Death - 死亡 - Sǐwáng
We have always sought to deal with death, through metaphors. We dress Death up with meaning, making up stories about what may happen after, but we don't really know.When a person dies, we cannot see beyond the corpse, through the physical form to the essence left behind.Instead, we speculate on reincarnation, speaking of eternity and infinity. All this is for naught, as death remains opaque, a mystery. In its realm, Death has no use for time or the laws of physics, which thus become irrelevant. Death appears as the very antithesis of time.
What actually dies? You may refer to the body, the shell which encloses the soul. Is anything actually destroyed, though? Certainly not the body, constituted of hydrogen, carbon, and other elements of life.A transformation occurs, not an act of destruction.
What of the mind, then? Does it cease to function, or does it simply transition to a new plane of existence? We cannot know for sure, and few here today can offer up anything conclusive.
What dies then? No single atom of our being is ever destroyed completely, but a process of breaking down into components occurs. What seems to fall away first is the identity we have built up, the collection of individual parts which makes us feel like a person. The role we have played is no more; the layers of extraneous decoration slip from our shoulders, our discarded trappings of person-hood. What has died is the human meaning of life. There is still naked existence beyond the understanding we humans have achieved. Once we understand who that someone is, death no longer bothers us. Nor does time.
I have not responded to Death, although I certainly should have. I made an appointment with Him at one point, but I missed the bus, and was left behind. At the time, this made me feel like an utter failure, incapable of the simplest choice, or so it seemed. The fact that I chose to meet Him, and was not allowed entrance, appeared to me as merely coincidental, the result of chance, luck, and the efforts of doctors, friends and loved ones. The doctors did not delay Him; it was not my time. Not my time...
I felt myself leave, and return, while watching from above. The pattern on the floor, trails of light in the corner of my eye, the nearly motionless body upon the bed, all seemingly separate of sensation but not quite. Sad expressions were stuck in place, concern and compassion cracking the surface of the otherwise stoic. Disembodied dread, not fear of loss but of coming back, trickled through the tenuous tether still connecting this world, from whatever is next. I could not choose, but I knew that waiting was no option. I felt impelled, to pick up where I had left my dying self. The conclusions I had drawn, in the deep recesses of despair, were invalidated in an instant, removed of all meaning and replaced with refreshed initiative. A drive towards affirmation of life, and away from nihilism and associated apathy/antipathy.
Am I lucky? I think not. I can no longer see the world in terms of chance. I stopped asking why I have survived, and thrived, while others subsided, and died. To find meaning in my failure, I had to re-examine life and death. I found death, and once I did, no longer sought it. I had always known life, but it wasn't until I tossed it away, that I realized the error of my ways. The door ahead, bordered by blinding light, remained closed. I did not try to push my way in. I stepped back, re-entered the body left empty, and rejoined the fight. Life is not simple, nor is death. The struggle is to accept impermanence, but not to dwell upon it. If this is all there is, so be it.
The transition is tricky. From where did we come? And to where, shall we go?