I think about death. A lot. On any given day, I consciously embrace my existential fate an innumerable amount of times. This usually occurs when I become aware of myself not being or living as I would like to be or live, in the sense that I’m not emulating the potential I would like to see in myself, or enjoying (or when that is not possible, dealing with) the life I have to live. Reminding myself that Death hovers over my shoulders waiting for his time to swoop me from this plane of existence allows me to remember that my time here is limited. And because it is limited, it is precious.
I don’t know why I’m here, if there even exists a why in the first place. I simply know that I am. And because I am, I have things to do. Death motivates me to do these things when I become apathetic and begin to procrastinate on my duties.
Here are five reasons (benefits) as to why I ponder on my death so much, and perhaps why you should too:
We’re going to die. This is a fact. When and how is irrelevant. It doesn’t really matter when and how one dies, because when it occurs, that is that. It’s over and done with.
As much as suppressing death may provide us temporary relief from our suffering, we cannot suppress that reality forever; we will come face to face with it one day.
What does matter however, is the effect of one’s life. When one dies, his life is sealed forever in the history of time; his contributions, deeds, victories, successes, creations become immortalized. This effect occurs when one is alive too, but for some reason, the effect’s influence increases exponentially when an individual passes away. It is this effect on the world which is so important. It is why writers are quoted, philosophies embraced, art admired, science and technology furthered decades after creation; because, as Newton once said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Your life can help lead the way.
It fuels me to be my best self
I’ve described myself before to be a “momentary flicker of light”, like a candle lit in the dense immenseness of the universe. I want to live purely. I want to be a light unto this world. This is a difficult task because doing so requires work. The responsibility to be who I want to be rests solely upon my shoulders. Who will help me become pure but myself?
On some days, anger courses through my veins. On others, depression fills my heart. Today I may be miserable and tomorrow I may feel like giving up, but I will persist. I will persevere. I will continue to try.
I will strive towards perfection, towards excellence, towards purity. I will soothe my anger and fill my heart with faith. I will embrace my misery and use it as fuel to be better tomorrow.
I will master myself, transform myself. Because this world needs this from me, and perhaps more importantly, I deserve this from me.
It reminds me to live
I wrote about death once wherein I realized a very important notion about life. The reason we are so afraid to die (a status quo norm) is because we are so afraid to live.
When one vanquishes his fear of death by fully embracing and coming to terms with his destiny, he ceases to be held back from the “mental prison” he kept himself in for so long.
He is free from his fear of death, and so be embraces his responsibility and freedom to live.
But this responsibility scares most people because we’ve been conditioned to have weak and timid minds. This responsibility can be as scary as death for some people because it means that the life one lives is due to choice. It means we become the authors of our story. It means we shoulder the costs of our investments. It means we are responsible for how we feel. It means, if we suffer, if we fail, if we fall, if we falter, if we cower; all of that is on us. And this terrifies some. This fear is not worth it to them. They would much rather tolerate their suffering than to take responsibility to live.
But I will tell you a mighty secret that may empower you to claim your responsibility for your life. You can become responsible for your happiness, your strength, your meaning and purpose, your peace, your self, your life. It simply (really) requires the decision to do so.
It reminds me to love
My WiFi password is loveislaw. And I would like everyone I bless with the privilege of using it to know it so.
But I am a human being. Some days, I would really like to demolish a paradigm with my fury or regulate someone who talks a little too recklessly. But I don’t. Because loveislaw.
Love is what we and this world needs. Love heals. It transforms things in magical, unexpected ways. If you give 10, love will give you a million. It is our nature. It is fundamental to progress, harmony, compassion, understanding, communion. Love is powerful. It is the force that binds the universe and makes your heart beat. I have seen love at work, and because so, I am on its side. There is a force like no other greater than it. It is a light unto this world. A very necessary one.
Death reminds me to love on the days I feel like hurting. It reminds me that my heart is still beating, and as long as this is so, I have the capacity to change this world.
It reminds me to contribute to this world in some way
I’d like to get you to try an exercise. It’s a kind of meditation designed to cultivate “Metta”, a Pali word for “loving-kindness”, which can be categorized by a compassion for others through love.
Think of someone you love dearly. Imagine them in their most happiest state. Imagine them healed of their hurts. Imagine them overflowing with an abundance of positive, peaceful, loving energy. Do this genuinely and seriously with the belief that this will work; that they will feel more happy, peaceful, loved. See them glowing with a smile on their face.
It is very likely that you feel this energy originating within your own body too. Where does it stem from? I find that mine originates straight from the heart, as if it was a portal, allowing that energy to flow forth from another place, into this world.
My life is dedicated to allowing this energy to flow through from my heart into this world. The way this goes about is numerous: an article I write, a video I make, a piece of advice to a friend in need, a warm smile to a stranger, a sincere hello-how-are-you to a neighbour, a hug to my mother, a thank you to my father, a wish for someone I care deeply about.
I do not live simply for myself. I live for me because I know how liberating that is for the world around me. My life is dedicated to the whole because I am a part of it. I wish nothing but love, life, peace and joy for this world.
I’m going to die someday, and I hope that my life; my contributions, deeds, love, energy, hopes, dreams and all else that emanated from my being helps to inch the world a bit more forward, a bit more upward. Oh, my friend. Life is a beautiful thing. I wish you the most of it.
– Christopher (: <3
Christopher Tan is a writer, film-maker and artist, passionate about self-mastery, enlightenment and world change. He writes regularly at his blog The Art Of Life, spews wisdom daily on Twitter, and enjoys posting his art on Instagram. Subscribe to his blog’s newsletter to get a free book.