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Illustration from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
When I first came upon Carlos Castaneda's series of books as a teenager, I was struck by the revelation of using the awareness of death’s inevitability to lend depth and focus to life:
Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you're about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you're wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, 'I haven't touched you yet.
Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan
This awareness has stayed with me, as an abiding gratitude for the gift of life: one reason I sign my artwork with a turtle image is in honour of the old Buddhist story about how extremely rare it is to be born as a human. The possibility of this happening is likened to a blind turtle living on the bed of a vast ocean, who only surfaces once every hundred years, just chancing to put its head up through a single wooden ring floating, tossed by the wind and waves, on the surface of the water.
As well as the grand awareness that one day we must shuffle off this mortal coil, embracing change and growing into our being on a deeper level relies on continually dying to who we have been.
Esoteric astrologer Elizabeth Jones recently paraphrased an insight on this theme from a profound but anonymous teacher of hers:
What happens when we experience a kind of death within? In a spiritual context, a death is a movement from a certain level of involvement in your personality, to a new level of connection to your soul. In the interim, it requires entering a void ~ which we may be uncomfortable with, because we don’t have any sense of what the next form will look or feel like as we enter it.
And Steiner makes a similar point in An Outline of Occult Science:
It is precisely the knowledge of the supersensible that can shed clear light upon the beautiful words of Goethe: "Nature has invented death that she might have abundant life." Just as there could be no life in the ordinary sense of the word without death, so can there be no true knowledge of the visible world without insight into the supersensible. All knowledge of what is visible must plunge again and again into the invisible in order to evolve.
When I was asked to illustrate Emma Gillespie’s beautiful song inspired by the death of her young friend, The Story Goes On, then, I knew this was a project I truly wanted to put my heart into...and it was a joy to work on. It was all shot and edited in Scotland this spring; some at Rennaldburn’s clear waters, but much of it on the way to the Skye ~ and on the otherworldly island itself.
As Emma does, I hope that it will help give solace to those touched by death in their life.
(...and here's a little follow-up from BBC The Social about the story behind 'Story...'
With my feet as a placeholder ;)