Interview by Sunny Shadows of the Substance Broadcasting Station
My name is Sunny Shadows, and I am an on-air reporter for the Substance Broadcasting Station. Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with both Life and Death, for a very in-depth interview.
SS: First, I want to welcome both of you to my studio. I know how very demanding your days are, so I, and my Substance Broadcasting Station listeners do very much appreciate your time. With that awareness, let's jump right in. The consensus by most humans seems to be that you - Life - and you - Death, are mortal enemies. How much of that is true, and how much of that is mere gossip? Would either of you like to weigh in first on the statement and question?
Death: I would like to answer that, if you don't mind!
Life: Not at all, please continue.
Death: The fact is that I could not exist without my buddy, Life.
SS: How do you feel about what Death just said?
Life: I will go one further, and admit that I would have no raison d'être without my companion, nay, partner, Death.
Death: Oh, that's so sweet of you.
Life: Not at all. But to answer your original question, Sunny, we do exist in tandem. Like Siamese twins, we are forever joined. You cannot have Life without Death or Death without Life.
Death: Agreed! A forest burns to the ground, and the soil becomes fertile again and new buds spring forth. Winter begets spring, begets summer, begets fall, and so it goes.
Life: Life, Death, Life, Death. Yin, Yang. In the immortal words of Tom Cruise, in Jerry McGuire..."You complete me."
Death: We complete each other, my friend.
SS: Wow, that's a very commanding consensus from both of you. Okay, so let me put a bit of a spin on this...what if, only for argument's sake, we entertain the notion of no Death. We do away with Death, and only you, Life, are left alone to flourish. What do you imagine that would look like?
Life: Very crowded and very messy, Sunny. You can't just keep piling life up with no consequences. Our Earth would become a giant storage locker filled with humans we don't use anymore and forgot we had. Also, on a personal note, I would be very lonely.
Death: Aw, I'm totally verklempt.
SS: So... symmetry is important for sustainability?
Life: Yes! Not just that, but what about all the humans in severe and chronic physical, emotional or psychological pain, anguish or suffering.
Death: Be careful Life, that might be perceived as a slippery slope in conjunction with Euthanasia and Suicide, and neither of them are here to plead their case objectively at the moment.
Life: True enough. But I think you know where I am going with this Sunny. How often, after Death has paid a visit, have you heard someone say, "I am so glad they are no longer suffering."
SS: Point taken. So what about if we change the convention slightly, and say, yes the very old and terminally pain-ridden must die, but no more premature Death for children and adults under 80? Can we not agree that is a reasonable request.
Death: I'll take this one... I am afraid not Sunny. If I only come for the 80-plus set, I will be known as an ageist, which clearly I am not. That mindset would also imply that it is okay for healthy, sound 80-plus humans to die, whether or not they would have before we placed those rules into effect.
Life: If I may interject: as it stands, there are no rules concerning me and my companion, and there never have been. Frankly, I do not see how any sort of regulations, at this juncture, would serve any relevance. Also, rules and regulations are put into place by specific regions and cultures. Geography might play an important part also, as well as politics, economics, etc. Do not forget that Death and I work in an atmosphere of complete non-partiality.
SS: Okay, but don't you think that some checks and balances should be put into place?
Life: Absolutely not. Look, don't get me wrong; it would be great, in theory, if we could abolish all pediatric oncology wards, or terminal and chronic illnesses forever. Again, I say, in theory, in a flawed and poorly thought-out theory.
SS: I can't believe what I am hearing. So you, Life, then, endorse the killing of young, innocent children along with the physically vulnerable?
Life: Unequivocally not!
Death: Hold on a minute. I think we are getting caught up in semantics. I believe that what Life means to impart is the reality of what those rules might imply. Again, my buddy and I would be seen as some kind of omnipotent authorities on who dies and who does not...where, when, how and why. We don't do that shit! It's never personal on our side. The personal is injected by you and your fellow humans.
SS: What about the meaning? People have a need for understanding, especially when someone they love is permanently taken away. What is the meaning of your existence? What is the meaning of little children dying, and what about people like my father, who worked hard his whole life in hopes of enjoying a well-earned retirement with my mom, only to die of a sudden heart attack, leaving my mom alone for however many years she has left. Death, I can never forgive you for that.
Death: Well there we have it. Again, notions like forgiveness, acceptance, purpose and meaning, are all human impositions. Life and I have absolutely nothing to do with any of that.
