Victor MacGill Chaos and Complexity
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A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

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My first book..

When the Dragon Stirs

Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories, myths and Legends

When the Dragon Stirs Book Cover

The Dragon

Line


My next book...
Gonna Lay Down my Sword
and Shield

A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

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Articles by Victor

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The Evolve Holistic Development Trust

My first book..

When the Dragon Stirs

Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories, myths and Legends

When the Dragon Stirs Book Cover

The Dragon

Line


My next book...
Gonna Lay Down my Sword
and Shield

A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

Mandelbrot Set

Articles by Victor

Mandelbrot Set   Fairy Stories
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Mandelbrot Set  Complexity
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Mandelbrot Set  Spirituality

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Short previews
of all talks

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Other pages on my site.....

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Theosophical Soc logo

The Dunedin Theosophical Society

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Evolve logo

The Evolve Holistic Development Trust

My first book..

When the Dragon Stirs

Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories, myths and Legends

When the Dragon Stirs Book Cover

The Dragon

Line


My next book...
Gonna Lay Down my Sword
and Shield

A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

Mandelbrot Set

Articles by Victor

Mandelbrot Set   Fairy Stories
Line

Mandelbrot Set  Complexity
Line

Mandelbrot Set  Spirituality

Line

Short previews
of all talks

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Other pages on my site.....

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Theosophical Soc logo

The Dunedin Theosophical Society

Line

Evolve logo

The Evolve Holistic Development Trust

My first book..

When the Dragon Stirs

Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories, myths and Legends

When the Dragon Stirs Book Cover

The Dragon

Line


My next book...
Gonna Lay Down my Sword
and Shield

A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

Mandelbrot Set

Articles by Victor

Mandelbrot Set   Fairy Stories
Line

Mandelbrot Set  Complexity
Line

Mandelbrot Set  Spirituality

Line

Short previews
of all talks

Line

Other pages on my site.....

Line

Theosophical Soc logo

The Dunedin Theosophical Society

Line

Evolve logo

The Evolve Holistic Development Trust

My first book..

When the Dragon Stirs

Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories, myths and Legends

When the Dragon Stirs Book Cover

The Dragon

Line


My next book...
Gonna Lay Down my Sword
and Shield

A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

Mandelbrot Set

Articles by Victor

Mandelbrot Set   Fairy Stories
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Mandelbrot Set  Complexity
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On my father's death

Donald John (Peter) Clarke
1924 - 2002

Note: I used the term ‘Dad’ rather than ‘father’ throughout this essay, because in fact he was my foster father, bringing me up from the age of three months. That is the name I knew him by.

My Dad Dies

At about 10.00am on the morning of Monday 15 July 2002 my Dad gripped my Mum’s hand and drew it closer, then his grip lost its power as he died. A series of events then unfolded for our family as we struggled to come to terms with our loss. It restructured our family, our relationships and the way we create understanding and meaning in our lives.

Chaos and Complexity and Death

The principles of Chaos and Complexity have become a very real part of who I am and how I form my world view. It therefore becomes crucial for me to understand and interpret the death of my Dad and our family’s grief in terms of the understandings of chaos and complexity.

A complex system comprises a number of agents which interact intensely. While the agents are autonomous and have an independent existence, they are also intricately connected to the other agents. Human groups virtually universally join together in family units with family members who intensely interact with each other.

Whenever an agent is taken out of a system, as in a death, the agents must first become aware of the loss and come to terms with it. There may be immediate issues, such as resourcing or information flows that need to be maintained. Then work must begin restructuring and adapting the system to function effectively in the new environment and changed circumstances. The system must be restored to a new dynamic balance at a new Edge of Chaos in order for the system to maintain its position. Each fractal level must adapt to fulfil its role within the next higher fractal level. Individuals must reassess how they fit into the family, while the family must adjust its position in relation to its community.

When a family member dies, the community must cope with the loss of the ties and the interactions which can no longer operate as before. They must also re-establish links and adjust relationships in the family and community. The process of coping with broken links and the re-establishment of relationship links is called grief.

