“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
― Charles Bukowski
Having finished listening to Stephen Jenkinson‘s masterpiece, “Die Wise”, I couldn’t let the moment pass without comment.
As a species, ipso facto, we’re all going to die. 100%. No exceptions.
And yet, we’re death-phobic.
Go to any gathering, and people would much rather talk about their possessions, money or the next holiday than death. If mention is made, it’s normally to talk about someone who’s just passed away (we don’t even like to use the ‘D’ word), a terminal diagnoses or a recent funeral. (We don’t talk about our inevitable death.)
Why is that?
I’d like to think there’s a universal reason but there’s not. Each of us will have own reason, but possibly it’s because we don’t think it’s going to happen to us…now or in the near term.
Compare this to the personal development paradigm: everyone’s quite happy to dine out on the ‘more of me’ culture we’re obsessed with.
Towards what? A lifestyle that’s a mirror of everyone else?
Why should we educate ourselves to talk about death? Simple. The way we view death will dictate how we live our (brief) lives.
Now, this isn’t a message designed to accelerate your already frenetic life, i.e. to run faster and faster to show how much you can (supposedly) achieve, but to live a life of quiet contemplation, suffused with humility knowing that your end will come…at some time.
I accept this approach may not seem wildly attractive. In fact, it’s more than a little morose. However, all I know is that having had at least one brush with the other side, it did more to change my life than any amount of self-enquiry. I mean let’s face it, when death is round the corner, we seem to recognise what’s important but not before.
It’s not just our death phobia we need to acknowledge and act on but also to understand that grief, in all its guises, is as much a teacher as a healer. And I don’t just mean the grief that comes from the loss of a loved one but losing our identity in a world that’s intent on crushing our soul.
If you do nothing else on reading this post, please reflect on the way you currently live your life, and how you want to be remembered. Are you someone who’s always chasing the next fix, with a perpetual sense of unease or are you comfortable in your own skin, knowing that there’s nothing to get, nowhere to go and nothing that needs fixing? At least that’s what my impending death means to me, not becoming something or being something — just standing on my own two feet and leaning into death, rather than running scared all the time.
Note. If you’d like to know more about the work of Stephen Jenkinson then’s he coming to the UK in May. I’ve booked my ticket to see him at Dartington, near Totnes and I’m expecting a very different experience to the usual cheerleader material that I’ve indulged in over the past few years.