Do we die to create change?

On Sunday I went to talk by Terry Pratchett. Author, Knight, wearer of large hats. I’ve obsessively read his books for longer then I can remember – and own them all in many many copies. And yesterday I sat in awe at the things he said – the man makes profound statements as often as I stammer, or use incorrect grammar i.e. every second sentence.

But there was one thing he said that hit me (actually there were about 7 – but this one was pretty powerful). He talked about why he think people die – because, he said, people die so that the world can change. So that new people can step into jobs, or power positions, or parental roles and change the way things were done. We die so that the world can be changed by those we’ve given birth too or raised. We die to change the world.

It’s a concept I’ve never really thought of before – and I cannot say whether this is definitively the answer to the age-old question or why we live and die – but it is a take that I had never considered.

Think of those who lived in the 1800’s – imagine transplanting them into the here and now. Imagine taking something from the Middle Ages, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and even back to the cavemen days and putting them in our modern context.

But more then tat – think back to news broadcasts, to talk back radio, to anyone you here complaining about the rapid changes in our society. And think about how many of them are elderly. It’s one of the great stereotypes of the age – that of the angry elderly person, shrieking about how the world has changed, how young people have no manners, how everything is worse now then when they were young. But it exists for a reason. It’s not every elderly person – my nana is one of the most accepting and open minded people I know – but it is a good proportion of them.

And they’re retired now, no longer in the positions of power they were once in. And people retired when they begin the downward slope towards death – they’ve hit their peak of employment, then they leave and another person steps up. But imagine if they didn’t. The same people running the same governments, the same CEO’s, the same managers, the same teachers, principals, talk show hosts, TV hosts… never changing. Never being forced to change. Never leaving, never growing. Just… stagnating. Think of the countries where dictators have ruled for decades – Libya, Zimbabwe, Eritrea… think of their stagnation. The rulers’ stay, their policies stay – or become more extreme against he people – and it’s only the opposition who changes. They change their leaders; they change their tactics – while the leaders continue, clinging to their power and damaging their nation and people.

Until they die – or they’re overthrown. In a way that’s what death is – the last and mot effective revolt. The one that truly stops you forever. Now that’s not to say that everyone who dies elderly changes the world for the better – there are plenty of elderly people with brilliance, skill and passion who improve the world every day that they live. But even their deaths create change. While Einstein was alive no one else could be brilliant. While Nelson Mandela lives no one else will ever be the great statesman of peace and change. While Mother Theresa lived no one else could compare to her kindness to the poor. But now others step up, step up and beyond their shows, beyond what they did and open the world in ways we had never expected.

WE change the world, and then step aside so the world can be changed again. We are in a constant state of change, or evolution – whether it just be in terms of the aging process, or socially, politically. Mentally, emotionally. We change, for the better and the worse, and we change those around us, for the better and the worse. And the we die, and those we left behind change again. And they change the world again. On and on and on, until time itself ends and the changing stops.


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