An important part of the formation of family groups is the establishment of agreed ways of perceiving the world. The family’s interactions, bounded by the agreed rules and interpretations, form an identity, which becomes a part of each member. The boundary of the rules is fuzzy to allow for individual differences.

When a member dies, there is not only the sense of loss of an individual and the relationships with that person, but there is a fundamental change in the sense of identity and meaning.

The discontinuity caused by the death is reflected through all fractal levels. The effects are felt in the family, the community and, depending on the individual, at a regional, national or even planetary level. Even at levels lower than the individual, the death of a family member can affect bodily processes and the functioning of bodily organs, right down to the cellular level of all involved.

Death

Death is a point attractor to which we all move. We do not know when we will die, but we can be sure we will. Typically, chaotic systems become increasingly unstable until they reach a bifurcation point, where the state of the system must change because the existing state is unsustainable. That new state is not usually known or predictable. Death is a point attractor, so, when the state of being alive is no longer sustainable, there is only one possible new configuration.

Without the dissipative energy continuing to flow through the system, the forces of entropy become greater than the forces of negentropy and the system lapses into chaos. The physical body that supported the functions of life is no longer able to function and is reduced to mere matter.

Many people would argue for a life after death. In this case those vortical energies not a part of the physical body, or inextricably connected to it, would need to somehow detach themselves and reform into some new constellation of energy able to sustain itself beyond death.  

Dad’s Illness and Death

My Dad’s death was not unexpected. He had previously suffered three strokes and two heart attacks. He had diabetes, high cholesterol, and a host of other more minor problems. The degree to which my Dad’s physical body could degenerate and yet still be capable of maintaining vital life functions, attests to the efficiency of complex adaptive systems. My Dad’s body had been working furiously to maintain itself and build new pathways to enable his continued functioning. Once the degeneration reaches a particular critical point, the demise is often rapid.

His death was a shock to  us all, but knowing of his impending death allowed us to begin the grieving process well before his actual demise. When the family left him on Sunday evening, he deteriorated much more quickly than anticipated, so the death was still unexpected.

Rituals of Death

Rituals are an extremely important part of coping with death. They acts as a vehicle for the psychological processes of grieving and healing.  

The ritual of viewing the body can help the rest of the family come to terms with the loss. One of the first reactions to a loss such as death is often denial. We would prefer to believe life was continuing the same as before and that nothing had changed. We humans have an amazing ability to reinterpret what we are experiencing so it remains within our existing world view and belief system. Our experience can be denied, distorted, minimised or projected to avoid having to change our view of ourselves and our world.

To actually see the dead body of the deceased is almost always a very positive way of making the reality of the death undeniable. It helps us get beyond the first step in grieving of acknowledging what has actually happened. While denial continues there can be no grieving. Viewing the body can trigger memories and emotions that forms a cascade of healing processes.

On viewing my Dad, Mum’s real feelings emerged for the only time. She called him “daddy” and asked why he had to go and leave her alone. Fortunately, those of us present allowed her the space to express those feelings, so the vortical forces could gather sufficient momentum to allow a healing energy to emerge. All to often such expressions of grief are too much for other people to bear and they attempt to stifle the response by telling the grieving person to stop being emotional or irrational.

While viewing the body is a very direct experience, the funeral directors have significantly cosmeticised the body so the person appears as much as possible as they did while alive. This is not altogether bad as if the experience of viewing the body becomes traumatic, the revulsion becomes a barrier to healing. There are instances when the body has been too badly disfigured for viewing to be a positive experience. With an open casket we had the opportunity to leave some small items to be buried with Dad.

At the funeral all those present focus their attentions, thoughts and prayers on the deceased. Values are restated to reaffirm and further canalise them for the whole group. Grief is expressed, people are comforted, the life is remembered, and inspirational thoughts are offered. The use of music, which links to our sense of inner harmony can allow a more direct access to feelings and emotions than words alone. People usually have particular music or music styles they prefer. Playing such music helps people to link and identify with the deceased.

