Saturday, March 3, 2012

On Davy Jones and why Humanists need rituals

As you have probably heard, Davy Jones of the Monkees died suddenly on Wednesday. This may not have been a major news item for you, but I spent my early adolescence madly in love with a young Davy Jones (although Davy was no longer young--we don't need to analyze my psyche here) and so I spent the end of the week receiving condolences for the death of a man I never met.

And then I read this, from fellow Monkee Mike Nesmith:

While it is jarring, and sometimes seems unjust, or strange, this transition we call dying and death is a constant in the mortal experience that we know almost nothing about. I am of the mind that it is a transition and I carry with me a certainty of the continuity of existence. While I don’t exactly know what happens in these times, there is an ongoing sense of life that reaches in my mind out far beyond the near horizons of mortality and into the reaches of infinity.

In other words, "Don't be sad: Davy is still out there somewhere."

Now, obviously Mike Nesmith lost a friend and a former bandmate. The kind of friendship that must have formed among the four Monkees during their rocket to fame and subsequent touring, followed by the difficult on-again, off-again relationship they had professionally over the past 45 years is deeply significant. In contrast, I had a schoolgirl crush on a young man who had long since grown up, gotten married (twice, at that point) and fathered four children (all daughters, more's the pity.) I see the difference, and I realize that Mike was trying, in his way, to offer comfort to Davy's fans and to share something of himself. 

But I get to be sad, dammit. Because someone who brought me joy, and who touched my life with his art, and who made me happy with brilliance like this, is gone. And even if you believe he's in Heaven, he's not HERE. He's gone from this world, and that is a loss, and I grieve that loss. 

But this is one of those moments where not believing is a problem. Not because I want to believe that Davy is in Heaven, or with God, or will be reanimated when the Messiah comes. Precisely because I don't believe any of that. I believe that he's gone. And I recognize that those who loved him (really loved him, not fan-loved him) need the comfort that comes from words and rituals. But that doesn't mean they need God.

One of the reasons I want to get more involved with the Humanist movement is that we all need rituals, especially for important life cycle events. Birth, coming of age, marriage, death--they are all transitional periods, and they all involve a whole lot of stress. The rituals that have been developed (by people, through religion) help people through these transitions, because we need the help. But those rituals were developed by people, for people. We can have rituals that don't involve God, but do bring the comfort and assistance that people need. 

Around death, the most important thing is to honor the pain that the survivors feel. We need to support people in grief and help them through the pain so that they can return to life fully when they are ready. And that's why I was disturbed by Mike Nesmith's statement. Because through his statement of belief, he was telling me--all of us--not to grieve. And not just about Davy, but always. He's saying that death is not really loss and so we shouldn't be sad. That's not fair. 

So this is a call to action, fellow Humanists. We need to work to form communities, and to form rituals, and to make Humanism a force that will provide for people's needs without forcing God on them. For humans.

No comments:

Post a Comment