Life and death share a perennial congruence for if life is to shine it’s shadowed must be death. The classic Grim Reaper, dark, enigmatic, incongruously timed, indicates the association imprinted on Western society by death. In nearly every religious tradition the concept of an afterlife is an integral part of doctrine, suggesting an enduring desire to make sense of the inscrutable and believe our existence will extend past it’s corporal demise.
Within Western societies a disassociation with death has encircled it with fear. Mortality is obscured in hospitals, farms and factories, and 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 termed in 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 West. 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 there, 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 in authenticity and attempt discovery your true 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 and electing not to rotate will see one increasingly at odds with nature, this planet’s reflection of the cosmos. 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 and remain 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 in 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 and ultimate 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 and in pondering 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