If ritual does not maintain their flow, the psychological processes are disrupted. At the cemetery the funeral directors made the mistake of not first getting Mum to stand in the right place and explain what was to happen. They assumed that she would know and the resulting confusion in her mind detracted from her ability to be fully present in the moment of the burial. Ritual open windows of opportunity for healing, but if they are not activated at the appropriate moment, they are much more difficult to activate at a later time. There is a rhythm and harmony to ritual which makes it very powerful.

The burial provides another opportunity to confront the reality of the death. The casket is seen being lowered into the earth. Flowers and earth and other objects are dropped into the grave. Here again, however, is cosmeticisation. The earth from my Dad’s grave was placed on a trailer and taken away from the grave side so we do not have to see the soil and clay. The handful of earth we were offered to drop into the grave was extremely sandy, so it was not ‘dirty’. We were offered a trowel to scoop up the earth from a small container and tip into the grave, so we did not even have to touch the earth. This continuing process of distancing ourselves from the reality of death reduces our ability to recover after a death. If we cannot face death, we cannot live life fully. Every act that distances us from the reality of death equally distances us from the reality and joy of life.

It is often said that about three weeks after the funeral is the most difficult time. By then many of the phone calls and visits have stopped and life starts to ‘get back to normal’. It is at this time also, however, when much of the reality of the death becomes more conscious. This can be a harder time to bear than the funeral itself.

Giving the Eulogy

I was asked to give a eulogy on behalf of the family. The eulogy brings the essence of the deceased back into the memory of those who have come to the funeral. We become acutely aware, not only of what we have lost in the death, but of the heritage that remains.  

The preparation and delivery of the eulogy became a part of my own grief process. I needed to ask people about their memories and pay closer attention to what was being said and done around me in case it might contain something I could use in my talk. I was having to examine my own thoughts and feelings.

 I had to think of what it was that made Dad special and different; of what made us happy, sad, angry or thankful. All these factors then swirled about in my mind forming a vortex, from which an overall form for the talk emerged. The vortex resonated with the vortex of my grief process, both vortices supporting and uplifting the other.

By mentioning the family names and family stories in the eulogy I reaffirmed the bonds that held us together. I told of important events in my father’s life; humorous events, acts of heroism, and biographical facts, all of which painted a picture and evoked memories. It was pleasing to hear a smile or even a chuckle of recognition while I was speaking that indicated that I had captured something of the essence of who Dad was.

Things to be done after the death

The funeral is only one of many tasks to be undertaken around the time of the death. Relatives and friends need to be informed so they are aware of the break in connectivity. There are possessions to be sorted,  deciding what to keep and who they should go to. Borrowed items will need to be returned. Thank you cards must to be written and the lawyer must be visited. Decisions about who will perform functions previously undertaken by the deceased are necessary. These tasks are a part of the grief process of detaching from those links which cannot be sustained, maintaining those from the past which can, and re-attaching links within the network in order to function effectively in the future.

My Dad’s Role in the Family

My Dad had a crucial role as the unspoken patriarch of our extended family. For many decades he had played an important role in all our lives. My mother now will work to fulfil the leadership role he left. Even though, she was the more dominant figure, she will feel the burden of being the only person of her generation left. When she dies, it will be the loss of a whole generation and the role will fall to the next generation with no clear leader. A very different style of leadership will emerge between myself, my siblings and our families as we taks on the roles of our parents. The living generations form a vortex with the flow of generations being born into the vortex and those dying flowing out of it. Although constantly changing, the multi-generational family structure maintains as an enduring identity.

My Dad’s earlier years were not spent in such a supportive family environment. He was raised by an uncle and aunt and many family members died early. It is my Mum’s family that is extensive, not only covering the four generations of our family group, but including the families of her siblings, cousins and even second cousins.

Dysfunctional Families

Dysfunction in a family constellates as a destructive strange attractor,often handed on to following generations. Those things we do not resolve in our own lives, such as drugs, alcohol, or violence, form part of the destructive heritage passed on. When a family member finds a way to break the effects of the inherited negative strange attractor, they open the possibility of dissolving the attractor for the whole family and generations to come. They can create new, positive attractors for their descendents.

