Wednesday 8 February 2017

The River Rolls On

Many people have a fear of death. It is called necrophobia. For some, it plagues their lives and is a constant source of dread and unease. Why is this? Is death something that we should fear? Does angst help us to avoid it? Can we eek out our existence one second longer for all the hair pulling, bead counting and hand wringing worry? Of course not.  

Perhaps then wasting time on something that we cannot avoid is pointless, and serves no purpose? Perhaps. But perhaps there is value in contemplating death? After all, it is a major event in all our lives. But while it may come to us all, what does it really mean to us?

In some cultures, death is not seen as a permanent fixture. It is not the silent night, the abyss of nothingness, but a transitory state through which we pass on the way to, hopefully, more elevated levels of being.This sounds attractive, and it makes me wonder why we put so much credence into religions that teach permanent salvation or damnation. The very idea of a heaven or hell is quite contrary to all that we know about the universe, which arguably may not be all that much.

But let’s just think about this for a second. Let’s take a step back and consider what is life, before we consider what is death.Every new life that is born is the result of millions of years of care and struggle and love. We are the endpoint for the hopes and dreams of a multitude. We are, each of us, Legion. This is a form of immortality. Whatever else happens, we are a part of the great river of humanity. One drop more or less, what matters it? The river will keep rolling.

I do not fear death. All life is but a complex dance of energy and matter. When the substance of the matter changes, it is not lessened, it is not gone. Burn a log of wood and you get ashes. But you also get heat, and flames and smoke. Energy is released into the universe, to mingle and combine and be made anew.

Death is not terrifying. It is not the end of life but its transformation. Dying releases the energy of our beings and lets us recombine in new ways, creating new life. We are still a part of the universe; we never leave. The river rolls on.

But if this still terrifies you, then calm yourself. Look to your child. Kiss and hold your baby and remember that you are blessed with two lives. The one that will recombine in endless ways in the universe, a pure energy that can become anything and everything, and in the other, you live on in your child. You hold the end point of billions of men and women in your arms.

Now look around you. Do you see other men and women? Other children? They are a part of you too. They are your sisters and brothers. They carry the same thoughts and dreams as you. They live, they die and they transform just as you do. And yet, they carry on too. A part of them exists, and will always exist in the billions of lives that exist in the world. You are part of that great chain of life. And when you die, that chain is not broken. It connects with every other chain, every other life that ever was and ever will be.

The river rolls on.

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