death as an ally

Posted on June 18, 2010


It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living deathperspectiveshould take this to heart. (Ecclesiastes 7:2)

In the face of death, the straw man burns. When I realize that “no one gets out of here alive”, not even me, it makes me stop and wonder, really question, what am I doing, who am I, and what am I leaving behind . . . because no matter what, I am leaving. Nothing is permanent, including me. Nothing. So why do I cling so tightly to social status, to possessions, to money, to my home, to my family, to my life??? And on a level deeper yet, why do I cling so tightly to my loves, my desires, my abilities, my strengths, my gifts… for nothing is permanent… it all fades away.

Do I fear death so much that it makes me shun silence in this life? From silence I came. To silence I will return. But while I’m here, I make noise as much and as continuously as I can. I stay busy, I keep moving . . . Smell the roses? What roses? Take time? I don’t have time. I have to get here, get there; “too many people to see, too many places to go, too many ways to get there” (Lyrics by Bill Cooper).

Do I fear silence because it brings me face to face with reality, with me, with my end, and the silence thereof?

Why do I fight? Why do I fight what is inevitable? Why do I fear what is inevitable? I don’t fight the air that I breathe. I don’t fight the sunshine. I don’t fight the wind passing through my hair. Why do I fight the great circle of life as the old things pass away to make way for the new?

Death is part of life.

Death gives way to new life.

The autumn leaves fall and decay

to make way for the spring leaves.

The flower falls to make way for new buds.

Why linger when there is no longer a reason for life?

Let go and let come.

That is the key to all of life.

Let go and let come. Befriend all of life.

Embrace the darkness so that I can fully appreciate the light.

Embrace the cold so that I can fully appreciate the warmth.

Embrace death so that I can fully appreciate life. “The living should take this to heart” while we can.

“An awareness of death is an ally for infusing our lives with a sense of immediacy, perspective, and proportion. In acknowledging the reality of death, we can more fully appreciate our gift of life.” (p. 121, Voluntary Simplicity, Duane Elgin)

IMMEDIACY: Making death an ally makes me realize that what I say is not as important as what is seen in my life. I must join soul and role, words and actions.

PROPORTION: I don’t need the lion’s share, I only need my daily bread. I’m not the center of the universe, I’m a grain of sand on the beach of the universe. It is not about me.

PERSPECTIVE: It is not about accomplishing things, it is about being. What I accomplish in this life is a chasing after the wind. Who am I? Before God? Before you?

“We need but look into the cemetery and see the ten thousand upturned faces; ten thousand breathless bosoms. There was a time when fire flashed through those vacant orbs; when warm ambitions, hopes, joys, and the loving life pushed in those bosoms. Dreams of fame and power once haunted those empty skulls . . .. Approach the tomb of the proud man; see the haughty countenance dreadfully disfigured, and the tongue that spoke the most lofty things condemned to eternal silence . . .. Behold the consequences of intemperance in the tomb of the glutton; see his appetite now fully satiated, his senses destroyed and his bones scattered” (p. 590 of the book, The Royal Path of Life, 1877 as quoted by Duane Elgin in Voluntary Simplicity).

“We do not need to grieve for the dead. Why should we grieve for them? They are now in a place where there is no more shadow, darkness, loneliness, isolation, or pain. They are home.”
— John O’Donohue (Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom)

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See also:

Silence: a spiritual discipline