Here, but now they’re gone
Seasons don’t fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain
(We can be like they are)
From “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult
I’m comfortable with death. Are you? If not, maybe you should get comfortable because, and I hate to break it to you so abruptly, you are going to die. Hopefully not today, but eventually. It’s inevitable. Undeniable. Unavoidable. Deal with it.
Not intending to linger too long on the subject of death here in our little Unfound microcosm – we’re hardly morbid – but it’s a subject in which a whole lot can and should be said. Death wants to be talked about. Death is begging for our attention. It’s a hotly burning vat of angst and intrigue endlessly spitting and bubbling at the outer edges of our thoughts.
We confront death daily but shhh, don’t you dare talk about it and certainly don’t dwell on it. This taboo subject is a little too macabre to discuss in mixed company. Go ahead, talk about your personal views on religion or politics. The worst you might get is a sneer or a scoff, perhaps an eye roll. But talk intimately about death and dying, mention the beauty and poetry of it, and you’ll likely be labeled a morbid and brooding psychological waste basket. The kind of person only Tim Burton could love.
Eons before this, death had been a cornerstone topic of philosophical rumination and gum flapping. We didn’t run away from it. We looked it full on in the face and embraced it like an old friend. Dying was natural, death an accepted understanding.
These days, we run and hide from it, not willing to let it all go. Death is now the enemy. We delude ourselves with vain pipe dreams and bizarre notions of eternal youth and immortality, technical innovations and medical pseudo-miracles promising eternal life, but science cannot deliver us from death no matter what Ray Kurzweil says. This madcap behavior only serves to devalue the beauty and magic of living.
I can’t help but think we’d have a more revered view of life if we were just more sensible about dying. Think about the last several days of your life. What do you have to show for it? I bet you’ve been working, a lot. You’re worn out. Bone weary. Exhausted. And it’s not even Friday.
But there are bills to pay and mouths to feed,
and promises to keep,
and miles to go before you sleep,
and miles to go before you sleep.
So it goes.
Let’s say your doctor just called to tell you that you only have a few days left to live, terrible news I know, but would you waste another day hyperextending yourself in the resplendent circle jerk of Corporate America? Would those bills feel as impending? Would money have the same value or desirability? No?
Now hold on, things really haven’t changed. You were already dying after all, have been since birth. Oh, you’ve only got a few precious days left to live? Hell, a grand piano could fall on your head tomorrow. It happens. But here you are now, trying to squeeze what you can out of life before the grim reaper comes knocking. Now life matters. Now you’re willing to take the risks and taste the fruits. You missed the point. This is how you should have been living all along.
The tired maxim “live like you were dying” is a nice, well-meaning sentiment and all, but it’s also missing the point. No, live because you are dying. If you can get yourself into alignment with that concept then death won’t seem so apocalyptic anymore.
Every single day we’re a little closer to death, some closer than others, but do we really need a set expiration date to get the most out of life? Do we really have to wait until we’re diagnosed with a terminal illness to see the beauty of living? To be inspired to do brilliant and impossible things during our time here on Earth?
We need to stop treating death like an unsolicited menace. Death isn’t the Jehovah’s Witness of life. Death is part of the journey of life. Death is the balance. The yang to life’s yin. Death isn’t ruination but reclamation; the remnants of your dearly departed husk recycled into new and shiny zoetic stuff.
The octillions of atoms that were once “you” will go on to do other things. Be other things. All over the universe. This is your immortality. Your legacy. And it’s a beautiful and meaningful ending to your story.
Now get back to
dying living, and embrace the hell out of it. Literally.