Mention death, and specifically human mortality, and most people become visibly disturbed. Yet each and every one of us will die sooner or later, and no one knows when. Thinking about death in the abstract is one thing, but embracing your own mortality is quite another matter.
Within the context of our typical dualistic thinking, we tend to view life as good and death as bad. Yet, death is normal, neither good nor bad. Each one of us is born, lives and dies. We exist in a cycle, a lifespan of unknown duration. Each of us has been a baby, a child, an adolescent and now we are somewhere in our adulthood, maturing, aging, slowing down. Each stage of life provides a different kind of opportunity for learning and growing and experiencing life and gaining wisdom. Death is not negotiable. It is as essential as life to the great mystery of our existence.
So, let’s take a look at some of the really good things about death:
- Thinking about death makes us think more deeply about how we are living our lives. It’s a funny thing how the rarity of a commodity increases its value to us. So, if we live as though we will live forever, we are less likely to find as much richness in life as we do when we really understand that any moment could be our last. Death makes life precious.
- Death levels the playing field. No one has the hometown advantage. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how pretty you are or how educated; you’re still going to die. Death is an equal-opportunity experience.
- Death punctuates life and gives it meaning. If we simply lived on and on and on endlessly, without stages of growth and maturation, we would have no reference point for our experiences. It may not seem like we were going anywhere. We might lack the motivation to make a go of it before it’s too late.
- Death teaches us to live with the unknown. No matter how much we try to control ourselves, our lives and others, life is full of surprises, and there is a whole lot more going on here than we can even begin to fathom. No matter how important we might think we are, each of us is humbled by the reality that there are forces at work beyond our control. That makes life a whole lot more interesting than if we could control everything. The mysteries of life, like the fact that we breathe or the fact that we even exist, are fantastic. There is something to be in awe of and the existence of death is one of the things that serve as a reminder of that which is greater than anything we can create or control.
- Death teaches us to accept our own limitations. The mere existence of death tells us that there are boundaries to what we can do, be and have in life. It also reminds us that all our material gain must be left behind in the end.
- Death is good for the economy! Alright, this might be stretching it, but think about it. Produce goes bad if left too long in the refrigerator. Flowers die, and we buy new ones. If everything and everyone stayed vibrant, we’d have no need for health-care, garbage collection, tag sales, a cosmetic industry or most plastic surgery. Death is a booming industry!
Much has been written about death. Here are some wonderful quotations about death to contemplate:
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