Sunday, January 31, 2010

THE FEAR OF DEATH - Ashvin Pandav

The fear of Death
Death is natural
Death is something natural to each and every creature just as birth and growth. Death belongs to the norm of being and belongs to nature. As we normally perceive things through our senses, things emerge, grow and decay and then they give themselves up so that others may emerge without the death of one, there cannot be the birth of another; without birth there cannot be drastic improvement and without drastic change there cannot be growth. Life is always a process of growth towards fullness that we have not reached.
“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It is the transition that’s troublesome”.
–Isaac Asimov
Death is inevitable
When I pause for a while and think, I realize that because of the life death of my forefathers and foremothers, I am living now. This generation will be overshadowed by the next and this life has to give way to another and so I have to give way to someone else. Life on this planet is wonderful, but my physical qualities are limited, my mental capacities are inadequate, and my spiritual potential is imperfect. All these limitations give rise to better, deeper or higher states and the elimination of the present points towards another future that is beyond me. Death is inevitable, even necessary. It is a consoling thought. But we humans have been very good in formulating a justification that we think is consoling to us. When the situation changes, we will formulate a similar justification to suit the changed situation and feel equally consoled by it.
“What greater pain could mortal have than this; to see their children deaf before their eyes?
Attitudes to death
We don’t really encounter our own deaths but only that of our beloved ones, like my granny, who was close to me. She has inspired me to write on such a topic as her death. We usually feel terrible sorrow when a loved one dies. I had to struggle with God because I wanted her to be present for my ordination. Death is not acceptable to any normal human being and it’s not so easy as well. We encounter our death everyday and most of the time we try to ignore them.

“On the day of burial there is no perspective, for space itself is annihilated. Your dead friend is still a fragmentary being. The day you bury him is the day of chores and crowds of hands false or true to be shaken in the immediate cares of mourning. The dead friend will not really die until tomorrow, when silence is around you again. Then he will see himself complete as he was to tear himself away, as he was, from the substantial you only, then only you will cry out because of him who is leaving and whom you cannot detain”.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Death is a mystery and so is life

In fact death and life are part of the same reality. Death is a reflection of life. The homage we pay to the dead, the funeral we give to the deceased, the respect we pay to the departed, the prayers we offered for them do not change them but us. This phenomenon is reflection of self-understanding that we humans have of our own life in its totality. The thought and fear of death that each one of us carries within us is in fact a self-affirmation of our present life. It is a mirroring of the uniqueness of ourselves. And so death as a future phenomenon which could be turned back on our present and to be understood as we human, attempt to make better sense of our life here and now.

“It is hard to have patience with people who say ‘There is no death’ or ‘Death doesn’t matter’. There is death. And whatever matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it is irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter”.
-Leonardo da Vinci

The fear that confronts death makes life almost unbearable. Take the example of religions that are based on this fear of death. This angst that surrounds every part of ourselves makes us it unbearable for us to live. This obsessive anxiety makes us capable of realizing ourselves. This anguish scares us away from the topic death. We should realize this anguish and try to be friendly and go beyond it.
“We live by encouragement and die without it slowly, sadly, angrily”.
-Celeste Holm
Resurrection of the person
The Christian assertion is that the individual, however minute she/he may find her/his fulfillment in the divine in accordance with her/his personality, it means all the hard work I have put in the dreams I have cherished, the disappointments I got used to, the love I have cultivated, the struggles I have undergone, the victories I have relished will all be part of the realized person that I will be in the life after. I really don’t know whatever my minute desires met or not, whether any the concrete projects have failed or succeeded. I don’t know in the plan of the cosmos that a small little person does make a difference. And the point of eternity is that a small smile still counts.
The resurrection of a person holds everything, including the minutest and the mightiest. It also holds the concrete matters even in eternity which we so not understand now. So I shall be a part of the whole totality, one with it, but determinate and distinct and relating freely and lovingly.
“The action of a man is not completed unless he dies”.
-Robert Edward lee
“Beginning today, treats everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to all the care, kindness, and understanding you can master, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again”
-Og Mandino
“The only religious way to think of death is as a part and parcel of life; to regard its with the understanding and the emotions, as the involvement condition of life”
-Thomas Mann
By Ashvin Pandav SJ

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