There have been a number of times in my life when the notion of contemplating death has come up. To be clear, this is not the same thing as contemplating suicide. It is about the natural course of all lives ending in death. It is about the great cycles of seasons, of iceage and hot house. Those things exist as part of ambiance or background of life, something there but which we mostly avoid talking about or thinking about.
I have found great value in contemplating death as a meditative practice. I think it can have value for many other people. I’m saying there is great value in death itself. I really don’t know. I am saying there is a great value in contemplation of death.
People have near brushes death from time to time, others get diagnosed with terminal illness. And often those people completely turn their lives around and start living the lives they have wanted to live with a great sense of what is important and what is not.
The ancient Greeks including Socrates and the Stoics advocated a meditation on death. The Taoists ask that we contemplate the turmoil of beings and their return (death).
“There’s one thing that’s for certain
One chord that rings true
Well it’s a mighty world we live in
But the truth is we’re only passin’ thru”
Scruggs – Passin’ Thru
So, you might ask, what benefit can possible come of contemplating death? Isn’t just the road to depression?
For me, in some indirect manner, it has greatly diminished my attachment to convention and the sense of shame that I am what I am. It has lessened my need of possessions or prestige. Those things are such distractions that being free of them is precious. It enables me to have a far greater measure of control over the direction of my life.
The boundary of life and death exists. My possessions, my prestige, my suffering and my poverty all stay behind. I am truly just passing through. From that perspective, it makes little sense to spend a great deal of effort on ‘stuff’ or even being ‘somebody.’ And even though the TV might demand that, at all costs, I avoid “embarrassing static cling”, I just don’t give a shit and I am beyond such shallow manipulation.
I can reach a state where I just don’t care about all sorts of the trappings of wealth or power. They seem like illusions worth all most nothing in the great scheme of things.
All I need to do, is consider the idea of passin’ thru. This idea can easily take root because it is a fundamental truth. And once it has done so, it will change your life for the better.