I often think about life and its value, and within the context of those thoughts, the concept of death is constantly brought to mind. I won’t go so far as to say that I dwell on death, because I surely don’t. I would be a fool to, and besides that, people who know me know that I’m an optimist, a spiritualist, and one
who celebrates not only the big things in life, but the small things, too. Life is truly about the little things; at least that’s my view. But when I think about death, a certain calm washes over me that is – paradoxically – rooted in the way I think about life.
As humans, we’re conditioned to look upon death as a negative outcome, but if you think more deeply about it, from a philosophical standpoint, it really isn’t. First of all, it’s part of the life cycle, and as Benjamin Franklin reminded us back in colonial times, is one of the few certainties we can rely on. So if we were all stock brokers, and death was an investment opportunity, we would certainly know where to put our clients’ money, wouldn’t we? It’s something we can trust in. But the other thing that’s important about death is that it provides us with the required contrast to the living process itself. So although none of us really know what it feels like to be dead, we can rest each night assured that when we are (dead, that is), there will be no more of this thing we call ‘living.’ This puts a wonderful perspective on what it means to be alive.
As is the case with so many of us in this media age we’re living in, I spend more time than I would like (and I’m sure you do, too) being exposed to dialog on television and out in the public about all of the things we should fear. Fear of losing our money, fear of having our identity stolen, fear of being the victim of a random act of crime, or being killed in a heinous terrorist act. Everywhere you look, fear is being sold. And in like fashion, almost everywhere you look, people are buying it. Some of the most popular television programs are on the cable “news” outlets, which do in fact provide us with information (yes, I concede that), but the information they give is wrapped in rhetoric that is meant to create fear.
For some reason – and I haven’t quite figured out why, yet – fear is like a glue that we use to bond to others. It provides us something to discuss with friends, family and colleagues, perhaps giving us the safety in knowing that we are not alone, that others feel the same way we do. As I think about it more, I guess the reason so many people think and talk about fear is because fear is a basic human instinct. And to be sure, those who ‘sell’ information to us have figured out that our instinct for self-preservation is just the hook they need to keep us ‘buying’ their product.
And so the process continues.
And this process will no doubt go on and on ad infinitum until the buying stops. Until the public says ‘No more! I refuse to buy fear.’
To me, fear is a state of mind that detracts from the process of living. As I said at the top of this article in contrasting death to life, it’s a paradox. And this brings me around to the discussion of what it means to live. The more and more I read about human psychology, the more I understand and appreciate that there is no room for deep-seated fear in a rich life. That if we want to truly live and get the most out of all the things that happen to us before we die, then we have to do so without fear. We must shed ourselves of all of our (mainly subconscious) thoughts about death, and step out into the world totally unafraid.
Some may argue vehemently against this, but I truly believe that if you carry fear around inside you, not only can you not live, but you also cannot truly love. Because love is an emotion that carries with it absolutely no fear whatsoever. To truly love is to drop all your guards, and then – and only then – can the love you give be returned to you.
I’m not afraid of dying. I said that recently to the special person in my life, and I honestly meant it. I know now more than ever before that being afraid of death is a burden, and one that I choose not to carry. Relieved of that weight on me, I find myself freer than ever to live. And live I shall. Will you join me??