Death, an old friend
Immortality is often portrayed as a desirable good. Whether it is the search for the philosopher’s stone, a magical panacea to kill age’s mortal wounds, or a mad scientist’s quest for biomedical immortality gone awry, we are all accustomed to movies, TV shows, books, games and other media that show us the follies and benefits of a pursuit for, ironically, putting an end to death itself.
I will not lie in that the concept of death does scare me. The thought of my beating heart slowly ceasing sends chills up my spine. The thought of all that about things fading to black and entering the last great unknown (other than space) is something that I would prefer to leave as a secret for many years to come; however; despite all the fears that death brings up, death serves an important role for me.
Death is an equalizer for all of humankind. It is an equalizer for all living creatures. To die is, in many ways, tied to being human as, currently, it is an experience that everyone must eventually go through alone. To remove it, seems to me, to remove something that relates all of us together. If we were to simply cure all ailments in life and to defeat death, we would be removing one of two things that connects us all. It might seem strange to want to know what grief and loss and suffering feels like and to fully embrace its raw power over us, but I do think that feeling these emotions are viscerally human. They are reminders of the value of human life and the pressing need to stay present with the moment. These emotions are reminders that bind people together in shared suffering. To know death is to know what drives your life. When all physical and material wealth disappears, where does your heart wish to sit?
For me, death and reminders of death, are reminders to be confronted and fully experienced. They help me remember that the most important parts of my life lie in my relationships. If all of life is suffering, then at least it should be suffering in solidarity with others. All the wealth in the world cannot buy relationships that resonate and compels us to grow. Just as the artist sees limitations as a source of great frustrations but also the source of ultimate creativity, so is death the muse and the compass of my life.