Writing about death is not an easy thing to do. It’d hard to remind people that one day they will die. That they could in fact die tomorrow. Nevertheless it seems a worthwhile task. It’s easy to allow living to get in the way of accepting this central fact.
Several writer think society is geared toward denying our mortality. That wars violence and the mad rush to succeed are all ways to deny our corporality.
And its true, people seem to throw themselves into conquest of land or business or technology or sex in attempts to escape this truth. And the risks people take through poor eating or lack of exercise or careless driving all suggest a belief in an ever lasting life.
It is hard to believe that if everyone had accepted their mortality that wars could still take place or that there could still be such poverty in the world.
And it’s not difficult to see that much yearning for fame and success, for a desire to have an impact and be remembered is a quest for it to never end. Finding it difficult to accept that we will one day die we seek immortality through off-spring or in influence or a place in the history books.
No one want to die the thought is petrifying. That you can be a person, be a joy, be an entity, be part of the world, the universe and one day be no more. You may go to heaven or you may just cease to exist. Neither is particular unpleasant. Were you unhappy before you were born?
But you have hopes and ambitions and you enjoy being alive. The sound of your heart beating, of knowing you have a body of intricate complexity. You enjoy thanking it for its daily work watching it as it heals wounds. And you enjoy sunrises and the smell of flowers and the sight of birds and trees.
It’s difficult to imagine that one day all this will go.
Most of us play the probabilities game. Death happens, but to other people. Your chances are good. But all of us face the fear every day. Every time we step into a car or on to a road. Even if it’s only a small probability it is always there. This is one lottery you have to play.
A recent popular book began with a neurosurgeon examining scans of tumours. He can never stop the incisions of sorrow as he sees a cancer. Not least this time when the tumour is his own. Life slows down, breath becomes air, and every second is savoured.
Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire thought humans mad for clinging to a life they had nothing but complain about. Nineteenth century Proust felt that possibilities would open up if we were to accept our inevitable demise.
Death is a part of life. It frames it like nothing else. Accepting it forces us to make priorities. Life on earth is brief and hard and involves struggle, what is it that can bring us joy. The neurosurgeon above became an author and a father.
Others toured campuses begging students not to forget their mortality and succumb to the rat race. Others turned to their families and patched differences up.
The flip-side of facing the terror of death is waking each day and accepting that you are human and this could be your last. It’s gratitude. It’s reverence for the earth, the universe and all the marvels in it. It’s gratitude for life and beauty and for the chance to breathe a little more.
It’s not avoiding risk, but it is managing them better. No texting in the car. Attention to changes in the weather and correct breaking distances.
It’s not being perfect or having a perfect life – whatever that may be.
Its just appreciation of the most precious thing you have – life. And a chance to live it well.
Read through the following essays on meaningoflife.life. Do they make sense? Do you agree?
Do you agree with the following paragraph?
That we are mortal is one of the givens of our existence. Every one of us, one way or another, must confront the issue of death – our own death and that of people we care about – but it would be difficult to name any other facto of life so fiercely resisted and denied.
We have an immense repertoire of behaviours through which we deny our powerlessness in the face of death; from seeking symbolic immortality through children, flags, causes, fame, to persuading ourselves that we are indestructable by living recklessly and irresponsibly, to consoling ourselves with the belief that death is an illusion.
Try completing the following sentence stems. Write down the first 10 answers that come to your mind. Don’t ponder just write down the first 10 answers that come to mind. It should only take a few seconds.
At the thought I am going to die someday-
When I first learnt about death –
If talking about death weren’t such a taboo –
If I felt free to talk about my fear of death –
One of the ways I keep myself from dying is –
If you’d like head over to see some common answers to these questions. You are not alone.