On death


When melancholy, sadness and despair conquer our spirit the threat of death becomes less intimidating to a point that we sometimes see death as an ally – a liberator to our suffering. On the other side of the spectrum, when we are merry, invigorated and hopeful death appears with a different mask – it is an interruption to our joy, it is a usurper to our happiness. The same event takes on two (perhaps more?) different appearances, it is relative to our disposition.

When speaking abstractly we can assume and dictate the effects that death will impress on us. But for anyone that has come close to falling into that tenebrous black hole will readily admit that there are no principles by which we can predict our reaction in such a frightful encounter. Sad or happy we can panic under the threat of death, happy or sad we can receive it gratefully. Only our last moment will tell.

Death is inevitable and whether we have given it any consideration we must eventually face it – unfailingly. Some consider, like Plato’s Socrates, that philosophy is a preparation for death and with its aid one might regulate the attacks of fear and panic that are commonly associated with death. To be honest I don’t think philosophy is enough to vanquish the instincts of our physical organism – something greater and stronger than rationality is needed to subjugate our most ingrained fears.

Death will sweep us all with equal force,

“…it is too late to be wise, that in any case it would serve no purpose,

for the same abyss will engulf us all, wise and foolish alike, sane and mad…”


The thought and speculation of death cannot dominate us otherwise we would never leave our beds in dismay of the unpredictable and unknown external world. But we must become accustomed to the fact that we must one day leave this inexplicable world, our possessions will cease to belong to us, our life only a faint memory in those that were near us. This is the most difficult task in our lives: to surrender our life – submit it to the unknown.

Paradoxically death has more hold of us when we live than when we have perished. There is so much tension and energy spent in conserving our possessions, our opinions and ideals, our friends and lovers; securing them from the forces that will take them away from us that we are beaten and exhausted in the battle to retain what is dear to us. All this expenditure of energy, all this effort is our refusal to acknowledge the possibility that things are not in our control and that these things will perish as certainly as we will. This struggle makes us live defensively, always on the guard against what we don’t expect, against the threat of what will dissolve the forms of life we’ve become attached to.

Has any remedy been suggested to counterattack this tendency of being attached to things? Let each one of us find his/her own answer. I’m only tempted to share a thought that has come of late:

We will find LIFE when we can let go of life.

When we stop resisting the impetus of Nature towards change and re-form, admitting that ever-flowing stream of variations, and in abandoning our frenetic attempt to seize the flux – we might be able to make that leap into the chaotic Unknown and discover that death is not reserved only for the end of this journey. We experience death each day – every second as the present trickles away from our grasp and a new and infant reality is presented to us perpetually – we continually enter a terra incognita insofar as we leave the carcass of the Known that is buried buried in the graveyard of the past.

One thought on “On death

  1. The perception of death will change with the circumstances. And there are so many.
    Illnes, for example, can throw you from one extreme to another, from dispear to comfort.
    You said: “Paradoxically death has more hold of us when we live than when we have perished.”, but considering this text from a philosopher’s point of view, it should only have meaning when we live, because afterwords it couldn’t matter. “Preparation for death” seams like you are preparing for a journey, when in fact it is only an ending. No matter if you face it proud, if you are scarred “to death”, if it releases you from pain or if it takes you by surrprise, the one moment you pass from consciousness to nothing will have passed and there it ends.
    The certitude of death is the greatest fear man has ever encountered that is why so many “stories” have been woven arrount it. Nevermind death, is just a step, how about what is behind it?, there must be something…
    The clossest we will be to facing death more or less peacefully is when our self-preservation instincts are the lowest (i.e. when we are very young – child), the more you learn about life, the more you see death arround you, the harder it will be.
    The society living man will keep his material things, his frinds and loved ones near him, will fight for them and spend as much energy on this struggle as he is able to in order to keep them the way they are and/or to improve them as much as possible, gladly, this beeing one of his purposes. And although he knows death will take us all, disregardless of our social or other status, he will bring offsprings to the world to meet the same faith. So you see, even though all of the things you owened will no longer be yours, by having a child yo will still have something to “prolong your existence with”.

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