Contemplating Death

 

Most people do not want to think about death.  They fear it.  Some think that death is the beginning of nothingness, while most others think that they are going to heaven or hell.  With the crazy rules of dogmatic religion, we are all going to hell. They were designed that way for control.   Before patriarch religion, the ancients periodically contemplated death, but it was only to spark life into the individual.  Most of the ancients text refer to one living many lives, but you only get this life once.  

Our existence here is temporary.  We all will die.  Every religion or group has their own version of what will happen after death.  This post is not to show you what is right and what is wrong.  It merely is to get you thinking about how short your time is here and to appreciate this life. Most all push the idea of death away and don’t even want to think about it.  As Nietzsche wrote in The Gay Science— “How strange that this sole thing that is certain and common to all, exercises almost no influence on men, and that they are the furthest from regarding themselves as the brotherhood fo death!”  Our life here is very short.  

People think that periodically contemplating death is unhealthy, but thinking about it every now and then is actually very healthy.  Most think that we should focus on life and the living.  I don’t disagree, but the ancients thought that contemplating death enriched ones life.  It is not morbid to think of something that is going to happen to all of us.  It may actually help you live longer and give you a proper and realistic perspective on life.  To live fully you must be aware of your limitations.  One of our limitations is our time here.  We all do not know how long we will be in this form.  But this form we call human beings is very good at procrastination.  The time we think we will be here seems to be a long time, so we just say to ourselves that we will get it done later. The ancients knew that contemplating about one’s death helped them get things done.  

Then there are those who think that the next life or heaven will be better than this life.  “My rewards wait for me after my death”, they tell themselves.  Funny how this world always promises something later.  The ancients understood that if you wanted something you went out and made it happen.  If you didn’t make it happen when you wanted it, you may never get it.  

Arthur Schopenhauer wrote—“Those who strive and hope and live only in the future always looking ahead and impatiently anticipating what is coming, as something which will make them happy when they get it, in spite of their clever airs exactly like those donkeys…whose pace may be hurried by fixing a stick on their heads with a wisp of hay at the end of this; this is always ahead of them, and they keep on trying to get it.  Such people are in a constant state of illusion as to their whole life existence; they go on living ad interim, until at last they die”.  

Accepting our mortality gets us to think about the here and now.  We all have things we want to do or change, but we don’t do it because we think there will be a more opportune time to do it.  In order to live without regret we must learn to do those things now.  Death can not be postponed.  When it’s your time to go, it’s time to go.  When we are more aware of our own mortality we become aware of others mortality too.  It can help you spend more time with someone you love or tell them something you have not told them, like how much you love them.  Periodically thinking of death can spark some urgency in our own lives and give us an appreciation for the present.  We should be conscious of the finality of this life and we only get this life once. 

Meditations by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is all about putting death into perspective.  Marcus was a Stoic and he would put everything on the cosmic scale. Doing petty things was not worth it to him because he understood how short this life really is.  If one starts to think on the cosmic scale you might understand that gossiping, cheating, laziness, bickering and other petty things are not worth it.  

It takes a mature consciousness to contemplate our death.  It can be a powerful experience.  If you knew you were going to die next week, what would you want to do?  What would you miss most about this life?  Would you spend your day doing petty bickering, fighting, gossiping or just lying around doing nothing?   Would you exert your energy on getting money and material things? Would you worry about how you look? These are the type of questions that contemplating death makes you answer.  If you are honest with yourself you would realize that in the end what most think is important doesn’t really matter.  

You only get this life once.  Do what you love to do.  Enjoy it and learn from it.  Live the life you want to live not the life others want you to live.  Get rid of dogmatism.  We are who we have been waiting for.  

10 thoughts on “Contemplating Death”

  1. This is a very good “primer” article for someone who is ambivalent about how to feel regarding her/his “impending” death (well, we are all facing impending death, as you so clearly explain) and how to go about adding “thinking death” to one’s daily meditation. I’ve faced death a few times in this life but that’s a different thing: not premeditated or planned (except for those couple of times I seriously considered suicide but didn’t go through with it). I think we should consciously and carefully contemplate our physical death on a daily basis to set the tone for our approach to life and to those around us. “I am going to die tonight, what is my legacy from this day?” Decades ago and with powerful prompting I gave my life a purpose: I would become a compassionate person/being with the ultimate goal to become pure compassion. If we contemplate this life only we will inexorably remain from somewhat to greatly, selfish. Life is a demanding process. But if we contemplate death, as I have found, what life we have becomes a gift, not something to strive for, but to be fed – and humbled – by. How (relatively speaking) easy it becomes then to be compassionate. To be a giver instead of a taker.
    Let me say it again: great and wise words in this post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Sha’Tara. Yes compassion is so much better than what this world does now. If only people would take your advice the world would be a much better place. As always thanks for the great comment. Thinking of ones death definitely puts things in perspective.

      Like

  2. I always enjoy and learn so much from your blog. As I age, thoughts of death are more often than when I was “immortal” (also known as young/naive). My favorite quote–that has become a reminder or mantra recently–is from Jim Morrison of The Doors: “No one gets out of here alive…” What can I say? I’m a Classic Rock lover…

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s