Death has been a running theme in my life, and that has been a reminder enough that death is inevitable. Just like how a doctor is desentisized to sickness and death, I too have been desensitized to the specter of death. This largely is due to the LTTE conflict and JVP insurgence that Generation X grew up in.
This blog post may come across as being quite morbid and despondent, but it doesn’t have to be. Life and everything that it entails is based on perception. Just like how happiness is a decision, you have the choice of choosing your perception.
Our minds alone can defeat the fear of death. It is what we have been taught since childhood that makes us fear the grin of The Grim Reaper. I have a serious bone to pick with monotheism. Death and fear of it was always central to our lives. Such was the fear death commanded, we ended up not living. The irony being we were dead to the world with no drive, ambition or creative spark. Life was spent preparing for the afterlife completely ignorant of the fact that we are just animals and like animals we too will die. Remember this — We’re just another statistic. And this is something that should be liberating.
I’m writing this post as a reminder to myself that just like Thanos, death is inevitable and very necessary. I will reference The Buddha at this juncture — Life is impermanent, and we are nothing, and nothingness is the best thing we can embrace. I think the real reason I chose to write about death is because of how I was forced to deal with it when my mother passed. It was a traumatic time and dealing with it was hard. I hope this post shifts the perception of death and how it is a necessary end to a life that can and should be fulfilling based on the decisions you actively make.
My Mother Died Of Cancer
It took the death of a celebrity for the conversation of colon cancer to make its way to the mainstream. That’s just how the world works; importance and value is allocated to those who are rich and famous. Accept it. It is reality.
There’s nothing peaceful about passing onto the next life. It is painful, eerie, traumatizing and excruciating. The idea that you die peacefully in your sleep is, I feel, a lie. Your last breath is your last defiance of the inevitable. You’re suffocating with plenty of air around you. This idea that you slip into the arms of some angel is fantastical. No one is there to document the struggle for breath as major organs shut down.
Don’t romanticize death. Romanticizing is that act from the 1800s with its fantastical stories (created by us) to soften the last uppercut dealt by death. I can’t encapsulate the trauma of looking after a dying mother, watching her suffer, and leaving this life with a strained breath as I held her hand. Instead I can write a book or two. Either way as much as it was a terrible time for me, I found meaning in looking after her. It took some time, but I accepted that day of separation.
From an objective point of view, dealing with death was hard because of the lies perpetuated by monotheism. What is religion but just another story to keep questions under lock and key, and wrapped up in a veil of fantasy about heaven and hell.
We are just animals, and just like animals we will die. And it is this thought that is liberating for me. Parking those nebulous tales of life after death at the entrance of your ears, and living your life to the fullest instead is liberation. Period.
I Too Might Die Of Cancer
The statistics are clear. Those who have a family history of cancer have a higher chance of dying of cancer. This is a fact. Colon cancer is one of the most common inherited cancer syndromes known. Among the genes found to be involved in colorectal cancer are: MSH2 and MSH6 both on chromosome 2 and MLH1, on chromosome 3. I possibly have them.
Normally, the protein products of these genes help to repair mistakes made in DNA replication. As many as 1 in 3 people who develop colorectal cancer have other family members who have had it. People with a history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) are at increased risk. In life, you need to deal with the cards that have been dealt to you.
Here’s Why I’m Okay With That
I’m okay with it because it is reality. We all got to go someday, and the best way to go is having lived by doing what you want in life. I’m also okay with this reality because there is nothing called immortality and there’s no other option. To understand this better, consider this poem, which is about the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II. Life is built up of memories and moments, and what you have today is fleeting at best. In other words, enjoy life while you can. That is all you can do. Maybe it’s a defeatist attitude to have, but, in reality, it is just a case of self admission. I’ve had the fortune of studying existentialism during my London A’Levels, and Jean-Paul Sartre is an excellent focus of enlightenment when it comes to understanding life and death.
How I View Death
Grin evilly at death and you’re assured of an evil grin back. I’m firmly placed in a culture that believes in its fair share of demons and devils. But the fear of death took on greater importance at church. I viewed death with paralyzing fear, and there’s still pinches of dread that present themselves every time I read a Stephen King novel or watch some morbid Netflix flick.
Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.
The above quote by Nietzsche is one that I admire. It is more relevant to the example of someone who fights evil and ends up being evil. I guess you could, in one sense, end up talking about death in this manner, too. Death is inevitable, and it can change you for the worse. Instead of letting our cultural and religious beliefs dictate how we should fear it, simply accept it for what it is — an eventuality.
Until Death This Is How I Will Live
It is best to approach life from a position of blissful ignorance as opposed to arrogance. This isn’t wholly true. What is true and better is knowing your predicament and dealing with it. Carl Jung gives the best advice on how to live. Just be prepared for the next adventure after death, which most probably is a state of nothingness. But, we humans live on hope, and don’t want this existence to end. There’s a fantastic line from this article that resonates with me: Facing death might allow us to feel more accepting and grateful for being alive.
