Monday, August 20, 2012

Embracing Our Mortality

No one can say confidently that he will still be living tomorrow. --Euripides 

I have faced “certain death” on three occasions. Each time I was “dramatically changed” … until the drama of the event started receding into the past. Check that: it didn’t “recede,” as this would imply I was a passive bystander in the process. No, I consciously repressed it, buried it, and then hypnotized myself into a state of forgetfulness as to where it was buried. I preferred being cocooned and protected from the terror to being drastically changed in heart and mind.
It was an all too easy process for me: I can’t function normally if I am constantly facing and embracing death. Note the rationalization, “I have children to rear, bills to pay,” and the depersonalization, “death,” rather than “my death.”
When these events refuse to stay buried and erupt into consciousness, I remove the “sting of death” by solely focusing on the fact that I walked away. Focus on the escape, Wilson, the “mercy of God,” the fact that I am still breathing:  anything but the reality of impending and inevitable death that I experienced.
The human condition is weird like this. We are born with survival instincts that presuppose there is always the possibility that we may not survive; yet we create avoidance-mechanisms so as to evade facing the fact that, at any moment, our life could be taken from us.
Most of us live as if we were immortals (which is a form of narcissism, by the way). Sure, we pay lip service to the fact that we will die “one day” but this is a mere intellectualization. Consequently, in our normal day-to-day living, we repress the awareness of constantly living on the razor’s edge of life and death.
If I do not face the reality of “my” death, however, I will live as if I had all the time in the world to—

Demonstrate and communicate the love I have for God and others

Become the person I intend to be

Discover who and what are actually important to me: who and what are worth living and dying for, to me.

Realize my vision

Create a legacy

When we face our mortality we are forced to answer the question of the meaning of life. Don Quixote tells us as much when in speaking to Sancho about the questioning look he saw in the eyes of the dying soldiers he had held in his arms:

Sancho Panza: Was it the question, “Why am I dying?”
Don Quixote: No, it was the question, “Why was I living?”

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2012 

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