Sunday, August 23, 2020

Mortality is the Inevitable Lot of Humankind

 A friend of mine commented on Facebook that some days they are burdened with grief for the world. I can understand that feeling. If you have been paying attention to what is going on around you, whether at home or abroad, and care at all about other people, you will be hard pressed not to feel the same.

Another friend commented to me that a song had reminded them of a car trip with three friends, all the same age and all of whom were now deceased. I said, “Now don’t you start because I have been thinking about death a great deal lately”. The news is filled with reports of death from Covid-19, state sponsored violence, street violence, starvation, disease, assassination, murder, and the list goes on and on.

It is normal to worry about other people’s death: relatives, loved ones and friends and I suppose we all think about our own death from time to time. Fortunately, our own death is usually viewed as in some distant misty future so not to be worried about. I am of an age and have been for quite some time, that my own mortality has become very real to me. That is natural as one gets older and a near-death experience three years ago, simply made it more real.

People fear death for two reasons (being dead, not the dying which is totally different). It takes away from us the possible pleasures of life. Very few people are anxious to give that up and ‘good health is the slowest possible way to die’. We do not know what happens to us after death. Do we simply cease to exist? Are we recycled? Religions that promote life after death in a better place are a quite popular way of dealing with the unknown.

I am in no hurry to die. While I could be hurled into the abyss any moment by the moving sidewalk of life, I prefer to think of it as 30 years away and need to plan accordingly. One chap said he preferred to die at 107, shot to death by a jealous husband. I do wish him luck. As to being dead, that doesn’t phase me a bit. I was not before I was born and did not worry, and I will not be after I am gone, so I will not worry about that.

Life is finite. The Psalmist said, “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more”. Shakespeare describes it as, “Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more…”. Nabokov is even more blunt, “Common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness”.

The fact that life is indeed finite is a good thing, really. It gives some shape to our life, knowing with have a finite time to live it, we make the best of it we can. I cannot imagine a worse punishment than living forever. Or even with a healthy body and mind, living for 800 years like the Bible says the Patriarchs of old did. Any time between now and 100 is good for me.

The Bible talks about living forever in happiness, singing praises to God, walking on Golden Streets, living in crystal palaces, etc., for all eternity They need to work on their marketing.

The idea of grass appeals to me as someone whose life has been dedicated to the people who raise grass and cattle. Grass is finite yet eternal. Think of grass as far as you can see in every direction. Constantly changing yet ever the same. Individual blades of grass grow and die and more grow in their place. Trees grow in the low spots, rivers and streams run through it. Lightening storms and fires, insects and microorganisms all have their role in the maintenance of the grasslands, as do ruminants which graze it down and don’t come back until it has regrown. Carnivores and herbivores live their life cycles. Clouds scud over head, rains and snow fall, the seasons come and go, the wind constantly stirs the grass. Ever changing yet ever unchanged over the eons. Is this where dogs go when they die?

As luck would have it, I ran into a wonderful article two days ago, referenced below, which confirmed many of my thoughts and greatly clarified others. I recommend it highly.

How not to fear your death.

Without death, life would be nothing but a dire repetition, pointless and endless. Immeasurably long lives would eventually deflate into the most banal tedium. Millennia upon millennia upon millennia would have to be lived out and, even then, there would be an eternity to go. Eventually the most sublime and wondrous experiences possible would become punishing in their drab familiarity. Fortunately, this isn’t a possibility that need concern us too much. But confronting the alternative to death brings home the point – no matter how terrifying it might be, the fact of death makes life more brilliant and precious. The time we have together in this place is fleeting: let’s spend it well.


  1. Make the most of life while we're here!

  2. Deep thoughts, indeed. I guess I'm just weird (as if there was any doubt), but it has always given me great peace and comfort to know that I'll die and everything will go on without me. The mountains will still stand, the ocean waves will still roll in, and whatever is left of me will nourish trees and plants and microorganisms. And I will have no worries, no responsibilities, literally *nothing*, because I will not *be*. It's a lovely thought.

    That said, I'm in no hurry to pop off. I've still got lots of things to do and create and enjoy to the fullest! :-)

  3. Diane, you have described Rest in Peace truly. And may you live as long as you want to and want to as long as you live


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