1. Don’t Worry About Death

I can honestly say that right now, I don’t worry all that much about dying. I don’t fear what is, or isn’t, to come. I thank my parents, and their introduction to their parents’ religion, but an otherwise free-thinking non-religious upbringing. Although of course soaked in that Protestant idea of work as a holy thing, their point of view was “let them draw their own conclusions” – a logical perspective for an engineer and a biologist. I often felt that the holy trinity of our house, rather than the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, was Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Henry Ford. For some time now, probably first felt instinctively when I was around 10 or 11, but definitely reinforced after taking a hit of acid and then subsequently reading Ram Dass’ Be Here Now in the hours after receiving news of my father’s death in 1993 (at age 28), I’ve believed that we are after all merely energy borrowed that must at some point be returned. I do worry over those I leave behind: how will their needs be met, how will they cope with any grief over my absence, is what I leave behind the best possible representation of what I have been? Of course, others’ happiness and peace of mind is ultimately not my responsibility. There is little I can do, especially after I’m gone, to ensure that those I love continue to seek and find happiness and peace rather than sadness and strife. While I don’t fear death per se, I do fear becoming a burden on anyone in that period preceding my departure. That I would need someone else to tend to my care and feeding, like a pathetic zoo animal, causes me continual worry. Not enough worry, however, to look to my physical care to a greater degree or attempt in any serious way to that deterioration.

There are have been periods in my life where I seriously considered signing out prematurely. Which raises, of course, an interesting question: what does it mean “to die too young”. You expire exactly at the time you expire, not a moment later or sooner. So much of “if only they had lived longer” sentimentality is nothing but greed. We want more art, more sacrifice, more for us, out of the life in question. I rarely see this idea suggesting that the extra time is desired to allow us to give more to the person we miss.

The years 15-18 were especially trying for me. Likewise, a later interval between 22-25 was also difficult. I think part of the problem was, as is often the case, that I really didn’t have anyone’s problems other than my own to occupy my time. In those years I was single and really didn’t have close friends. Isolation, I think, more than any other factor, contributes to depression and hopelessness. Of course on the flip side, I find social immersion with people with whom I find no common ground, no shared interests, equally as oppressive.

But a death wish, or desire to stop living, is NOT the same as boredom, and certainly not temporal hopelessness or that sense of simply being overwhelmed. I think focusing on one’s hopelessness is worrying about your life, not your death. After all, depending on your spiritual bent (and the strength of those convictions), death is either an end, an upgrade, or a detention.

 

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