the cellular machinery of the body fails and gets disturbed beyond repair. The asynchrony between different molecules causes a stalemate in functions which is reflected as the condition of death.
The causes of dysfunction of molecular functions leading to everything stopping in the body, or the event of death, may be varied. However, even without any external pressure, the chemical association of molecules are such that it is just not possible to sustain it for infinity. This explains the riddle of why every organism has a definite lifespan. Death is thus inevitable even without a cause.
Despite the ingrained acknowledgment of death as an eventual end of every human odyssey, humans have devised unique ways to derive benefits from the inherent fear which the thought of death ensues. Life insurance is one example of reaping the benefit of the human fear of death. In essence, humans with their highly evolved emotions, fear death not only for themselves. Most humans also find it pleasing to think beyond death. Human greed outlives humans!
With life so intricately linked to its end in the form of death, the thought of death has also created a metaphor having numerous usages. The poetic usage of ‘death’, as an expression of ultimate ecstasy of being in love, brings an unexpected romanticism to the meaning of an otherwise fearful word. Using death as a tool to accentuate the love for the beloved has been very beautifully penned by famous Urdu poet Qateel Shifai when he wrote
‘Zindagi mein to sabhi pyar kiya karte hain
Main to mar kar bhi meri jaan tujhe chahoonga
Death, as certain as it is, has also been a fertile expression for poets in their yearning for absolute tranquillity. The disturbing thought of not finding solace even after death was beautifully expressed by great Urdu poet Sheikh Ibrahim Zauq when he said:
ab to ghabrā ke ye kahte haiñ ki mar jā.eñge
mar ke bhī chain na paayā to kidhar jā.eñge
The couplet provides an explanation to the use of the expression ‘RIP’ for someone who has passed away.
Death also finds a beautiful expression in another uniquely human relationship, the marriage. Wedding vows are incomplete without the customary exclamation ‘Till death do us part’.