My friend Serdar chews over the issue of coping with death and that some people discuss death as a “change of form” for the sake of comfort. That’s something I’ve considered, much as he does, from the various Buddhist points of view.
As Pynchon notes, we’re made to be immortal and we die, it’s really kind of strange to us. We can vaguely conceive of a forever we don’t get, and face the inevitables on the road of life: old age, sickness, and death. It’s in our media, from Walter White discovering nothing is permanent to a young Bruce Wayne facing the brutality of death. I think we’re weirdly fascinated by death because of the icky, sticky, inevitable quality.
In many Buddhist teachings, from which I’ve learned much, one may be further stymied by both talk of reincarnation and of the fact there is no permanent self, of the importance of morality in an ever changing world. What seems to be paradox in one way, I think, is a a sign that we’re happy by reconciling things – the Middle Path, as it were.
We’re going to die. It’s inevitable. We know it early on and we fight it until our dying day. Everything dies – and we know this.
At the same time, we change. We’re always dying. The child you were twenty years ago is as gone as you will be when you’re put in the grave. Death is just The Big Change on top of a life of change.
When we look at that change that’s always happening, we find we’re really fuzzy around the edges. Where “I” begin and end, who “I” am isn’t that well defined. Defined enough to discuss and to be, but still a bit fuzzy.
We’re aware of how we became the way we are, and vaguely aware of how our actions have repercussions – in short, how they live on after us. We’re not some little man holed up in a castle in our heads – everything, everything we do has an effect. The term “Projected Karma” – that which forms – seems quite an apt term for it.
We’re always changing and always making changes yet have this sense of “I”. We’re incredible fragile and yet we can have huge repercussions with a single action.
I find that the more we look into the fact we are impermanent creatures who are always leaving their mark on the world, one can find a peaceful reconciliation in our own humanity. We don’t have to take ourselves so seriously, and in turn we can live our lives because what we have now is valuable; with our barriers down we can also find our social instincts to be more satisfying and find some sanity among people. We also can take responsibility for our actions, live consciously, knowing that we’re choosing the results to come from what we do. We can really live, even if we don’t like all of what’s going on and how it’s going to end.
Contemplating our own, inevitable death is troublesome and raises many paradoxes – but exploring paradoxes helps us resolve them.
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.