If you will live a though every day were your last day on earth – someday you will be right!
There is one impossible situation that we must consider before we make plans, goals, and other important life decisions, and that is our inevitable death.
IS THERE LIFE BEFORE DEATH?
If we seriously considered our inevitable end on this planet, we probably would do things differently. When we consider transcendence, some of the things that we hold dear may not be of the utmost importance in the end. What’s worse is that we may spend our lives attached to what we think is important, only to find that when we face death, we may have missed the real importance of life.
Death isn’t just about aging, being terminally ill or having a fatal accident; it’s also about that little deaths we experience throughout our lives. Everyone experiences little deaths, and sometimes-large deaths, throughout their lives. Even if your life has run smoothly, and you have been rather free of impossible situations, the one situation you can’t avoid is the inevitability of death.
Physicist John A. Wheeler, know for his work regarding black holes, states, “Life without death is meaningless…a picture without a frame.” And the famed theologian Paul Tillich asks, “If one is not able to die, is he really able to live?” Contemplating our lives from the perspective of our eventual death can play an important part in giving our lives greater meaning. Death should be part of the full expectancy of life. Without an ever-present sense of death, life has no meaning.
LITTLE DEATHS AND NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES
People who have had near death experiences, people who have come close to and survived dying, have numerous feelings after coming back
to life. Some feel anger at being revived; others are ecstatic in the glory of it all. As they approach their lives again, they reassess their affairs and life goals with a more philosophical approach. They wish to resolve any loose ends with people and settle all their personal affairs. They may speak more freely about their true thoughts. Often, they wish to celebrate life by doing things they have always wanted to do, but never made the time for.
An American writer of the late 1800s, William Ellery Channing, eloquently described the newfound philosophy of those who have had near death experiences. Notice how much of it refers to quality of life. “To live with small means, to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages with an open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual unconscious grow up through the common. This is my symphony.”
Psychologist and author of The Fire in the Soul, Dr. Joan Borysenko, describes the living kind of near death experience when people are challenged with crisis, as follows, “Dark nights of the soul are extended periods of dwelling at the threshold when it seems as if we can no longer trust the very ground we stand on, when there is nothing familiar left to hold onto that which can give us comfort. If we have a strong belief that our suffering is in the service of growth, dark night experiences can lead us to depths of psychological and spiritual healing and revelation that we literally could not have dreamed of and that are difficult to describe in words without sounding trite.”
We have several choices regarding where we go from the dark night. We can suffer a while and then go back to our usual and unsatisfactory
habits; we can throw in the towel and self-destruct; or we can make a transition, expanding our circle of possibility, and emerge with courage, insight, and a new drive toward our dreams.
DEATH – THE REAL COMPLEMENTARY OPPOSITE
The concept of complementary opposites was previously discussed, regarding our perception of opposites such as good or bad, and happy or sad. One thing that certainly intensifies our lives is when we look at the real complementary opposite of life, which is death. If we have spent our whole lives focusing on what we have and what we don’t have, when death faces us, we will surely believe that our life was unhappy. Happiness exists when the mind is not removed from itself, when it remains in the present time zone, and when it declines to contrast itself with other times or conditions.
Happiness is an attitude, a feeling of satisfaction that can only be felt within, by being content with who we are, not with what we do or what we have. This becomes paramount in us as we age and are anticipating the end of our life. As we grow older, life is seen more simply, and as we look back we see that what we thought were the little things, were really the big things in life. And what we though were the big things, were really the little things. Do you see the complementary opposite in this?
YOU WILL NEVER GET OUT OF THIS ALIVE
Where does our life energy go when we die? Humankind has been trying to answer this question since the beginning of time. The first law of thermodynamics teaches that energy cannot be created or destroyed. We have a life energy wave level that cannot be destroyed. In that case, it makes sense that death is nothing more than a falling apart of recycling our Created Self in order that it can be freed to function again in a different, higher order. We are not something that eventually breaks
or burns out. Returning again to the concept of complementary opposites, death is the complementary opposite of life. When we face death, we go from one complementary opposite to the other with the following shifts in thinking.
First, what are the things we think about as we reach the end of our life? Most likely, we think about these things:
- Was I happy in love, money, career, or health? Did I have fun?
- What did I want? Did I get it?
- Was I kind to my spouse, parents, children, coworkers, and friends?
- Did my actions make things better or worse?
- Can I forgive? Am I forgiven?
- Did my life have meaning?
Then if we had to do over again, what would we do or perceive differently? What would we do differently if we were to have the opportunity to go on living? We would probably:
- Change our values to a higher level.
- Simplify everything and focus less on material things.
- Make different choices, especially realizing that changing the exterior is either not possible or not important.
- Alter the quality of our life and quality of our work.
- Take better care of our health and everything around us.
- Our attitude and temperament would be better. We would be more forgiving, accepting of others and ourselves.
As we approach the end of our lives our perception changes, because we finally begin to learn (sometimes too late) what is truly important.
WHAT WOULD THEY SAY ABOUT YOU IF YOU WERE GONE?
Have you read any obituaries lately? Someone sent me a clipping of a person I knew and I was amazed to read a long list of wonderful accomplishments and fine deeds this man had done in his lifetime. He was eighty-four when he passed away. The man was an engineer. Engineering doesn’t sound very exciting, but this man had a full life. He designed outstanding mechanical pieces, gave lectures, and was an expert witness in complicated court cases was active in professional societies, was a skier and mountain climber, and he was even an Eagle Scout leader.
How would your obituary read? Not necessarily the public one, but a personalized summary on yourself? How would your friends and family speak of you? What would they say about you at your memorial service? Perhaps, from time to time, we should do a personal checkup on ourselves. If we take time to plan our day, our week, our year, and our vacations, why not take time to plan our lives. Try this experiment. Write you own obituary. Describe your life up to the moment. After you have written it, match it with how you want to live you life. If it doesn’t match up, you have an opportunity before your “final obituary” is written to change your life and circumstances so that, in the end, you have lead the life you always wanted.
ENDINGS MAKE BEGINNINGS
When we go through trauma or when loved ones around us go through trauma, we experience “little deaths”. Dr. Borysenko terms these significant life-changing traumas as dark nights of the soul.
When these little deaths take place we sometimes feel detached, empty, disoriented, disassociated – and a few more dis words – disappointed, and disenchanted.
Whenever we have an ending or little death, we must disengage ourselves. When we choose to disengage, we can feel somewhat empty or disenchanted. When we have some trauma or an important loss, we may go through a process of questioning the meaning of our life and what we value. Robert Frost refers to this time of disorientation as “lost enough to find yourself.” When we experience the dark night of the soul, we have the opportunity to reframe our thinking and make significant changes in our lives.
When something serious has happened in our lives or we have a close encounter with morality, many of us make significant career changes. Such as cutting down the size of a prospering business just to have more free time, changing from one kind of career to another, moving to a distant location, working with charitable organizations, making religious or spiritual changes, and spending more time with our family and friends. All of this allows us to find deeper meaning to our lives.
The reason that most people are afraid to die is that they never really lived. Instead of living and creating the life they want, they try to softly tiptoe through life so that they can arrive at death safely. These are the people who live lives of quiet desperation. Since there is no way you are going to get out of this alive, you might as well live life to the fullest while
you are here. In the end, you will not be as sorry for what you did, as for what you didn’t do but wanted to do. Don’t make that mistake. Now is the time to do what you really want to do.