Everyday Thaumaturgy
(It's a Miracle If I Get Anything Done Around Here)
a blog by William S. Statler

Musings on Death and Life

Wed, 20 Jul 2011 12:30:00 PDT

Well, how do I start this? EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Death sucks. That pretty much covers it.

My wife and I are both turning 55 this year, and that's a reliable reminder of mortality. Our three surviving parents are now quite elderly, and it seems like every month or two we get news of some new life-threatening or debilitating ailment that one of them is suffering.

A man I admire, Ron Hood, died recently at much too early an age, from prostate cancer. I never got to know Ron personally, but my dear friend Tiffany Rockwell was very close to him, and posted about his death on her blog earlier today.

Also today, another friend privately posted a few intense sentences from her proposed blog for people who are ill and perhaps dying. She herself is quite ill, and almost exactly my age.

So death has been on my mind quite a lot lately, and especially today. And... it's frustrating how little I can say about the subject. I have no particular religious beliefs, so I can't offer any words of comfort about the afterlife. I haven't developed any great insights or wisdom of my own, either.

I think there is an extra offensiveness about death that is particularly galling for individualists. We are righteously angry when someone tries to override our personal choices "for the good of society" or some such crap. But in the end we can't avoid this final decision that our DNA has made for us. It doesn't matter how valuable your individual life is to you or to those around you. For the good of the species, human DNA says you must die.

So, given this ultimate injustice, how do we live in the meanwhile? Live every day as if it were your last. No... I've done that to some extent, and it doesn't work. If it were my last day, I'd spend it playing and partying, and neglecting to order my prescription refills.

Something else I ran across today -- and it's a partial antidote to all this gloom -- is this Sinfest comic strip. (For those of you who have never seen Sinfest: he's a nerdy guy who reads books all the time, she's an authentic devil girl from Hell... and the rest is self-evident.)

Love... eh, how can I write about this without being either preachy or soppy? Well, the Buddha said it better anyway: "...hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule." I know what he's talking about -- I think we all know what he's talking about, because we can find it inside us, even if it's so hard to hang onto it. It's not just the selfless love for others, although that's a part of it. It's looking at everything, in that rare moment when the flames of hatred and desire and fear evaporate -- when all that remains is love for all that's wonderful around us and in ourselves.

...And then, not just sitting there like a bliss ninny clutching one corner of the big Love security blanket, but actually living. That's something I'd like to do, in the face of death.

I haven't quite got that yet. But I know it's there.

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