We ponder, we meditate, we consider, we reason, we figure, we contemplate, we envisage, we cogitate, we deliberate with ourselves but the only time people really think about death and eternity is at funerals; and even then, it is often shallow sentimental thinking based on ignorance.
It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet never to wake up; and yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down through the air and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.
We sit or stand there staring at the coffin trying to imagine how the person in there looks like for those who did not view the body at the morgue mostly out of fear. Fear that death might come for us in the form of nightmares after the sun goes down the crispy meadows. Fear that death in his invisibility cloak will sneak up on you after getting bored of running, flapping his arms and shrieking at you. For those who did, you sit there filled with fear that one day it will be you on the other side of the veil and that scares the shit out you and everyone else. You sit there wishing that it shouldn’t have happened in your time but so does everyone else who has lived to see such times. But that is not for any of us to decide, is it? All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.-Mark Twain
Fear continues to fuel that sentimental thinking and I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever treacherous adversary. It has no decency, respects no law or convention and shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always, so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it because if you don’t, and your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.
You may feel its morbid to think about death, but it is unhealthy to live in denial of death and not consider what is inevitable. We need to think more about death and eternity. Just as the 9 months we spent in our mothers’ wombs were not an end but preparation for life, this life too is a preparation for the next. It is unfortunate that people fear death even more than they fear pain. It’s strange that we fear death and yet life hurts more than death and at the point of death, the pain is over.
We gather there, not so much out of concern for the dead or their mourning families but out of a subconscious fear of whether our funerals will be as highly attended. Donning our religious cloaks, we sit there, listening silently but distantly to the sermon that there is life beyond death. It sounds philosophical as it is encouraging and scaring. We cannot comprehend how that is but we choose to believe it anyway for philosophy is just the questions that cannot be answered and religion the answers that cannot be questioned. But it is the questions that we cannot answer that teach us the most, is it not? They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers.
Measured against eternity, our life on earth is just a blink of an eye but its consequences will last forever. The deeds of this life determine the destiny of the next. It ought to be the business of everyday to prepare for our final day. Why? Because there will come a time when all of us are dead. There will come a time when there will be no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Socrates, Aristotle or Plato let alone you. Everything that we did and built, amassed, thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon or maybe its millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was a time before organisms experienced consciousness and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.
To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.-J.K Rowling
We are alone. Born alone and die alone and we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely, but essentially and finally alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness. Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a ride?”
But to live that passionate a life, you must be motivated and there are two basic motivating forces; fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.
We might fear death but we have deeper underlying fears. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate to handle death or other shortcomings in life. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, to leave a mark, talented, to be the best, fabulous, to have fun, famous, to live life?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. So do not hold back.
I write this as a tribute to my great uncle,the late Chef Peter Ruoro Gakonya. You led a great life doing what you loved and following your dreams wherever they took you. You showed us, with few words and more actions, that we could become whatever we aspire to be in this life if we believe in the beauty of our dreams and are determined to work hard for it. Your work and influence will continue to touch the souls of many, family and friends alike even after you are gone. You will be dearly missed. May your soul rest in eternal peace. Amen.
©Cooper Jose Njoroge (The Philosopher King)