The whole world seems filled with these people who are really quite afraid of death. Or, they think they’re afraid of death. I think they’re afraid of life. I don’t see how you can think you’re afraid of one but not the other. That doesn’t make any sense at all.
Alright, so you’re afraid of life, and you’re afraid of death, and you sit around watching television so that you don’t have to think about either of them, and that works just great as long as you never encounter anyone who challenges your assumptions in any way. Cool. It’s not what I want for myself. I’m glad you’re happy with it though.
Sure, the alternative has its own share of suck. But by comparison? Yeah, I’ll take the struggle of screaming at pan full of flan during an existential crisis, isolated in a remote village in Mexico, over the dreadful condition of walking around in a human body with no curiosity of what more exists than the suit its occupant wears. I’ll take the suckage that comes with living as fully as I can see how. It’s uncomfortable and difficult at times, and it’s beautiful and awe-inspiring, too.
One day, while life is being incredible and interesting, I’m going to die. There will be something fascinating happening at the exact same moment, although I may not know what it is or that it exists. In the moment that I cease to exist, there will be flowers blossoming. There will be creatures giving birth. There will be earthquakes stirring. There will be black holes vacuuming entire planets into them. There will be a grandmother sitting on a porch. There will be a human speaking her first words. There will be a couple breaking up. There will be a heart attack. There will be fish swimming. There will be children marrying. There will be boats sailing. There will be storytellers writing. There will be trees falling. All these things will be happening at the moment I die.
Life itself is happening, at all times. Paying attention to it is the choice we make, not whether it takes place around us. With all the things that are happening in this moment, you reading the words on this computer screen being only one of an infinite number of them, someone is dying. It’s as necessary a part of life as giving birth, sitting on a porch, speaking, breaking up, swimming, sailing, or sharing. If we cut from reality the moment death occurs, we lose everything else that exists in the universe with the erasure of the time in which death exists. We erase the joy, the beauty, the excitement, the pain, the confusion, the resilience. I think those things are pretty awesome and spectacular. I prefer to have them exist, and to see them.
I don’t spend my time dreading an inevitable death in the same way that I don’t spend my time dreading an inevitable sunrise. Sometimes I’m more excited about it than others, but mostly I just passively expect that it will happen all the same and go on about my business. Do I have my preferences about the matter? Sure, as much as I have my preferences about anything. At 13,000 ft on Mount Kailash, for example, my partner’s body atop my own against the ground, his hand around my throat as I bask in the alertness of my insignificance until I drift happily out of consciousness forever. Would it be a better way to die than being hit by a bus? No, but I would prefer it anyway.
I want to die. I don’t just tolerate that it will happen; I welcome it. It is in the welcoming of this inevitability that I am able to welcome all the other inevitable aspects of life to take place. Because I will die, I can smell flowers and armpits and saltwater. I can think and write and love. I can be infatuated and giddy. I can be disappointed and confused. Because I will die, everything exists.
How marvelous is that!
I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as a plant and rose to animal,
I died as an animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?