SS: I apologize for my outburst. As a reporter, it is my job to be objective. As a human however, I find the struggle difficult at times. This is clearly one of those times.
Life and Death: No apology necessary.
Death: Perhaps now you have caught a glimpse into how difficult our jobs are, and how extremely important it is for us to never, under any circumstances, lose our composure or determination.
Life: I would like to add something in reference to the whole need to know 'why' meaning of things, which humans struggle so deeply with when they are challenged by the permanent loss of a loved one. And again, allow me to make it perfectly clear that only God and Satan challenge humans, while Death and I remain impartial.
Death: Don't go there Life, you know how you get.
Life: Oh, I will indeed go there. How is it that people only feel challenged, and have epiphanies, and character-altering breakthroughs, when they feel challenged by my pal Death. How come I never witness any of you humans shaking your fists up to the heavens and asking, "why me, why her/him", when something amazing happens to them?
SS: I've lost you... are you jealous?
Life: No! That is not what I am saying.
SS: We seem to be off topic.
Life: We are spot on topic. How come humans do not get that they can glean just as much meaning from me, as from Death? How about not waiting until Death shows up to tell the people close to you that you love them? How about being grateful for having working legs instead of bitching about how far away from the shopping mall entrance you have to park? How about considering yourself lucky to have food and shelter before a fire burns down your home, or you lose your job and can't buy bread? How about getting into some serious soul-searching about how fortunate you and your loved ones are to be alive, while you are all healthy, instead of waiting to celebrate me, only after my buddy has come to call?
Death: Cool it Life, I think they get it now.
Life: I think the problem is that they do not get it. Humans tend to be so arrogant, with delusions of expectation, when it comes to me and Happiness, and so humble and vigilant when it comes to Death and Sadness.
Death: And people think I'm the tempest.
SS: Okay, so, Happiness and Sadness are scheduled for an upcoming interview, at which point I will refer to your statement and ask their opinion. For now, however, I think it is more productive to speak only for yourselves.
Life: Fair enough.
SS: Okay, so let's get into that for a moment. Do we humans not deserve to expect a certain amount of happiness, safety, good health, success, good fortune?
Death: Oh holy shit, she said the 'D' word...here we go!
Life: No, no, it's okay. I am not going to freak out. I find it interesting that you humans feel, nay, believe, that you DESERVE happiness, safety, good health, success and good fortune, but you never believe that you DESERVE any misery or misfortune. Why exactly is that Sunny? You know what I think, when I hear someone screaming, "Why me?"... I think, why not you? And if not you, then who?
SS: Huh, I never really thought about it in that way. I just figure that barring any serious felonies or premeditated malice on my end, I should be golden. I work hard. I give to my local charity, I give my seat up on the bus, most times. I practice kindness to animals. I am considered to be a nice and good person. I don't know, I guess I do believe I deserve to be happy and healthy. Why shouldn't I?
Death: I think that is what Life was taking issue with. When humans believe that they deserve good things as a cosmic, religious, spiritual or karmic reward of some kind, because they believe themselves to be good...well, that's when they get into trouble every time. Life and I do not operate under that kind of coercion. I agree with Life. How about practicing love, compassion, benevolence, thoughtfulness, just because it's the right thing to do, without expectation of reward.
Life: Better yet, what if humans considered acting well, the reward? Then you don't ever get into the territory of good and bad, and what are those boundaries, and who gets to decide. I believe that subject will be better tackled next month Sunny, when God and Satan will be your guests.
Death: Again, Sunny, I want to remind you and your listeners that Life and I operate under the very strictest of regulations for non-partiality. I believe I speak for us both, when I say that when Life gives, and when I take away, it is never about good, bad, sick, healthy, rich or poor, or anything other than the fulfillment of our duties. Again, it's never personal to us. It's only personal to humans because of their constant need for answers. The truth is that sometimes there is no absolute answer to Life or me, unless you yourself come up with it.
Life: Right! So build your monuments, start your charities, practice compassion, be present, live to the fullest, right now, and stop asking why. Just understand that there is no mystery, there never was. The sun has been rising forever. It's not like tomorrow at 6:00am you're going to say, "Holy shit! What the heck is that giant, glowing, yellow orb doing in the sky?", and later at 6:00pm, you will wonder where the hell it went. Death and I have been around forever, so what's the mind-blowing confusion about for you humans? Think of it like shampoo, Life-Death-repeat!
