Forgiveness and reconciliation should be part of our survival kits

Renzo Taddei – 19 March 2020

Everyone is making the necessary arrangements for the difficult period that has started. One suggestion is that, in the list of things to be provided, between alcohol gel and toilet paper, one should insert something that, it seems to me, is extremely important, but few people have thought about it: it is time to resolve that fight that made relatives break up and stop talking to each other; it’s time to put pride aside and forgive father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, sister, brother, son, daughter, friends, neighbors, and whoever else, of whom we parted, it doesn’t matter the cause of the issue.

I don’t know if people realized what is coming. I’ll put it in numbers, and you do your math. Today I have 2600 friendships on Facebook. If the medical authorities’ projections are correct, 80% will be contaminated: 2080 friendships. If we repeat the history of Italy, about 8% will die: 166 friendships. Perhaps I have an effective personal relationship with about 1/3 of this group: 55 people. Add to that that most people over 60 that I know don’t have a Facebook account. Roughly estimating, there may be another 100 people. Chinese data suggest that for the 60 to 69 age group, the average mortality is 4.6%; 70 to 79, 9.8%, 80 and above, 18%. Estimating an average of 10%, of the 100 people I mentioned, probably 10 will die. Adding to the 55 I mentioned above, the result is 65.

The question is: am I prepared for 65 people in my affective circle to die in the next two months?

It is not about the number, the percentages. There is a much smaller group of people with whom I am viscerally connected, and where someone will certainly die.

Unfortunately our world has spent the last century and a half preaching productivism and meritocracy, transforming our perception of the body and life so that we now see them as productive resources. The West and its satellites (like Brazil) have become more affluent, and at the same time immensely less able to make sense of the experience of death. Look inside universities and see where there is something that prepares someone for death. Perhaps the only thing to be found is, in anthropology, the information that a great number of non-Western(ized) peoples on the planet have philosophies, ethics and pedagogies for death. They are less affluent, but their cultural context gives them tools so that they, if they know how to use them well, have a good death. The very strangeness caused by the expression “good death” shows us how unprepared we are for what is coming.

There is no time for great philosophical-existential revolutions now. But there is time for the individual to pick up the phone, call the father, mother, son, etc. with whom she or he no longer speaks or for whom she or he feeds rotten emotions, and resolve the issue. And the resolution is not to revive the fight, but to forgive.

We all have to do this, wholesale, before it’s too late. We may not know how to die, but at least we can give each other the chance to die in peace.