Dancing with Death

Dancing with Death

Dancing with Death

Having taught the humanities for years, I am keenly aware of the topic of dancing with death or what the French call La Danse Macabre. Looking back on the mid-14th century, Europe lost 100-200 million people due to the pandemic known as the Black Death. From 1346-53, the Black Death killed half the population of Europe because of the fleas of Oriental rats.

The art world from the 14th century and for many years later reflected upon Europe's dance with death. Artists like Pieter Brueghel, Hans Holbein, Albrecht Dürer, and many others have explored that topic.

Pieter Brueghel, The Triumph of Death</span>.

Pieter Brueghel, The Triumph of Death.

The Black Death influenced writing also. This is John Donne's reflection upon the dance with death.

No Man is an Island
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were: any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

While Europeans realized their finiteness, each of us in our own lives will also face that reality. In 2008, I danced with death twice. Fortunately, I was able to lead death while dancing on both occasions. My dances were due to a traumatic brain injury from a fall and prostate cancer. In retrospect, they were both blessings. My perspective upon life is radically different from what it was prior to those two dances. I am driven to be productive in life. It has motivated me to do more for my family and friends. However, I want to leave a legacy to those beyond them. I have traveled extensively in the States and overseas. Many people need assistance both here and abroad. I realize that I will not always be able to lead death while dancing in the future. Carpe Diem informs my activity in life.

We all need to work at making our world a better place for all to live, because we will all ultimately dance with death. Our time is limited, as Professor Keating said, before we all will "fertilize daffodils."

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Acquiring a Heart of Wisdom... thumbnail Acquiring a Heart of Wisdom... Cuddling with Grandchildren
Advice to Jack thumbnail Advice to Jack Having Lived Much of My Life