city. new york city
When I pause to think about it, the only thing I can truly predict is that I and everyone and everything will one day die and pass away.
Like any good story, my life has a beginning, a middle, and, one day, it will have its end.
And yet, rather than meditating on this one single truth, and orienting my life toward its eventual end, I spend enormous amounts of energy ignoring, avoiding, and fearing it. The surest way to ruin a conversation is by mentioning death.
In the face of death, I grow scared, awkward, quiet. I freeze up.
I find it incredible that after 12 years of primary school, 4 years of college, and 2 years in graduate school, I have yet to take a course on death. I haven't even seen any offered. And I studied philosophy!
Why do we refuse to prepare ourselves for death? Why do we insist so strongly on our own ignorance?
Some time ago, I tried to imagine one of my parents dying. What would I do when I heard the news? How would I cope? The answer: I’d grow frozen and lifeless as a corpse; as if I, rather than my parent, had departed.
Again: death is the most important event in my life, and yet I refuse to prepare for it. I’ve refused to even acknowledge it’s presence.
Instead I’ve treated it most unfairly, heaping upon it every abuse, blame, and terror known to man.
I suspect that a healthy and honest orientation toward death could serve as a great asset as I continue through life. It can add color and joy to the everyday, and relieve the quiet torments that accompany my denial, fear, and misunderstanding.
I believe that death can be healthy.
I believe that death can be loving.
I believe that death can bring life.
Here are some questions that I’ve written to guide me as I explore my darkness:
What does death feel like?
How have I been handling death as it occurs in my own life? How would I like to handle it?
How do other people, cultures and communities handle death?
"To begin depriving death of its greatest advantage over us,
let us deprive death of its strangeness,
let us frequent it, let us get used to it;
let us have nothing more often in mind than death."
-- Michel de Montaigne