Why Do We Respect The Dead More Than The Living? Beyond the Panorama July 6, 2020

Why Do We Respect The Dead More Than The Living?


Isn’t it bizarre how hatred and malevolence for one person can change into nothing but commiseration and compassion for them the moment they stop breathing? What does this indicate about human nature? Why do we revere the dead and not the living? 

No one knows the answers to such a plethora of ‘whats’ and ‘whys’, maybe it is our magnanimity and munificence that takes the most of our mind. Maybe it is our ability to forgive that engenders this feeling of sympathy and reverence for the dead. Maybe, maybe, ah… 

All of this makes one realize that humans are truly grateful for this gift of life, although it is not conspicuous. What separates the living from the departed is not the materialistic wealth but rather the aesthetic wealth that is often overlooked by the living. It may be as simple as watching cherries fall off from their mother tree intriguingly to the exquisite ground below shielded by the tender grass or hearing your loved one laugh with all their heart as if there is no tomorrow. The fact that the dead can no longer be a part of all these little indelible experiences surely ignites a spark of benevolence in the living for the dead. No matter how any person lives or is living but the mere fact that they are living gives them a certain degree of exaltation for themselves and at the same time veneration for the dead who can no longer be a part of this arduous yet sumptuous journey. 

But if all the living share this opulent and fragile gift of life then what makes them ignorant towards the same level of gratitude and affection towards their fellow personage? Why is that bitterness and belligerence hold people as hostage when deep down they want to bury the hatchet with one another? Perhaps because this capitalistic world emboldens the living to compete within themselves for greater wealth which has turned them into cynical beings who have nothing but a skeptical vision for each other, which makes it easier to square things off with the dead and not with other egoistic and narcissistic living beings. On the other hand, no matter what iniquity the departed had committed during their life, their death surreptitiously alters the way rest of the living thinks about them. Possibly the dead know how to beguile the living and break their austerity into lenience or simply maybe because the dead are at the mercy of the living. After all it is the remembrance by the living that saves the dead from a final surefire kill into oblivion. Being sanctimonious individuals, people would say it is scrupulous to revere and forgive the dead, however the same may not necessarily apply to the living. 

Extensively ruminating on this, we land on a ground that says there can be a litany of reasons for this degree of veneration for the departed; one of them could be the meanings that the living derive out of the lives of the dead. For instance, Mozart’s music, Ravi Verma’s art, or Bergman’s films still have a dominating presence in the contemporary world and continue to influence millions even though their masters have been long gone into limbo. By honoring their superlative work, the living somehow ensure that they are never forgotten. Hence, in a way, the dead are the teachers and the living, their ardent students. 

There is always something beneficial and efficacious that can be realized from not only the worthwhile contributions of the dead during their lives but also their mistakes which is contrary to what the living have to offer whose lives are still covered under the stout paint of gloom and green with envy. This tempts the living to worship and acknowledge the dead more than themselves. Another reason could be the tender-hearted and charitable nature of humans which falls for the deep desire for life among the dead. The living are proud of life whereas the dead somewhere reminisce their romantic days on the lively earth. Maybe they reminisce the sunny and scintillating mornings, the boisterous cities, or the enrapturing feeling of holding a loved one gently in one’s arms. This does touch the chord among the people alive and by offering their respect they provide some consolation to the wistful soul of the dead. But this doesn’t mean that people themselves are incompetent to receive any homage from others while they’re alive. Does it? There is definitely a clear distinction between how humans treat the living and the dead. While it’s easy to sweet talk about a person who has breathed their last breath, it seems equally hard to do so for people who are still alive. And, when a person has committed even a misdemeanor only their death can pulverize the animosity that they were subject to their entire life. The amelioration which could have been done earlier only happens when it doesn’t matter at all.

This makes one wonder that this magnanimous element inside human nature is only detectable when the person to whom it is to be shown is no longer in existence.
Being imperfect beings, everyone has failed to live a faultless life, even the deceased, but this erratic human nature that turns a blind eye towards all the blunders made by the dead in their lives and not towards the faults of the living is rather perturbing. 

Nearly all my life I’ve adulated the King of Pop, that is, Michael Jackson, and despite claims of him being accused of sexual misconduct against minors before his death, I continue to see him through the same pair of eyes as an eight-year-old me did with a popsicle circumambulating within my mouth and my body pirouetting to the beats of “They Don’t Care About Us”. How ironic. But a coherent 19-year-old me questions this adulation. 

The living are stocked with nobility which is far more observable towards the dead than the rest of the living. But where does this altruism dwindle when it comes to other living people? Is it the prestigious gift of life that tantalizes people to worship and revere the dead who once had it and not the living who continue to possess it? I guess this keeps everyone in a state of a quandary but the day people start respecting and forgiving other people like the dead this chaotic world would come one step closer towards a quixotic reality. Hope tells that it won’t be long before the egalitarian in everyone starts seeing the light of the day and as Dylan once said “if you see her, say hello”. 

Shrey Verma
Shrey Verma

Shrey writes book and movie reviews, his thoughts and opinions, as well as stories that you just can’t leave unfinished.

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