Philosophy

On Death and the Shortness of Life

My father passed away in 2012. I have never gone on record to say this. In fact, a lot of my close friends who did not know me at that period in my life may not actually know about this. I never bring it up, and even if someone asks about my parents, I just say that they live in India (I live in NYC), and that is the end of the conversation. In reality, it took me 7 years to fully accept it, and now I am less hesitant to talk about it.

My father’s death has had the single biggest impact on my life so far. Seeing death so close to me made me realize the shortness of life, and pushed me to enhance my life in the ways I want to live it. In some ways, it made me more awake and alive to chart the path I want to tread on. It made me realize the urgency with which I should be crafting my life my way. It’s easy to lose this intensity as life goes on, but as soon as I look at my Dad’s picture on my window sill, I am reminded of my purpose again. Even so, it’s difficult to put into practice many times.

The reason I’m prompted to write this post is because I just heard the news of my uncle’s death. I couldn’t stop crying for a bit, but then I felt a strong urge to write this to remind myself and others of the brevity of life. While I’m writing this as a means to cope with the news, I also want to tell people (including myself) that death can come anytime, so please live your life with a sense of urgency. Live it with some purpose. Don’t let your life be hollow. I don’t have well-written thoughts on how to do it, so I’m going to quote the best source (Robert Greene) that I read from time to time on this subject.

“When we unconsciously disconnect ourselves from the awareness of death, we forge a particular relationship to time – one that is rather loose and distended. We come to imagine that we always have more time than is the reality. We must think of our mortality as a kind of continual deadline. We must stop fooling ourselves: we could die tomorrow, and even if we live for another eighty years, it is but a drop in the ocean of the vastness of time, and it passes always more quickly than we imagine. We have to awaken to this reality and make it a continual meditation.

Let the awareness of the shortness of life clarify our daily actions. We have goals to reach, projects to get done, relationships to improve. This could be our last such project, our last battle on Earth, given the uncertainties of life, and we must commit completely to what we do. With this continual awareness we can see what really matters, how petty squabbles and side pursuits are irritating distractions. We want that sense of fulfillment that comes from getting things done. We want to lose the ego in that feeling of flow, in which our minds are at one with what we are working on.

In the end, think of this philosophy in the following terms: Since the beginning of human consciousness, our awareness of death has terrified us. This terror has shaped our beliefs, our religion, our institutions, and so much of our behavior in ways we cannot see or understand. We humans have become slaves to our fears and our evasions.

When we turn this around, becoming more aware of our mortality, we experience a taste of true freedom. We no longer feel the need to restrict what we think and do, in order to make life predictable. We can be more daring without feeling afraid of the consequences. We can cut loose from all the illusions and addictions that we employ to numb our anxiety. We can commit fully to our work, to our relationships, to all our actions. And once we experience some of this freedom, we will want to explore further and expand our possibilities as far as time will allow us.”

There are not too many people who read my blog and this was penned down rather quickly, but I will be glad if this message makes even a few people live their lives with more vigor, energy and fearlessness.

2 thoughts on “On Death and the Shortness of Life”

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