SS: Well, okay, Death... but you must admit that you bring us pain, and that Life, you do not.
DEATH: You want to tell that to all the women who had to push an eight-pounder plus out of their vah-jay-jay? There can be pain with Life, and there can be relief with me. Again, the interpretation is subjective.
SS: Okay, so now we would like to open up the telephone lines to anyone who would like to ask Life and Death a question. Hello, who is this? Please state your name and where you are calling from.
CALLER #1: Hi, this is Xavier from France. My question is for Death. What's your take on the whole 'it was his time' thing? You know, like when someone dies and everybody says, "Oh, I guess it was his time to die."? Is that true, that we each have a 'time'?
DEATH: I don't know how to break it to you Xavier, but whenever someone dies, that was their time to die. There is no ambiguity or meaning behind it. Whenever you die, you are dead, so that was your time. It's not like you are yogurt, with an expiration date clearly marked on your butt. When you die, you die...ergo, you are dead.
SS: Okay. Yes, hello next caller. please state your name and where you are calling from.
CALLER #2: Oh my word, I can't believe I got through, aaahh!
SS: Caller, do you have a question for either Life or Death?
CALLER #2: Okay, I'm so nervous. Okay, so I'm Veronica, from Manhattan, New York. This is to both Life and Death...can you both honestly say that you practice absolute non-judgment every single time? 'Cause, like, I tried it when my friend Mindy cut her bangs, and it was like, crazy impossible for me not to, like, finally scream out, that her bangs were, like, crooked.
Life: I assure you Veronica, that neither Death or I consider crooked bangs a bone of contention in any way. Yes! We have been highly trained from the beginning, in intense non-partiality classes, lectures and workshops. We have been, and continue to be tested in the most extreme of situations, both on paper and experientially. I hope that answers your question, Veronica.
SS: Moving on. Our next caller is?
CALLER #3: Hello, this is Wahid, from Rwanda. I want, no, I need to know, how either of you can claim impartiality, while almost one million of my Tutsi brothers and sisters were slaughtered by our fellow Hutu countrymen? I lost most of my friends and my entire family. How can you, Life, stand aside and merely watch atrocities such as this happen?
LIFE: The fact is, that I, Life, don't kill people... people kill people. Neither Death nor I inspire racial, political or religious unrest. Humans are the ones who set up all the rules and regulations. Humans are the ones who draw lines in the sand and say, "This country starts and ends here, and whoever crosses this line without permission will be killed." Humans are the ones who decree that Jews, or people of color, or fat people, or physically challenged people, and so on and so on, are second class or somehow inferior. Humans are the ones who make the rules and set the boundaries. Death and I remain impartial and at the ready to clean up your mess.
CALLER #3: Aren't you just blaming the victims?
DEATH: We understand that it may sound that way, Wahid. Furthermore, both Life and I have struggled, and continue to struggle, with that question. Unfortunately, in many cases, the perpetrators and the victims are, at times, one and the same. When you have 'good' people giving up their neighbors, friends and families in order to buy their own freedom or safety, the lines get blurred.
LIFE: We saw it with the Huns, the Spanish Inquisition; we saw it in Germany, Russia, Salem, the US with the Civil War; in China, and in Ireland, and on and on, over and over again...whether we consider race, culture, politics or religion, or whatever other way humans can invent to hate each other. I am talking about the human animal, the human condition. Wahid, both Death and I are so very sorry for your devastating losses. I assure you, we had nothing to do with the losses. I assure you that both our hearts ache each time we have had to clean it all up, and reset the human clock to zero again, and hope beyond hope, that maybe this time, you will have learned something, so there will never be a next time.
SS: Wow! Okay. Heavy, thought-provoking stuff. I am so sorry, but, we are completely out of time. Again, on behalf of all our Substance Broadcasting Station listeners, I want to thank both Life and Death for their very precious time and candor. I hope you will join me next month when I will be in conversation with God and Satan. Do they indeed engage in card and board games to determine which soul goes with whom, according to the Chris DeBurgh song, Spanish Train?
In the meantime, this is Sunny Shadows signing off, in the Substance Broadcasting studio, wishing you sunny days and moonlit nights.
* The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various guest participants on the Substance Radio Station do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, viewpoints or official policies of the Substance Radio Station.
by Natalie Segall