Grok Death to Grasp Life, Part 1


How often do you think about your death?

Like, really think about it.

I would venture a guess that most of us don’t really think about it at all. Or if we do, it’s rare. Something to approach carefully, because those thoughts are heavy and could carry emotional consequences. Some others obsess over their grim, eventual end. The manner of it, likely. Something to fear. To avoid. That’s the general consensus on death, right? Avoid it best you can. As long as you can.

But survival is a war of attrition. You will lose it eventually. You will die.

Around twenty years ago I was reading about different styles of meditation, beginning to flirt with transcendental thinking. A writer stated that she had learned a lot by meditating on her own death. Imagining it occurring, what would happen in the moment, and afterward. The minutes, then hours, then years after her death. What happens to the world? What happens to the others in the world? Your loved ones? Your belongings? Your remains? Your memory?

It is a surprisingly difficult meditation to perform if you haven’t done it before, or at least I found it so. But revealing as well. Expanding. It throws into sharp contrast the way that we hang all our cares on the events in our lifetimes, even while basing our values on events that occur across time and an imaginary infinite future.

So this is gonna be a somewhat preachy, philosophical topic for me. You might read some ideas that irk you, but take it as a goad to think critically about them. Disagree! Perhaps lemme know your disagreement? Take em with a quarter grain of salt, as I’m really just putting forward ideas, not trying to tell you how it be, dudes and dudettes.

The point I am attempting to make is in regard to the choices we make regarding the goals we set for our lives. I argue that setting the right goals is, well, rare. And invaluable. I believe that an awareness of one’s own death is the key to setting realistic, manageable goals, and to stopping oneself from creating excuses from attaining them.

It is ironic that we, these deep-thinking yet short-lived beings, avoid thinking about the world’s existence without ourselves in it, even while being engrossed in the long view of what the world is and will be. It’s a contradiction to blank out the ephemeral nature of your influence on this world while simultaneously basing your plans on what it will be like after you’re gone.  A poster-child example would be someone who worries about the Sun eventually destroying the Earth billions of years from now. In a time when all memory of them, and all trace, is far, far forgotten.  That particular example isn’t all that poignant, but ask yourself:  where does that worry come from?

Is it as though we take our miniscule tenancy on this planet as a conveyance of authority and ownership in perpetuity? We think about leaving our mark, about changing the world for the better, as though it weren’t about to be a completely different world in only a short time. As though our bones would not be rotted and gone and our graves decayed to soil in only a few generations. You spend your life fighting to make your home more comfortable or to keep the church you attend from being taken down or to convince your friends of a political candidate’s fitness for appointment. And then you die, and everything you have worked for is not only over, but you do not care about it, either.

The actual scope of our hope is nothing more than our life, and it is terribly small compared to the scope of influence we hope to have.

Give this one a think-over, eh? Lemme know what you think.

And stay tuned next week for Part 2!

2 thoughts on “Grok Death to Grasp Life, Part 1

  1. Very nice post!!!! I have had a lot of death in my life starting at a young age, so it’s something I think about a lot. My friends have gotten used to it, my talking about death, but I think I have freaked a few acquaintances out by talking about death maybe too soon in our friendship…but I can’t help it, it’s part of who I am! My favorite tv show ever is Six Feet Under, it’s producer practices Buddhism which makes a lot of sense! I love that meditation has made me accept the balance of “everything is nothing, nothing is everything” if that makes sense :). My friends have labeled me as a gothic hippie lol. Anyhow, thanks for sharing your words and getting my brain juices spinning!

    1. Absolutely. Death certainly teaches us hard lessons, doesn’t it? Shapes us and becomes a part of our maturity. I think it’s amazing how the understanding of our own eventual death makes its way into our minds over time and gradually influences our worldview and goals. That’s kind of what I’m going for in these blog entries under Grok Death to Grasp Life: I’m hoping to encourage folks to consider that death comes for us all, and maybe that should be a part of today’s decisions as well as those we make decades from now.

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