I've heard this discussed before - seen it in a popular film, in fact, but I was really interested to read everybody else's take on it.
The film I'm talking about is Fight Club -one that our group used to portray the conflict between the individual and society- the scene is when Tyler Durden pulls a convenience store clerk out into a back alley and puts a gun to his head. He asks the mans name, goes through his wallet, and finds an expired community college student ID. The man, obviously terrified for his life, admits that he wanted to become a vet and Durden makes him swear that he'll get back into school or he'll hunt him down and kill him. As the clerk is running away Edward Norton's character asks Durden why the hell he did that and Durden says "Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted. "
I think thats pretty much what "death is the mother of beauty" means. We appriciate things (or we should) because they're so fleeting. Things are beautiful because we don't have an unlimited supply of life.
This year at Thanksgiving my step dad was flying us home from Broadus to Billings and the engine of our plane failed. It didn't even register for a second, but all of a sudden the silence was deafening. When I realized what was going on the amount of adrenaline that flooded my system probably could have taken us all the way back to the airport. Thankfully, my step dad got the plane going again and we made it. Neither of us said anything until we landed and had taxied to our hanger - then my step dad looked at me and said "Holy Shit."
We didn't go home right away. We just sat in the cockpit of his little plane and ate the cookies my Grandma had sent and watched the sun go down. Those were absolutely the best cookies I've ever eaten.
unrelated note: This is pretty much why we chose Fight Club as our example individual vs society. i couldn't find it until just now:
Tyler Durden: Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.