There is perennial congruence between life and death; for there to be life it must be shadowed by death, for there to be death there once must be life. The Grim Reaper’s classical depiction indicates the impression people have recurrently associated with death; dark, enigmatic and incongruously timed, the Reaper doesn’t require words to make its presence felt. In nearly every religious tradition the concept of an afterlife is integral, indicating an enduring desire to make sense of the inscrutable and believe our existence will extend past its corporal demise.
Within Western societies a disassociation with death has encircled it with fear; mortality obscured by hospitals, farms and factories, our comfortable reality often cultivates a juvenile mentality towards life’s transience. Humans, like all creatures, are nature’s temporary manifestation and must inevitably die to keep the process flowing, but is there an essence within us continuing after the body has disintegrated? Does our entity return to the pre-birth realm?
Remember Your Fate
As we are consummated our DNA signs a contract, ‘In order for this being to have life, they must inevitably be sacrificed in death’. Although there are severe implications associated with the contract, it can also be helpful to appreciate life’s brevity and commit to making it more than bourgeois. The cosmos is kept eternally fresh through the commencing and ceasing of cycles, time the catalyst ushering novel moments into reality. By developing an understanding of these cycles (human life cycle, 7-year cycle, seasonal cycle) and the different phases they function within, one can grasp their transitory position in the human experience.
With death seen as life’s grave dissenter, the reverence towards one’s fate has slowly faded in the western world. In neglecting the necessity of death, individuals have also become indignant towards misfortune befalling their daily routine. To help realign with the reality of life two admirable maxims should be contemplated: Amor Fati and Memento Mori.
Amor Fati, love of fate, promotes the acceptance of whatever occurs in our lives as essential to our being; whether good or bad, every encounter is necessary to define the person we will become. Amor Fati highlights how everything befalling our path is meant to be, believing nothing is without purpose because everything will shape the totality of life’s experience.
Memento Mori, remember you will die, implores us to consider the fleetingness of all worldly pursuits and our impermanence, acting towards the benefit of the immortal soul. In appreciating the fate of all beings, we can learn to graciously confront the eventual termination of our earthly state.
To Not Merely Live
If we’re all destined to die, would it not be auspicious to live authentically and attempt to discover your being? Socrates famously stated, “The unexamined life is a life not worth living”, the soul has been granted a flesh puppet and it would be wise to not merely live but explore existence. Change is what keeps the cycles in motion, electing not to rotate will see one increasingly at odds with nature. With insufficient change thoughts become stagnated, accumulating algae the mind’s waters pollute and reality’s observation turns murky.
With limited rumination of death people often cast aside morality in the purist of material, hoarding excessively to exhibit primacy in the tangible world. Possessions will ultimately be stripped away, yet, acts of altruism barrow deep into the soul, remaining long after the body decays; as Marcus Aurelius spoke, “The only wealth which you will keep forever is the wealth you have given away.” For all humans the aim of existence should be to leave the earth better than when they arrived. In doing so, one will be ready to welcome death as an old friend, if not, they will fear mortality and clutch to anything denoting permanence to their fading composition.
The cycle of the soul proceeding death is an impenetrable mystery, however, examining the body’s decomposition, one may postulate the soul to act somewhat analogously, slowly returning to its prebiotic state and coalescing with the cosmos in its original form.
The sweet irony of life is that we all live to die; be it atom, plant, animal or person, every organism arriving on earth is destined to walk through the valley of death. Accepting one’s fate is essential to living a meaningful life, in Memento Mori, we attain cognizance to act for the soul and not purely for bodily desires. From the uniqueness of individuality, perhaps everyone will transcend into the ubiquitous all, suspended in dormancy and existing in intangible life.
Image Source: Volcom, 2001