Here’s an absurd little factoid: Public speaking is the number one fear of Americans (with heights and bugs trailing close behind) while DEATH didn’t even make the top 10. Around the world, depending on the country, the placement of both of these fears vary from list to list (with spiders and snakes taking the top two spots globally) but oddly enough, you never find death occupying the number one spot.
Take a moment to think about that. How is it that DEATH — the imminent, unavoidable one-way trip into what very well could be the end of each of us for all time — is not the number one fear everywhere?
Either there’s a long-engrained generational white-washing of religious faith at play, or people simply aren’t thinking about it. Okay, it’s both. We’re either out there appeasing ourselves with weekly, daily — sometimes even hourly — visits to our respective houses of worship, or we’re cluttering our minds and filling our lives with junky garbage (salad shooters and sneakers with lights in them, anyone?) in order to keep from contemplating the terrible void we will all one day find ourselves staring straight into.
The most tragic, sardonic thing about it is the double-edged blade it truly is. Most of us will fall straight into that void, realizing only mid-tumble how we spent most of our lives missing most of our lives.
Somewhere inside we all know this, I think, but we are so terrified of looking at it that we simply can’t. We embed ourselves in the busyness of life, the fear-drenched faiths of our parents and the obsessions of the culture all because we can’t look at this one, simple, unalterable law of the universe.
But what would happen if we could? What would happen if we could really sit down and contemplate our imminent non-existence? Even more so, if we could look at what we’re presently doing through the eye of this terrifying reverse-telescope? What would we change?
Chances are, most things. This is the truth of it. It’s a safe assumption to say that the majority of us are not living the lives we know we could be. Or should be.
And we know it.
Yet, how to get out of it? There are bills to pay, responsibilities to fulfill, fears to pander to and needs to succumb to. It is simple enough to wax philosophic about all of it, but how does one actually manage to bring something as terrifying as DEATH into the picture in order to free themselves from the self-imposed shackles of life?
It’s actually quite simple: we relax. We take a moment to look around and realize that death is built into the very fabric of everything in existence. It is an absolutely integral part of life. There is nothing that is not born and nothing that does not die. A simple walk in nature reminds us of this– rotting matter turns into new growth everywhere. Birth and death intertwine in the natural world with a symbiotic ease that finds them inseparable. So too is it apparent in the cracks and fissures that creep through all the structures we’ve created. End-dates are built in at the time of creation, in order that we consider the expiry as it approaches. Without death, nothing could be.
It’s the same for you and me. From the moment we’re born we begin to die.
Shouldn’t we use this knowledge as a way to truly live? Doing so is a very powerful form of mindfulness, expanding your awareness enough to view the actions you’re taking, the words your speaking and even the thoughts you’re thinking from a vantage point of being recently deceased.
I’m serious. See if you can do it. Pretend you’ve just died and are currently reviewing the present place you are at in life. Are you happy with what you find?
If not, begin to reverse the paradigm. Start with the thoughts you’re thinking: drop the useless ones (in other words, notice them but don’t feed them– they’ll eventually go away, and if they don’t, then DO something about them) and ride the good ones to better places. Then move to words: speak the truth, but do it kindly. Empower yourself and others with the tool of language. And finally, take action. DO something the dead you would be proud of. Even if it’s just a little thing. Take a chance. Forget what others are thinking and go with what feels right. Learn something new. Stand up for yourself. Take a trip. Whatever it is you know you should do.
In the eye of death, very little of what we think currently matters actually does. Don’t wait to realize this on your death-bed. Take a moment everyday, instead, to dawn your dead self and remember it. If you can manage this, and set about changing your personal patterns in accordance to it, however slowly, it may just end up leading you to an amazing life.