Rage against death?

In the famous poem addressing his dying father, poet Dylan Thomas wrote:

Do not go gentle into that good night;
Rage, rage, against the dying light.

We cannot ignore the depths of sorrow expressed here, the voice of human instinct. Death is not only the loss of a loved one but also the stark realization of one’s own mortality, which can bring sorrow, a tragic sense. We know from studies that grief follows specific patterns and phases, long before we can claim it to be the beginning of equanimity.

We instinctively want to live indefinitely, against God, nature, and reality, for we cannot fathom that this mind, this intellect, so carefully cultivated for so many years, so uniquely apportioned by the universe to oneself, will suffer an enormous injustice about which we instinctively want to rage.

If we have seen a mature animal pass away, we would be shamed by its stern resolution, by its apparent conformity to nature, by its lack of rage. That may seem an anthropomorphism, a generalization. We have but to witness it. For isn’t an animal perceptive of its world, familiar with its environs? The difference, of course, is that it has constructed no ego, no self-consciousness. We identify a personaity, but the animal does not. It has no self-esteem, though it constantly interacts with its environment. Except when attacked violently by humans, a dying animal can be said to seem to let go, to collect itself, to pass away without wanting to be noticed. It does not, or cannot, rage.