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Death

 

I am satisfied to be able to sleep when I feel tired; I will never take such privileges for granted again. I am relieved whenever I wake up everyday because there is always a possibility of that not happening. That soothing ephemeral sense of pleasure whenever I awake wanes rapidly but not that feeling of gratitude for being alive. There is an element of tacitness to the trust in the functionality of your body. When you sleep every night, you expect to be alive the next morning. It may happen but it may not. Regardless, you trust it will happen. With age, however and inevitably, that trust will manifest into hope. 

Do I fear death? Philosophically, I will like to answer "no." But with veracity, I have to say "a bit." You may ask why. My reply will be that I am a human being, no different from you, and I have already being conditioned by my decades of existence to fear it. When you watch a man being hanged and his body starts to twitch and quiver, and you hear people say "Ouch," you are, subconsciously, being conditioned to associate death with pain. When you watch an electric execution in progress and the inmate starts to bleed from the eyes, instinctively you know it must feel painful (and you could almost feel that pain simply being a spectator.) When you see a lifeless body in the morgue, you wonder where the life has gone to. When you hear the health minister announced the increase in death rates due to cancer, you appreciate the message that you shouldn't get cancer because you will die (painfully) All of these are the different facets of conditioning that happen daily, and they are mostly surreptitious. Perennially, death has been inextricably bounded to pain, and together with conditioning, they form an formidable dogmatic triumvirate that causes humans to fear death. 

For too long, in my opinion, death has been associated with morbidity - and it should stop. When you are born, your parents are fully aware that you will die one day. All living things die. Death is an immutable phase of life. We have to accept it and move on; life goes on inexorably. The gloom and melancholy associated with a last stage cancer patient is uncalled for and undeserving of a human race whose values we so revere; instead love and care should be showered in abundance with the guidance of knowledge, because they are the qualities that distinguish us, humans, from animals. We should not feel sad and ashamed of our ineptitude to help but rather take solace from the fact that  that we have done our best, and make good use of the remaining days (however brief it may be.) 

I believe that when humans die, the soul (whatever it is) leaves the body for good. I believe that death is the end - the end of life. Death is a passport towards one of the inexhaustible mysteries in the universe. It is a journey to a place where not even the wisest man can fathom because such wisdom is beyond the realm of human intellect. I believe that we should respect death as an end to life, but not fear it. I deplore the concept of immortality because the essence of life lies in its finiteness; living perpetually is in effect equivalent to not living. 

When friends and family die, they will only exist in our memories. They will live only in the irrevocable past, a place so distant and yet so close to us. And perhaps when we die, we will join them in similar memories, but of others.

 

4 August 2003

 

"This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds. To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance. A lifetime is a flash of lightning in the sky. Rushing by, like a torrent down a steep mountain."

Buddha