Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Death and the Value of Life

“I do not believe that people seek the meaning of life so much as they seek the experience of being fully alive.” - Joseph Campbell

I witnessed someone die today. The irony is that not five minutes before this experience I was questioning whether or not I even wanted to continue with my own human existence. Whether or not I wanted to continue with a life that often times feels burdensome and void of real purpose and meaning. Not that I felt acutely suicidal, but merely in a state in which I felt the pointlessness of my mundane existence, knowing deep down that I could be living more fully, more vibrantly and purposefully.

I think that often times we walk through life oblivious to the fact that someday, we will die. We don’t like to reflect on this deeply sobering truth, because it threatens our personal ego, the person who we think we are. So we hide death, we lock old people away in nursing homes, we put dead bodies in caskets and fill them with fluids to preserve the body and then cover their face with makeup to make death more pleasant to look at. But why? Why is death so bad? It is a natural and normal part of life which should be celebrated the way that birth is. Because, as far as we’ve seen in all of human history, no one gets out of here alive.

So there, in the street by a corner store, a man lay dying. The people around him appeared to be in a state of simultaneous confusion and despair. A state which I imagine a lot of people experience when confronted with death. But there is a profound beauty in death. Without death, we could never really appreciate the magic and wonder of this all too impermanent existence. Our mortality is a burning fire, pushing us to be our best selves now, to taste the fullness that life has to offer, and to leave the most inspiring and impactful legacy that we can.

Awareness of death gives us a powerful context for life. We need not despair nor preoccupy ourselves with imaginary “problems, for as some wise sage once said, “this too shall pass.” None of us will be around too much longer. So the next time you see people; friends, family, strangers, bring into your awareness that these people, all of them, will one day die. It could be tomorrow. It could be 100 years from now. But either way, it will happen. And it is inescapable.

So I ask you, with this awareness of your own death, what are you doing with your life? If today were your last day, would you be content with the way in which you had lived it? What would you have done differently? And how can you live tomorrow differently so that you would be pleased if it did end up being your final day upon this Earth?

We have all heard the saying “Live everyday as if it were your last.” But how many of us actually do this? How many of us live every precious moment of our lives to the absolute fullest, to the best of our capacity in that very moment? Very few. Most of us live with blinders. We remain in monotonous, mundane routines that drain us of life, hoping that one day we will reach a place where we are free to live the life of our dreams. But that “one day” never comes. So the only choice is carpe diem. To seize the moment, to milk it for all it’s worth, and to arrive at death with a smile on our faces and joy in our hearts, knowing that we did everything we possibly could with this most precious of divine gifts: our human life.

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