Dave Phillips

response ability

the mantra “safety/security first” comes from a value system that makes survival and control top priority, and that depreciates values like the uncertainty of existence, play, adventure, risk, and the challenging of limits. which seems necessary for children to develop self-reliance and good judgement. some modern, often younger people, retain some of this inherent willingness to sacrifice safety and comfort in order to live life more fully. our surrounding culture, however, lobbies us repeatedly to live in fear, and has constructed belief-systems that embody fear or utilise it as a tool. according to them, staying safe, omitting danger or uncertainty, is over-ridingly important. we have a medical system in which most decisions are based on calculations of risk, and in which the worst possible outcome, marking failure, is death. yet all the while, we know, death awaits us regardless. a life saved is a death postponed. meanwhile, our abilities to cope with the uncertainty of life are being reduced.

doesn’t our drive to stay alive stem from the awareness of our mortality? death is the only certainty in life, and as much a part of a life’s cycle as birth is. to want to control life the way our systems suggest is preposterous.

the ultimate fulfillment of civilization’s program of control would be to triumph over death itself. failing that, modern society settles for a version of that triumph: denial rather than conquest. ours is a society of death denial, from its hiding away of corpses, to its fetish for youthfulness, to its warehousing of old people in nursing homes, to the industrial-scale slaughter of “domesticated” animals, conveniently out of sight.

mikel’s invitation to the petit bardo project reached me after i had spent 15 months living with and being a carer for my parents, subsequently accompanying my father into death at home, then living in the same village as my mother who headed into her own “last journey” 17 months later.

these experiences are some of the most profound of my life. i feel that accompanying our elders out of life is as important as accompanying our children into life – for all involved. a “task” that is an opportunity, a challenge, a quest, a journey, a discovery, and something deep-rooted that somehow feels “essential”, a total “human/mammalian/animal” experience.

nowadays tasks as caring for our oldest and youngest are increasingly handled by paid services, often because many of us lack the time since we have to generate money in order to deal with the system, to make ends meet. we are missing out on some very, very precious experiences. death is an amazing teacher.

dedicated to catherine & michael phillips

all sounds are slowed-down field recordings (time-stretched -80% to -200%; no other manipulations), as to my “mutations” approach, an exercise in switching dimensions. decomposed june 2022.