The time of the funeral can be very destructive if family tensions are dominant. Family members can be blamed for the death, old disagreements re-emerge, or inheritances can be disputed. As with any complex adaptive system, a family can lapse into deep chaos and the healing possibilities are lost

Community Networks

As well as family members there were many other people affected by my Dad’s death. Neighbours, work-mates, and groups such as the Stroke Club, Okiwi Bay residents and St Barnabas church’s  congregation were all touched by his life and death. These connections cross horizontally through the community in a dense network of relationships. They share a fractal similarity with the family. Connections with them are broken and they must undergo their own grieving process to come to terms with the death.

It was interesting that the neighbours who proved to be the most affected were not the immediate neighbours, but those we left some twenty years ago when we shifted from Tipahi Street. I was surprised and delighted to find the family and neighbourhood ties still so vibrant and intact. The degree of connectivity with family and neighbours highlighted for me the loss of connectivity in the community where I now live. I have no family in Dunedin other than my wife and daughter. Where I live at present, neighbours are pleasant and co-operative over issues like fencing and barking dogs. We greet each other, but live essentially separate lives and have no meaningful interactions.

Okiwi Bay

An important aspect of our family identity is our links to Okiwi Bay, a small bay in the Marlborough Sounds, just over an hours drive from Nelson. Six generations of our family has been going “down the bay” for holidays and recreation. I have an uncle and aunt and a cousin and his wife living permanently there. Our immediate family has a large two storeyed holiday home. The whole bay is imbued with family memories and our identity is woven into the hills, the beach and the rivers. We are linked to the land and the land is linked to us. The bay is an integral part of our identity and sense of belonging. Okiwi Bay was a part of my Dad and now he remains as a part of the bay.

Living Away from Home

I live in Dunedin, some twelve hours by car from Nelson. The only other family member living away from the city of Nelson is a niece who lives in Blenheim, a drive of an hour and a half from Nelson. Technological advances have made it far easier to maintain connectivity within the family. Regular telephone calls and emails are affordable and maintain family links. Physical proximity is becoming less of an impediment to maintaining family connectivity.

Attending the funeral allowed me to re-establish contact with some relations and old friends I had not seen for decades. They reconnected me with the days of my youth and enhanced the coherence of my identity over time. There was a re-establishment of links to the environment I was brought up in, as I revisited locations I remembered from my youth.

Travelling to Nelson

I heard of my Dad’s death around 11.00am on 15 July. I went home from work to arrange travel to Nelson. It became apparent that the only realistic way of reaching Nelson that day was to travel five hours by car to Christchurch and fly from there. That meant a fast drive. If I were to miss the flight, the only way to get to Nelson in reasonable time was a further seven hour drive, arriving exhausted in the early hours of the morning.

Previous experiences have revealed a pattern which, for some reason, often seems to manifest at times of crisis. Some task is required where there is a deadline or some risk that would result in a catastrophe in some way should the task not be met. Time after time this deadline or task is only just attained. It feels as though faith is required for a good outcome. An Edge of Chaos experience is created, whereby outcomes beyond those we might normally expect can emerge. I also suspect some form of distortion of the space-time continuum allowing time to flow in ways other than those we usually experience. This could also be linked to Dana Zohar’s (Zohar 1990)claim that consciousness is able to make manifest realities normally only found in quantum mechanics or relativity.

While driving to Nelson, I found myself saying to myself, “This is crazy, there is no way I can make it in time. I am just speeding and risking my safety and that of other people and risking a ticket” (which I did get). At other times, I said, “You know this pattern, remain strong and it will work out.” I unsuccessfully tried to phone ahead to the airport to let them know I was likely to be late. As it happened, I dashed, utterly breathless, from the car park with all my luggage into the terminal at 6.26pm for a flight due to leave at 6.30pm. The flight had been delayed 15 minutes and I was just allowed on the flight. While it might be argued that this is mere co-incidence, I am convinced that in these times we enter a different state of consciousness that allows the emergence of new abilities that would be seen as impossible in ordinary waking states of consciousness. I believe there are spiritual practices which can enable us to enter such states without the need of an extraordinary crisis, and enable us to stay in those states longer and with more control.

