Death Isn’t After Life; It’s Inseparable From Life
By Martin LeFevre
On the day after the deluge – an “atmospheric river” that dumped more water on northern California than any storm in recorded history – the parkland was a wondrous mess. A big oak, its broken, horizontal trunk looking like a bundle of daggers, had fallen across the main path. Amazingly however, most of the foliage, which had begun to turn before the storm, remained on the trees, though the paths were strewn with detritus. What makes a dying leaf cling to a tree even when it is nearly drained of life, its chlorophyll-production gone, evidenced by the yellows and reds? The greatest paradox is that death is an inextricable part of life, yet every insect and even every plant will fight to live as long as there is any life left in them. We humans are no different, except that we separate death from life. It is deeply dismaying to hear an Anglican priest say: “I hate death. I have never made my peace with it and I never will. I don’t want to live in a world where everything good suddenly ends.” To hate death is to hate life. During mystical experiencing, one realizes it’s just the opposite — everything good comes from death. Not death as the countless tragedies of human life, whether from war or lives wasted in self-pursuit. Or even death as the cycle of life and death. Rather, death that is the ground of creation itself. In deeper states of meditation, one fearlessly comes into direct contact with death. It’s not an act of courage, or standing firm “against the dying of the light.” It feels completely natural, as natural as breathing itself. Death is the light, as strange as that sounds. That’s why when one is in communion with death in every breath, one feels: ‘I could die happily at this moment.’ I don’t know if I’ll feel that way when I’m physically expiring, but as others have said, living is a matter of practicing for death by making a friend of death while fully alive. That’s why it’s a kind of blasphemy to say, “I have never made my peace with death and I never will.” In truth, the direct experiencing of the actuality of death is peace. And without ever allowing oneself to feel the actuality of death, which is occurring inside and outside the body every moment, one can never truly know peace. “There is something deep within us that rejects the idea that the road just stops,” the Anglican priest intones. “We feel there must be more. We must be made for more: more conversations, more laughter, more breaths to take, more miles to walk along the trail.” The desire for ‘more’ is nothing but spiritual greed. We are indeed made for something more, but in a completely different sense. We are made to transcend death. So it’s sadly absurd to say, “Death, for all of us, is the journey interrupted.” When one ends the lamentable continuity of thought, one sees there is nothing to fear in death. It’s been said, “reincarnation is a fact, but not the truth.” That means it happens, but it isn’t the point of life, or death. The point of life is to complete the journey while full alive, so there is no need to reincarnate. We return because we haven’t learned, haven’t completed our journey. Then we may incarnate, rather than reincarnate.A priest trained for months to walk the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile path that has been a religious pilgrimage since around the 10th century. He died before he could take the first step. “It feels to me like something went wrong,” his friend said. As he was dying, she mourns, “He can’t die. He’d made plans. He had so much left to do.” As the saying goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. The tragedy is not that the priest’s journey was interrupted. The tragic-comedy is that priests should be so ignorant of the central fact of life, which is death. For most people, death makes no sense. But for me, death is the only thing that totally does. Death comes to all of us, so why put if off until the end? Don’t get me wrong, I want to live as long and healthily as I can, like every living thing. But as a human being, it’s unfitting to fear, much less hate death. A ‘good death’ is not what happens with our last breath. A good death means ending the ultimate duality of thought — between life and death — and dying every day while fully alive. If one truly transcends death while fully alive, what is death when one physically expires? Is it a timeless state of awareness, without physical form?The above writer, Martin LeFevre, is a contemplative, philosopher and writer in northern California. His "Meditations" explore and offer insights on spiritual, philosophical and political questions in the global society. LeFevre's philosophical thesis proposes a new theory of human nature. He welcomes dialogue. firstname.lastname@example.org
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Martin LeFevre, a contemplative, philosopher and writer in northern California, serves as a contributing writer for The Seoul Times. His "Meditations" explore and offer insights on spiritual, philosophical and political questions in the global society. LeFevre's philosophical thesis proposes a new theory of human nature. He welcomes dialogue. email@example.com