- Religion and Philosophy
Death and Me
To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
Hamlet 3/1 – William Shakespeare
Death terrifies me both as a concept and as a fact, but I've never garnered enough self control to stop thinking about its inevitability, and I've never quite mastered the art of mentally letting go and accepting it.
Occasionally, I hope to cease to be afraid to die, to experience a thorough brainwash and wake up accepting the nothingness to come, whenever it may come. Moments of weakness, I could call them.
When it comes right down to the truth of the matter, I'm not so terrified that I wish for a brain wash, nor so petrified by the notion of becoming nothing that I seek something to bring me peace of mind. In all honesty, these eerie thoughts are the best prompts to carry on with the business of living, make the most of it, as they say, and be profoundly happy while doing so.
Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Traveler, your footsteps are
the way and nothing more.
Traveler, there is not a way
the way is made by walking.
Proverbs and songs – Antonio Machado
The nothingness effect
The absolute finite nature of life and my personal belief that this is it is the most liberating feeling. I'm an accident that is here for no reason and for no purpose, hence vanishing is unimportant, too. Everything is absolutely meaningless, reasons and purposes, except what I choose to make meaningful. I am to freely trace my own path into the timeless nothing that will surely come, all the while being certain that the void is what awaits at the end of the road.
How can that not be liberating? How can that not be a reason for tranquility and joy that I'm lucky to experience this wonderful, unique and absolutely finite event that we call living? How can that not help overcome the terror of vanishing, some day, like dust in the wind? How can vanishing possibly matter more than being here, short and temporary as it may be?
The inescapable essence of the void
Sometimes, however, in the cold accuracy of the night I'm stuck with this irrational fear of dying, of becoming nothing, and that incontrollable and disturbing anguish pulls at the strings of my consciousness and makes me wish, as irrationally as my fearing death, to be alive forever. I don't want to lose my grip on life, and the certainty that I will is too much to bear and too disturbing to consider.
Those times I'm equally inclined to contemplate my last breath and my last word on earth as I am to get out bed and turn on TV for some mindless distraction. Experience tells me, though, that there is no mindless distraction, no respite, when the full weight of dying is on my mind. I know I can't tell myself little white lies that I'll never be able to believe to put my mind at ease.
Those times, I know that I need to take a hard look within to analyze what I really fear, what really keeps me awake. It doesn't matter that I've gone through this process thousands of times since I was a little girl, it doesn't matter that I know the answer to my irrational terror, I still and every time need to profoundly look at its root to be able to overcome it, it's a demon I have to face every so often.
Those times, I admit to myself that as liberating as the effect of nothingness is, as much as I rely on its certainty to make of my life what I want, when I want, how I want, it is equally imprisoning and paralyzing to face the void of nothing at the end of the road. The void and the senselessness of knowing I'm a speck in a universe that doesn't need me to continue existing is the root of the panic that grips me. The reality that everything will go on when I don't is what anguishes me.
To die, to sleep; To sleep, perchance to dream.
There are no dreams in the void, and thoughts of the void don't bring forth dreams but nightmares. Still, in this knowledge, I find a peacefulness that helps me go back to sleep, knowing all the while that some day it will be my last night, my last dream, my last fear.
There is a measure of comfort in acknowledging that I won't always be afraid of death because one day I'll simply be dead; there is no fear in the nothingness, there is nothing in the nothing.