Maori Traditions about Death

It is also my experience, particularly from time spent within the world of the New Zealand Maori, that a person who is dying has an extraordinary ability to affect events around their death and funeral. Again, I believe this to be a result of emergent abilities arising from the special Edge of Chaos circumstances involved in the process of death. I have experienced many “coincidental” events that altered events to allows the funeral to proceed as the deceased would have wished.

Perhaps the most dramatic event I remember was the tangihanga (funeral) of an old Maori woman who had sons living on the Chattam Islands, a small remote island about 800 kilometres east of New Zealand. Immediately when news arrived that bad weather might stop her sons from arriving for the funeral, there were bursts of thunder and lightning and an enormous, totally unseasonal downpour. The water began leaking profusely only into the room we were in and the small chapel next door. We scrambled to find all the towels we could to mop up the water.

After perhaps two minutes of heavy rain, a sister of the deceased woman came in from the kitchen, still clutching a large kitchen knife. The sister angrily shouted at the deceased. She said, “What the bloody hell do you think you are doing making all this rain. Your sons will never get here if you keep up that bloody nonsense, Cut it out!” The rain immediately ceased and her sons all duly arrived. They have never had any other problems with leaks before or after.

We have all heard of stories of people hanging on to life until a certain person has arrived to be with them or to make peace, but often the deceased does not want certain people to be present and they are kept away by a string of ‘co-incidences’. Often in Maori communities, the family will wish to take the body of a relative back to their home area for burial. This can clash if the deceased person’s desire is to be buried in the city where they have made their home for many years and where their family will remain. Too many times for me to called a co-incidence, I have seen the out of town relatives ‘co-incidentally’ delayed; enough to allow them to attend the funeral, but not to change the funeral plans.

In Maori tradition, as in many other traditions around the world, there is a believe in the mauri, which can be likened to the Western soul. The mauri is said to leave the body on death, but remains close by for around three days before finally leaving the earth plane. Just before leaving, the mauri will appear in the form of a bird or similar creature to carry the deceased on their journey of spirit. When my uncle died around five years ago, immediately after returning from the crematorium a monarch butterfly most extraordinarily landed on the windscreen of our car. It stayed there for around two minutes and flew away.

I had been waiting for such a creature to appear around the time of the burial of my Dad, but did not see it. Afterwards, however, my daughter slipped me a piece of paper saying, “I saw his butterfly”. She later told me she first saw it on the casket at the cemetery during the tribute from the Returned Servicemans’ Association. I believe this too is a manifestation of emergent properties caused by the deceased person having access to heightened levels of consciousness during the brief time before the mauri leaves. The mauri wraps itself in a physical form, leaving a final manifestation for us left on this earthly plane.

Heritage

A person leaves a heritage when they die. A system may retain the trace of an agent which has ‘died’ for a long time afterwards. In physical terms a person leaves money or goods in their will. They also live on within the memory, identity and value systems of those around them.

For Dad, a strong extended family was his principal legacy.  Two months after his death another great-grandchild, Hayley Mae was born. While she will never know her great grandfather, she will know him through her experiences within the extended family that he worked so hard to maintain and develop.

Some things are lost forever. I remember my Dad talking about seeing the funeral train of Sir Joseph Ward, a New Zealand Prime Minister who died in 1930. I can imagine that event, but the living memory has gone. The past disappears from us as those who have experienced it directly are ever increasingly lost from us.

Death and Anxiety

Ralph Stacey (1996) writes about anxiety containment as an important feature of complex organisations, but the principles are equally valid in a family context.

Whenever we feel as though we are not in control of aspects of our lives, we generate anxiety. We create structures in our lives to allow us to regain sufficient feeling of control to contain our anxiety. Few things generate anxiety more than death. Experiencing the death of someone around us creates anxiety, not only because of our loss, but because it forces us to confront our own mortality. There is also anxiety generated as we reconstruct our lives following a death.

One way of containing anxiety is by the expression of grief. There is something about the shedding of tears that releases emotions and enables a healing process. Mutual support also enables us the reduce the level of anxiety. The rituals of death  and religious or spiritual values play an important role in containing anxiety.

