Thursday, March 5, 2015

An Excerpt

...from a post that makes a lot of sense to me.

"...I think much of our fear ironically comes from not accepting the inherent insecurity of our existence. Society tells us the lie that we can create security, that it should in fact be our life’s work.

We buy into this mindset but secretly try to also comprehend that “one day” when all will be taken away from us – even our very consciousness itself. Something in the limited human mind might think we can hide from it, outsmart it, out-save it, out-eat or out-exercise it. I see how our health efforts as well as other “sensible” choices can obscure a desperate denial of mortality. We think if we just do certain things we’ll be kept safe for a little while longer. We’ll stave off the inevitable if we just do everything “right” to keep ourselves perfectly well and secure.

Yet, I don’t choose to live the way I do in order to be perfect or safe. I occasionally make compromises for things I really want to eat. I do “unsafe” (not the same as foolhardy) things all the time. Exiting a helicopter to snowboard a more amazing mountain, I’ll acknowledge, isn’t playing it safe. While I trust my own skill and limits, I also know that to a certain extent I’m taking my life in my hands when I do that. Yet, I have always been drawn to risk. It’s in my fiber. I think it’s part of all of us and what has moved humanity forward in its evolution. (I recognize at the same time that other people’s version of desirable, satisfying risk looks much different than mine.)

A full life is one in which I feel I’m living from my whole human and individual nature. That includes risk of many kinds. And I desire to live (my version of) a full life more than I desire to be completely safe. Security isn’t my aim. Actualization is. My goal isn’t to live to be 100. It’s to compress morbidity and enjoy the biggest life possible in the number of years I’m alive on this planet. I let go of the ultimate outcome in the interest of living well today. I can choose to not do stupid things, but I’m ultimately not in control. I let go of fear in order to function.

There’s a profound and maybe beautiful irony here. Just as our fundamental instinct for survival wants to nail down surety and safety, Life with a capital L obliges us to check our need for absolute security at the door. The truth is, we always exist on the brink. It’s the nature of life itself – a confoundingly complex puzzle of infinite moving parts – ever shifting between creation and destruction. We have the capacity to observe this rhythm, but we’re also fully subject to it. As they say, none of us are going to get out of this game alive.

When we accept this truth, we can let it work within us. We can learn to configure our lives within the fact that we’re finite, that every single day is uncertain. We can live a different life – a more courageous and expansive life in acceptance of that hard reality. Fear of death, just like fear of almost anything, can keep us small. We shirk risk and its rewards for the promise of time that may never come.

While I’m not a believer in the afterlife, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the significance or weight of the end of life. I tend to lean toward the concept of detachment. The ultimate fear we conquer is the fear of death. To accept our own finiteness is perhaps our final work in this life. The more we cling to ourselves, the more painful the prospect of dying is. The more we identify with a larger context than ourselves, the less suffering, despair or fear we face. We may not be immune to dark thoughts, but we put them in a bigger container.

I think over time we grow into our mortality as we do our maturity. That said, I’ve seen 70- year-olds who grasped desperately to the bitter and fearful end. Likewise, I’ve seen 7-year-olds dying of cancer accept their death with a knowing grace that both stuns and humbles. When we can emotionally as well as intellectually place ourselves within a larger storyline and accept life as the grand primal epic that it is, we find a right place within life – and perhaps make peace with death as a meaningful dimension of it.


  1. Interesting read. Acceptance of an inevitable end. But children always accept this more easily than an older person as they have no idea what they are going to miss. Nicer for them but far more sad overall.

    1. Hey Lizzie! I'm so glad you are feeling better. It has been a rough winter. Interesting point about kids' perceptions. Am going to think on it some more.