“Life is essentially the process of dying gracefully, and right now we suck at it.”
It’s okay, I get it.
Death is scary.
It’s so terrifying that it’s become taboo. The one thing that every single human has in common is the one thing we avoid talking about.
This repression of the inevitable causes us undue amounts of suffering.
We have such an aversion to death that we will keep each other alive for as long as possible, even in an indecent or vegetative state. We can’t deal with our own mortality or others.
Each day you are alive, is a day that you are dying.
Reflect on that for a minute.
You may not currently think of it this way, but it’s true. Eventually, you will die, and each day that passes is another step towards the final destination.
Fortunately, this does not need to bring you down, it can lift you up.
We can embrace the notion of death and dance along the path.
In the real, visceral understanding that this game will end, we can show up fully and embrace each day as a gift that has been given to us.
Cultures of Death
Some cultures seem to have a much more elegant and refined approach to life and death.
The ancient Greeks, the Japanese, and many European cultures come to mind.
Examples like “memento mori” from Latin, which translates to “remember you will die.”
This can seem like something morbid to ponder in waking life, but it helps make your life and each moment in it richer and full of vitality. This apple could be your last, savor it. Each heartbeat isn’t guaranteed, feel the power flowing through you.
In Western culture, we act like a child who has just been told something they didn’t want to hear. For decades, we throw an existential temper tantrum.
It’s like being given the most beautiful gift, the gift of existence, and resenting it because it wasn’t shiny enough or didn’t last long enough.
The only acceptable response to the gift of life is gratitude.
Extreme gratitude for all of the beauty, love, emotion, and awe you get to experience now that you have been given life.
Right now, we relentlessly pursue “more” — as life itself is not enough for us. We tirelessly pursue novel experiences, the endless accumulation of material possessions, even the incessant search for immortality.
We live as though death does not exist, fettering away the most precious days of our lives in jobs we hate and relationships that drain us. We neglect our minds and bodies, waiting for a knight in shining armour to save us.
And yet, life in this moment is always enough.
We have good food to eat, wonderful people to converse with, shelter for comfort, and infinite ways to spend our time and energy.
We should approach life in a state of ‘playful non-resistance’. Life is a game, meant to be played for fun, by as many people as possible, as best we can. Nothing here is happening to us, it is happening for us.
The goal is to enjoy the process, not to win.
This reminds me of Mary Frye’s incredible poem about death, it is truly approaching the notion of death gracefully.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
Many European cultures and the Japanese have a refined approach to life and death. Death is inevitable, it is not be feared. It is to be accepted, and life is structured accordingly.
We do not take more than we need. We show up fully in the present moment and bask in the stunning beauty of existence.
Instead of resisting the endless progression of time, instead of swimming against the great river of being, we turn around and flow with it.
We dance with death and make our lives something beautiful.
Although I do not seek out death, I no longer fear its arrival.
What I fear now, more than death, is never having truly lived.