Narratology and the Process of Grief

The particular words chosen to talk about death and grief play a major part in how we define and experience those events. Euphemisms such as ‘passed away’, ‘gone to a better place’, ‘pushing up daisies,’ and ‘no longer with us’, are a part of the social construction of avoiding the reality of death. The interaction between the use of the words and their effect on our consciousness can turn into a downward spiral, each feeding and reinforcing the other. Simple, honest words can turn the spiral around to support people.

Emotions

Emotions are more likely to emerge at times of crisis. Events in our outer world affect our inner world. When we have a crisis in our outer world, there is a reflection in our inner world. Sometimes a small event in our outer world will causes major changes in our inner world, and large changes in our outer world may only have a small effect on our inner world.

As we come to terms with the outside events, we form feedback loops in our thoughts, memories and feelings of our past experiences, which form swirling vortices of emotion. As the emotion emerges from the still centre of the vortex it is expressed bodily, signalling our emotional state to those around us. This forms further intensely interactive feedback loops amongst the people we are with to form social vortices of emotion. The sharing of emotions with others helps to reduce the anxiety we feel over the events that have occurred and move us beyond feeling overwhelmed. Our emotional responses can also interact and change the very events that have triggered their emergence.

Fuzziology

Anything that is not certain or understood contains fuzziness. The nature of death, and particularly what happens after death, can never be known with certainty. It is epitomised in the story of the Zen master who was asked what happens after death. He replied that he did not know. The questioner was puzzled and said, “Why don’t you know, you a Zen master after all?” The master replied, “Yes, but not a dead one”.

We cannot live with the unknown. We must investigate it, climb it, organise it and control it. Because of the innate fractality of life, the fuzziness in the search to understand death continues endlessly. We struggle to know that which cannot be known rather than accepting the mystery of it. The fuzziness leads us to form increasingly complex explanations for death and ever increasingly complex rituals, which never quite satisfy our needs and drive us on to the next formation.

Grief

The grief and confusion which is evident after a death creates a increased level of fuzziness. The usual sense of control we have over our lives is stripped away to reveal our inner insecurities. If we have the courage to embrace the fuzziness we can reveal greater depths to our being.

Grief is a painful process that can be very difficult to bear. Sometimes it is so great as to tip us beyond the Edge of Chaos into deep chaos, where it becomes a destructive influence. At such times we look for ways to reduce our grief, either to avoid being overwhelmed by it, or to avoid the pain in our grief.  Heaney (2002: P89) provides a list of ways in which we avoid grief. Some are strategies that delay the grief and can be useful because they allow time for feelings of being overwhelmed to subside safely. Grieving, however, has an individual timing and rhythm. Any delay or denial of grief has a cost.  

First in Heaney’s list is denial. Even with clear evidence of a person’s death, we can distort our thinking to allow us to believe they are still alive and will return. As well as denying we can minimise  the effect of the death and pretend it was not important or we are not affected. Next we can rationalise our grief by finding a “logical” way of looking at the situation so it does not seem as bad. By projecting, we blame others for the events and focus on externalising it. Similarly we can displace or divert our emotional on to others including God. Withdrawal closes us down so we reduce the amount that we feel, thus reducing the pain, but also reducing our abilities to heal. Regression leaves us in a state of dependency, waiting for someone else to solve our problems. Finally through stoicism we deny the depth of our feelings and label them unimportant because we just need to ‘get on with life’.

Since the time surrounding a death is a time of crisis for those intimately involved, it is more probable that those who survive will find themselves at points of bifurcation. Previous circumstances cannot be maintained and change must occur. Times of crisis bear a similarity to times of ‘initial conditions’ of Chaos Theory. At such times small ‘butterfly’ effects are more likely to have a significant effect in people’s lives. A chance telephone call suggesting a mourning person could move to live in another place, is more generally likely to be taken seriously after a time of crisis. New interests are more likely to be sought to fill the gap left by the crisis, once there is enough energy to pursue them.

Spiritual Perspectives on Death

Spiritual perspectives can form a framework of meaning around the experiences of death. It can also enable the emergence of a new level of understanding of the true nature of our being. Death often leads us to re-examine some of our basic beliefs. This is particularly so if the there is something about the death that challenges our existing beliefs.

