When I wrote the poem "Whatever Happens to a Leaf" in 1999 there lay within it the core of my philosophy of life and death. If the context of the scientific notion that we are but born of dead stars from the ashes and dust of an extreme unbridled supernova, my leaf analogy of what happens to humans when they die simplifies the question so often asked of me, "What happens to us when we die." My answer, troubling to many, accepting by some, is "What ever happens to a leaf when it falls from the tree is the same thing that happens to you and me."Our existence is coexistent with the leaves on the trees, as we are with all living things. The evolutionary trek that brought us to the very day you read these words is the same chain from the branches of evolutionary life we clung to from our earliest days and which we cling to still.
Yet there is to this day a socialized deliberate denial of our material being among a majority of us that has controlled the behavior and laws of humankind for too many generations. These same controllers have declared humanity immune from death by ascribing for themselves an afterlife. And, whether it be a physical or spiritual afterlife it is usually thought of as unique to humans. The upshot is that since humans give themselves a means to beat death, there is a strong propensity among many humans to have a callous regard for any other life form. It is evident all around us. The destruction of the habitats on land and in water of tens of thousands of species to make room for human personal needs is long documented. But the sickest part of this documentation is what humans do to each other. The fast trigger of death is so readily used against our own kind that societies have made it a game of big business from wholesale war to violence in our media, our homes and on our streets. Challenge any media outlet, in print or on the screen, to remove even the slightest vestige of gratuitous death and violence. Ha! Don't waste your time. "If it bleeds it leads" and it always will. As many people self-describe as god-fearing creatures one would think that The House of God was, in fact, The Slaughter House of God.
Despite our truly humble beginnings we have separated ourselves from all other species of planetary life by thinking of Earth, as we call it, our domain. Within that human domain we fuel our vivid imagination to create and claim beliefs for ourselves which exist only in our own minds. Once the imagined claim is created we then apply it to the world at large in any cog we choose to place it. Those internalized creations of our minds create havoc with the reality around us, for us and many other living things.
Is it paradoxical that no matter how high we elevate ourselves, always waiting for us, well within the true accordance of reality, is the common death that comes to all? Is our reward merely a death that is useless to our acquired aspirations of beliefs and self-interests that are continuously tempered and steeled by human fear, ignorance, superstition and greed?
Here each of us stand, naked and cold, without the proven hands-on guarantee that a separate but distinct spiritual clone of ourselves carries us over and beyond our physical life. There must, indeed, be true poetic justice in a reality where we are nothing but water-based electrified chemical atoms doomed to die the same desolate, barren death that happens to a lone leaf when it falls from the tree of life.