Thursday, August 25, 2016

You Are Dying

Love is as strong as death.

-Song of Solomon 8:6

There's a river born to be a giver

Keep you warm won't let you shiver
His heart is never gonna wither
Come on everybody time to deliver
Give it away, give it away, give it away, now.
-Anthony Kiedis

YOU ARE dying. 

At first this may depress you. In fact, this may be the last time you ever read this blog.  

But, the realization that you are dying can be liberating. 

If you're a parent, you are simply there for your kids, helping them grow, nurturing them, loving them, teaching them. 

That is, not pushing and pulling them because they are some sort of "legacy" or "reflection of you." This realization that we're are dying, it breaks us from the attachment to the idea that a kid is some kind of permanent possession or monument to our life. Once you're gone, what does it matter if there is a monument to you, or ten monuments to you? 

If you run, you run for the pure pleasure of running. If you race you, race for the pleasure of being in the pack and pushing and pulling others and feeling the camaraderie of competitive life. You even revel in the pleasure of breaking the guy next to you, watching him blow up in agony and surrender. But it's more like when you played Cops and Robbers, if you ever did. Anyway, it's not for the plastic trophy or finisher's medal. 

I'm good, Mick. Thanks, though. 
You hug your spouse for the pleasure of hugging her, to push every fluid ounce of love up from your ankles and out through your arms. Hurry, you're dying.   

You spend time with friends simply to enjoy them, not to maintain some kind of social identity, which will evaporate with your last breath anyway. 

The realization that you are dying is liberating because it is true, and there are few greater comforts than friendship with reality. 

You live life for the sake of life and not for the idea or the story about your life that you try to tell yourself. "I am a doctor." "I am a fast marathoner." "My kids are good Christians." 

If your kids destroy your books or whatever crap you have in your house, you can take in stride. "Shrouds have no pockets." 

You let people's praise and blame go right through you. You may even develop a kind of pity for rude and unkind people, because maybe they do not really know or want to accept that they too are dying.  

There's this story from the early Egyptian desert fathers. A young monk goes to his teacher and complains that others are harsh with him. 

“Go to the cemetery and curse the dead,” said the old man. 

He did it. 

“Did the dead say anything to you?” 

“Not a word!”  

“Now go to the cemetery and praise the dead.” 

He did it. 

“Well,” said the old man, “how was it this time? Did the dead have anything to say?” 

“They were as silent as before.” 

After a period of silence, the old man said, “That is how you have to be -- like the dead; beyond cursing and praise, unaffected by the opinions of others.”

You are helpful because you want to be helpful, not to grasp some kind of appreciation or approval, which you can never hold on to anyway. If people approve of you, you die. If people disapprove of you, you die.

You won't need people to change. Grown-ups don't really change, anyway. You know that. I mean, have you? 

As philosopher Marcus Aurelius put it, "You can hold your breath until you turn blue, but they'll still go on doing it." 

Don't hold your breath until you are blue.  

And if, perchance, you believe in life after this one, how sharp is death's sting, anyway?

1 comment:

Shenoda said...

"The realization that you are dying is liberating because it is true, and there are few greater comforts than friendship with reality. "
IMHO, this is so true if, and only if, it is the whole reality. Partial reality is a source of agony, and getting lost because partial-truth is simply not truth any longer.
If we agree on that, then we must agree that the realization of the fact that we are dying alone is not a source of relief nor would it help anyone become kinder or more gentle. On the contrary, it gives all incentives to become selfish, and to indulge into temporal leisures. It is only the whole truth: that we are dying, will be judged at some point after death, then have an everlasting life-after death in one of two natures, based on our judgment, and that Jesus Christ made available for us, for free if we accept, to not be condemned on judgment day.
This is the comforting reality.