Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dying to Live

'The irony of man's condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.'- Ernest Becker

The complexity of our individual lives is as surprising as the interplay between us. We can play it like a song, a Shakespearean dramedy or even a movie. We can write our happiness, tragedies, achievements; even our jealousies and rage. Sometimes we are scripted, other times we ad lib. Most times we play a character that isn’t a representation of our true selves.

If we’re lucky, we grace this earth for about seventy years; the ancient biblical threescore and ten. Some of us manage to live past a century while others tragically fall during what should be the most prolific years of their lives. One thing is certain. We, most of us, are not aware of the hour at which we shall obtain our demise.

We only get one shot at living; a single passport at life. Some will swear that by fortune or by the grace of God, they have been given more than one chance at life. It is these who are most appreciative of life thereafter. They are the ones who grab the opportunity to live.

What would you do if you were given the chance to experience death and return to tell the stories? Many claim that they already have. Their near death experiences (NDEs) are tales of happiness and terror, confusion and disbelief. They all agree that there is some sort of life after our term expires here on earth. How then, do we rationalize our living? After all, no one has died and live to tell the tale! I believe that we must live to be happy.

Ill health transports us to a place that most of us choose not to visit. It unleashes upon our repressed souls the notion of our mortality. Having yet to extract the elixir that will grant us life ad infinitum, we grapple with the reality that one day we shall rejoin the soil from which we were first extracted. We shall become nothing more than the carbon, proteins and dust that formed our structure. We will no longer be sentient beings, if indeed, we were in the first place. Our veins shall run dry and, for the vast majority, the memories of our existences will crumble faster than the bones in our graves.

Happiness is defined by one’s own personal derivation of it. It is not universal in its attainment. It isn’t a do-as-you-please exercise. But true happiness can only be achieved when one is honest with oneself and can then charter a course in life toward successfully achieving it. For some, it will be a short, clear course, while others will navigate choppy waters. In the end, if you find the way to live every day as though it was your last, then you have done better than the most successful academic, sportsman or stockbroker.

Obstacles such as health may serve to detract. It is especially so if you have managed to initially overcome these woes. It is a torture because you think that every pain or strain may be an indication that your condition is returning or worsening. You live in perennial fear that you may once again have to face challenges that you never envisioned. You think that you cannot face another round of scourging. You think of the worst outcomes even before a proper diagnosis is made. You spend weeks pondering the results of the latest scans or bloods. I know you. I was you.

Don’t for one minute allow it to overcome you. I have come to realize now that regardless of the state of things around or within us, we must ensure that we live life fully. It is surely easier said than done, but the crux is that we live our lives until we die. To wallow and mope unnecessarily in the misgivings of our current realities is to allow death to have a premature stranglehold on our souls.

You can hope for a better reality post mortem, or you can simply ensure that the one life that you are certain exists, is justly served with the maximum amount of life due to it. And if, perchance you find happiness along the way, then does it really matter if there is a life hereafter? After all, once we are born we only hold a one way ticket to death.

April 12th, 2007

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