Charles Cowling

I don’t know if you ever wander over to Death Matters. It’s a descriptive title for a website and blog which is trying to awaken in a death-denying people a full and informative awareness of their mortality – in order that they may live better and remember better. It’s a one-person enterprise. We don’t know the writer’s name, so let’s settle, for convenience, for DM. DM’s mission statement is this:

“The best medicine for living peacefully and thankfully in a trying world is a direct and constant awareness of one’s own mortality and that of everyone around one. This awareness is also the necessary first step on the path to transcending Death.”

DM’s explanation for the way we ignore, diminish or trivialise death is encapsulated in this statement:

“As a child is furnished with organs to facilitate and allow birth, so man also possesses organs for death, the formation and strengthening of which belong to theological practices. Where this knowledge is extinguished, a form of idiocy spreads with respect to death; this reveals itself in an escalation of blind fear, but also in an equally blind and mechanical disdain of death.” Ernst Jünger, The Adventurous Heart

Whether or not this means that DM thinks that atheism generates idiocy, I don’t know. That statement would seem to make it clear that he/she does, but I’m not so sure.

Death Matters is a thought-provoking place to spend time. I especially like DM’s analysis of awareness. There is intellectual awareness of our mortality without emotional awareness; there is emotional without intellectual. There is physical awareness brought on by ageing, which we banish by putting our trust in cosmetics and medics.

I’m not sure exactly by what process and by what practices DM thinks we may best assimilate a full and proper sense of our own mortality.

DM’s latest blog post asserts that “death is the negation of all material progress,” yet that a sense of this may be dissolved in the consideration that though individuals die, society marches on, resulting in “a simultaneous loss of importance of the individual at the hands of the collective”. DM rates this a “’booby prize’ in comparison with the Grand Prix of personal continuity through eternity.”

I don’t know that I think DM is right in this. The funeral of a materialist can yield more and greater consolations than that at least this death won’t stop Apple from developing its next glittering gizmo. What else goes on? Memories, of course. And DNA—let’s not overlook DNA—because aspects of intellect and character are passed on, as are physical mannerisms. Lastly, values and example are passed on, and are commemorated in their emulation. Sure, that doesn’t compare with an everlasting crown, but it’s still a pretty rich legacy.

Having said which, I don’t know that I have understood DM completely. There’s an intellect deficit on my part which leaves me with a floundering feeling. I need some help here. Help!

Perhaps DM him/herself will help me out.

I recommend adding Death Matters to your blog feed. And I commend the YouTube sermon above, preached by a man of whom I think DM would approve.

I wonder if anyone is having problems in posting comments? One reader certainly is. It seems to be something to do with cookies. If you are, please let me know and I’ll get My Man to sort it.

All comments are as far as possible unmoderated. All first-time commenters come to me first for approval, in case they’re spam, I guess, after which all their subsequent comments are posted without my say so. I never, ever get rid of anything I don’t like.

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Charles, in response – also as a new post on DeathMatters. I’m pleased that you seem to have mostly understood what I’m aiming at with DeathMatters – reawakening an awareness of death as a way of living better and remembering better. (But you should also have specified “living more compassionately”, because true death awareness leads also to genuine compassion through sensing our common tragic nature. Every life ends with a personal tragedy.) You are not convinced that my quote from Ernst Jünger indicates that I believe “atheism generates a form of idiocy”. Thank you for your suspension of judgement –… Read more »


[…] stimulated to this post by Charles Cowling’s review of DeathMatters on his Good Funeral Guide […]


No. DM’s got me flummoxed there, too.

As to the chap at the top, on the film show: Dear God, please may I die like a fool.