What is it, exactly, about the ocean that calls to us? What is it about her waves whispering in our ears that fill us with the excitement of a child and the calm of a sage instantaneously?
Our ears wiggle to a music that seems to speak to somewhere deep inside of us. We close our eyes and listen to the singing seagulls and the chorus of crashing waves with smiles on our faces.
It’s a song that forces us to stop thinking with our rational brain. Instead, we let our bodies tell us what to feel.
Watching her waving waters as they dance to the steady beat of a lunar drum that we cannot hear, we begin to realise there is intention in nature. We feel a magical impulse, a divine will, a call to action, a collective soul.
We witness the energies of the universe as they swirl all around us. No one knows where they came from. No one knows exactly what they are. But now, in the overwhelming presence of the source of all life, we can feel them. Life’s energy.
It’s in this moment, gazing at her colossal strength and infinite beauty, that we realise that these are the same energies that ebb and flow within us. We look at life in motion and we say, “Ah, that’s who I am. I am that.”
Even if it’s just for a moment, we transcend our consciousness.
In this transcendental experience, we realise that we already live in the kingdom of heaven. We remember the promised land has nothing to do with real estate, titles, or deeds. We understand that nirvana is inside of us, exactly where we stand. We may even laugh at the all too curious realisation that we ARE the mystery which we are seeking to know.
The Gods didn’t kick us out of the Garden of Eden. We banished ourselves, and we continue to do so every time we lose sight of these simple truths. The ocean reminds us to come back into Eden and eat the tasty fruit of who we really are.
I’m in my late twenties. I’m not even done with school yet. I have absolutely no idea about so many things in my life. Like where I might be living in a year from now. Hell, I’m not even sure about the continent I’ll be on. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing or who I’ll be doing it with. I’m still learning about myself and how I relate to this world. In many ways, I’m still a kid.
And then I think about the fact that at my age, you already had three young kids to raise. One of them was your only son, a crazy little bastard named Michael, who had the same amount of energy and caused the same amount trouble as an entire classroom of children his age.
I’ve realized how scary that must have been for you. You were still trying to find a career, and trying to find yourself. You were still trying to figure out who you were as a man, as a husband, and how you were gonna make things work financially for you and mom. Then, all of sudden, you were trying to figure out who you were as a parent to three young babies who relied on you.
Today, I think it’s become almost common for kids to grow up blaming and criticizing their parents. I know I was one of those children and, at some point, I think all of us are. But now I realize how absolutely ridiculous that is.
Imagine if when people were learning a new sport, or musical instrument, or how to cook, we judged them in the same way as some of us judge our parents.
It doesn’t matter how many online videos someone has watched on the technique of skating, we expect them to fall many times the first time they lace up those skates and hit the frozen pond.
It doesn’t matter how many books someone reads on playing the piano, none of us would realistically expect someone to jump behind those keys and start playing Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor. So why do we expect perfection, or anything close to it, from our parents?
No matter what it is that you’re doing in life, nothing will ever prepare you for the actual learning experience. You’re going to stumble along the way. Mistakes are essential to learning. We’re all just learning as we go. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have.
Every parent is at a different place in his or her life, and every parent has a different capacity for parenting.
Trying to stand in the shoes you were wearing at my age has shown me just how special you are. I know you beat yourself up sometimes about your early days as a dad, but today I want to acknowledge you for just how amazing you actually are, and how great you were for me as my father.
You supported me in every conceivable way. I never went without anything I ever needed. Even if you had a complaint or two about the price of something I asked for, I honestly don’t have a single memory of anything you didn’t give me that I truly wanted. You never let me down.
You worked some insane hours to support your family and still always made it to the important moments in my life. You were at every big game, graduation, departing flight, birthday, and religious event that I experienced. You have no idea how much that meant to me, even if I didn’t really understand it then. I definitely understand and appreciate it now.
I have absolutely no idea how you did it. You might not of been ready. You probably weren’t ready. But you pulled your boots up and you chose to be a father. Because, at the end of the day, parenthood is a choice. I think it’s time I acknowledge the choice you made to be in my life. The amount of bravery, love, and kindness that it took is beyond words.
I think relationships between parents and children would vastly improve if we all just acknowledged our parents for that simple choice they make to be our parents. They didn’t need to choose us. They didn’t have to stay, or to keep us. But they did. Even though they weren’t truly ready for it.
If we acknowledge that, in the same way it was our first experience being someone’s child, it was our parent’s first experience being someone’s mom or dad, we might start seeing things a little differently.