Life expectancy has increased throughout the last few decades, and that’s great, and yet we are constantly reminded that death is inevitable. Modern healthcare has pushed the boundaries of discovery and have created panaceas for most illnesses, and the aspect of health is a personal decision you can make today.
Life is fantastic in itself, and it is we who are trying to make this a terrible situation all by ourselves. There is so much to enjoy and experience in life and that is great.
“Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.”
Another quote I appreciate by Nietzsche is highlighted above. We may be surrounded by darkness, but there is still a sense of beauty in the mundane and in the dark side of things. Seeing reality is comforting, and one way to do it is practicing mindfulness or Vipassana meditation. Death is inevitable, but so too is life, and this is something that should be embraced fully. The meaning to life is to make it less meaningless. This is what we all must do. We need to find our own meaning whatever it is.
Firstly, let’s define Envy and Jealousy. Jealousy is different from envy in that envy covets what others have, while jealousy is the fear that what you have, or may have, will be taken away. We view the world as a place where we must fight to get what limited resources there are before they are gone.
We’ve all been there — that insidious purgatory of ill where we are green with envy. Maybe it’s inherent within us or maybe it’s a result of the influences around us. With that thread of thought leading away, let’s look to a Jungian idea for explanation — We are all at war with our own evilness.
It’s true that we have cosseted within the deep and dark recesses of the privacy of our hearts terrible feelings and intentions. I wrote about how we are often the authors of our own destruction. This is largely true. This topic has been discussed over and over again with well-meaning friends until such thoughts have dissolved into bottles of whiskey and arrack throughout the years.
“All of our lives are too unique to copy the path from someone else”.
Master Shi Heng Yi
Surely there’s a salve for this pain we choose to put ourselves through, yes? Maybe the answer lies in knowing ourselves and the way our mind functions so that we can perhaps condition ourselves to react and feel differently. At times you have to wonder if solitude is the ONLY way to know yourself. Other people influence you and shape your character to fit theirs to help their gain. There are very few genuine people in this world but if you find one keep them.
The above paragraph is an attempt at urging you not to keep bad company. Bad company leads to bad habits. Being envious of others may possibly be something that’s learned. Or, could it just be biological?
We are animals just like our relatives the chimpanzees — a bundle of neurons, flesh and bone with an ocean of thoughts and emotions stitching our personalities together. Part of such personalities are the cocktail of hormones that make us feel. A new study carried out at the University of Haifa has found that the hormone oxytocin, the “love hormone,” which affects behaviors such as trust, empathy and generosity, also affects opposite behaviors, such as jealousy and gloating.
The hormone is an overall trigger for social sentiments: when the person’s association is positive, oxytocin bolsters pro-social behaviors; when the association is negative, the hormone increases negative sentiments.
This possibly could be an avenue to hack your biology so that you come out of this internal battle unscathed. Consider mindful meditation, which would be an excellent antidote to those evil proclivities that stand in deep thought within us.
Jordan Peterson has a great solution which is to nurse your feelings of envy to fuel your ambition. This is a thought that speaks volumes. One aspect that he mentions hit a nerve at one instance, and that is that you have no idea of the terrible life the person in the Ferrari is having.
Our brains have this insidious way of leading us down to a path of taking actions that could be illustrated as being self-sabotage. Comparing yourself to who you were yesterday is a better stab at maintaining your mental wellness that coveting the materialistic illusion crafted by social media influencers and the like.
Stoicism probably has an answer when it comes to dealing with envy. I’m sure at one time or the other you would have woken up at some liminal hour wondering — Is there life after death? No one knows the answer while you were probably trying to unravel that tangled skein of confused beaded thoughts.
History unravels the tale of how Roman slaves whispered Memento Mori — remember that you must die — to their commanders en route to war. Who would have thought that one verbal phrase uttered in a quasi-whisper would be a stark reminder that one must not be consumed by hubris, and that one must have your feet firmly on the ground.
I view this Latin phrase as a reminder not to waste time. Why waste time when life is short? Why make it shorter by coveting an imperfect life that is not yours? The Stoics used death as a sort of compass towards life, guiding them towards what really mattered to them. In other words, use this reminder to un-worry about other people’s lives and to start living one that is solely meant to be yours.
Envy is a complex, socially repugnant emotion made up of a mix of inferiority feelings, hostility, and resentment. Maybe it’s not a bad deal after all — to be envious. There is such a thing called Positive Envy where you can use these feelings of green to better yourself. We humans are complicated entities. While one emotion can lead to a state of disrepair, we could flip that same emotion on its head to achieve something positive, and maybe — spectacular.