Unfortunately spiritual perspectives can also be used to further deny the reality of death. I believe that seeing death as merely moving into another room or going to a better place can become ways of trivialising the loss and disrupting the healing process.

My Dad was a committed Anglican and his beliefs shaped his perceptions of the world and the ways he created meaning in his life. The church liturgy had a real meaning for him. The Anglican funeral formed a coherent framework that supported Dad’s sense of meaning in life. It had little meaning for some who attended but even for them, it provided yet another window into who Dad was.

Singing hymns is a means of linking people together and building coherence. Voices join in harmony expressing the same ideas and vision. In years gone by hymn singing was far more powerful. People knew the words and tunes well and the words were aligned to their own beliefs. Alternatively, singing hymns and saying or chanting pre-set liturgies can also have the effect of canalysing beliefs into a rigid, Proctrustean world view.   

Death Mirrored in our Inner Being

We form an image or a map of who we think we are within ourselves so we can compare it to what we are experiencing from the outside world. This is used to ensure that our actions are consistent with the identity that has been already formed. We must similarly form images of the other people in our lives through which we judge their behaviour. We therefore have a map of each person in our lives WITHIN our own identity. When a person we know dies, a part of us literally dies as well. The image in side us no longer matches the outer world and we must realign our inner world.

Death Releases Innovation and Resources

Death is not only about loss. Death can be the catalyst for reaching new levels of complexity (Keirsey, 1997). When an agent in a complex adaptive system ‘dies’, space is created for innovation. Other agents must take over the role of the one which has gone and they will fulfil the functions in a different way. The resources that the agent had available are redistributed, providing another catalyst for innovation. In terms of our family, my Mum and those of my generation must take on roles my father had. The possessions he had always taken charge off such the boat, car and holiday home will looked after by other people.

A dead tree in the forest becomes the home for all sorts of lichens, plants and small animals. It makes a real contribution to the continuation of the whole environment. Death means a transfer of information between levels.  A human being contributes their body to compost or ashes that help sustain life sustained at a lower level. Their heritage can also include poetry, music, literature, art or scientific understanding formed in their lifetime. A person can leave gardens, buildings, or craft work.

A system can also contribute to a higher level of development. The plant life which died in the carboniferous period formed the oil, which is now vital to our functioning in the modern world.

Darryl Reaney (1991) suggests that death exists because it is a far more efficient method of maintaining long term survival. If any creature were to live forever, it would require a far more robust physical form that will not suffer the effects degeneration and far greater amounts of energy. A creature that can die only needs to be robust enough to last it’s lifetime. A creature that could not die could have a long miserable time suffering from the effects of an accident or injury that make it less functional for a long time.

Death enables evolution. A creature that lived forever has little adaptability. If there was no death, we would not have been able to evolve beyond the level of bacteria. The process of death with a built in ability to self organise from generation to generation to become what we are and evolve towards possibilities beyond our wildest dreams. Thank God for death.

Conclusion

The death of my father was an intense occasion filled with sadness, tears, laughter, hope, and despair. It was a time of crisis that opened a window of opportunity for me and my family to come to know who we are and face our vulnerability. We dwelt at the Edge of Chaos and used the opportunity as best we could to engender the dynamics of self organisation to express our grief and for our own healing. As the weeks pass we continue to reconstruct our lives as a part of our long journey of becoming that which we truly are.

WORDS 5,895

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Heaney Pam, (2002), Coming to Grief, A Survival Guide to Grief and Loss, Longacre, Auckland , New Zealand

Keirsey David M.,(1997), Towards the Physics of “Death”, http://users.viawest.net/~keirsey/pofd2.html, accessed 19/09/2002

Reaney Darryl, (1991), The Death of Forever, A New Future for Human Consciousness, Souvenir Press, London

Stacey Ralph D., (1996), Complexity and Creativity in Organizations, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco

Zohar Dana, (1990), The Quantum Self, A Revolutionary View of Human Nature and Consciousness rooted in the New Physics, Bloomsbury, London

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