We made mistakes as we grew older and wiser, why would we expect anything less from our parents?
You are an amazing man. Even now, at my age, I still know you won’t let me down. We’re gonna have our fights. Sometimes we’re gonna bump our thick Italian heads. You’re still learning what it means to be a dad and I’m still learning what it means to grow up.
But I know you’rein my corner, and you know what? You’ll always be the guy I want in my corner. If I ever find myself in the 12th round taking a beating from life, you’re the voice I want to hear yelling over my shoulder to keep fighting.
You didn’t quit on me, or my sisters. You didn’t quit on your family. There’s no one else in the universe I would rather call dad, and I have a strange feeling there’s no one else out there who was supposed to be my father.
There are two painfully self-restricting words we humans have a habit of using too much. I hear them all of the time.
Anytime we use those words, there is some form of self restriction at play. We’re applying a sense of duty, of honour, of what’s expected of us, of guilt, of shame, of caution, or a lack of confidence to our decisions. We think we should study medicine because our parents have high hopes for us. We don’t think we should quit our job because we’re not sure if we can make our dreams work. We should push away loved ones because we don’t feel deserving or worthy of it. We shouldn’t take a chance because it might not work out.
Every time we use the word should, a story is being repeated to ourselves. Ones we learned from teachers, parents, mentors, friends, and celebrities. Stories of the status quo. Stories that were meant to keep you safe, but actually keep you feeling small and afraid.
Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone should have a code. Everyone should know and keep their own boundaries. But there is a difference between healthy boundaries and self imprisonment.
But the word “should” is one that is much better used to free yourself of your own prison, rather than keep yourself in chains.
You should open your heart to love, because you deserve that special someone who loves and cherishes you. You should chase than dream, because you were born to do just that. You should quit that job sucking the life out of you, because you deserve happiness in this life.
There’s always something about the first words you type onto a blank page. It’s like splashing paint onto a crisp-white canvas. I believe we all have words pent up inside of ourselves. Those first ones break the pressure. You kind of just let the words fall onto the paper as they naturally would. Your soul is the bursting cloud, allowing droplets of inner wisdom to sprinkle the land underneath it.
It seems much too rare these days that we allow our soul the ability to speak its truth. Too often we are stifled by social and cultural concerns. I think its a pretty sad notion that our individuality is being suffocated by the very people that should be celebrating it: ourselves.
We’ve seen the unique nature of each human being oppressed in many different ways by many different tyrants.
We saw it masterfully done by the Catholic church after the dark ages. We were told we were all beautiful children of God who loved us infinitely. God would love us until the end of our days, unless we looked upon the stars with our own eyes and suggested, perhaps, that our solar system wasn’t exactly structured as the church had taught us it was. That, maybe, we weren’t the centre of it all. Then we were heretics; we were blasphemous, spoiled spawns of darkness.
We were loved by God so long as we accepted our fate as peasants, farming for dukes and bishops we would never see. Don’t worry, we were told, if we allowed ourselves to be powerless and impoverished in this life, the next one would have rainbows and beds made of clouds. Our sons were loved by God as long as they didn’t love other men. Our daughters were loved by God as long as they didn’t stay connected to their feminine nature or the earth. As long as they didn’t embrace their sexual power and remained subservient to men, our daughters were wonderful indeed.
We saw it done by Hitler and the Nazis, who told us we were perfect specimens of greatness. Unless, of course, our hair and eyes were too dark or our skin produced a higher amount of pigmentation. Then we were somehow sullied; we were somehow corrupt. Capitalism told us we were successful and smart, as long as our car was new and we had the latest smart phone. We were always perfect as long as we fulfilled someone else’s definition of it.
You would think after all of the great individuals, the great men and women who stood in defiance of the oppression of the uniqueness of humanity, that we would learn to celebrate the diversity of one another and of ourselves.
We are shape shifters by nature. We are flexible and bendy. We can wear many different hats. We are water.
Our ability to bend and twist and move and flow is proof enough that none of us were made to be packed into rigid little boxes of conformity.
And yet still we act as our own corrupter. We still restrict our own freedom to be individuals. We are still barbarically behind in a deeper understanding of who we are as individuals and as a species. From the very time we are school children, we speak and act harshly toward those who stand out, instead of celebrating them.
Celebrate who you are, and support others who do the same.
Because you’re all pretty fucking awesome.
Be good to each other,
Featured Image: inesperkovic.com
Geocentric Solar System: pics-about-space.com
Witch Hunt: hiduth.com
Hitler Youth: spartacus-educational.com
I used to joke that I only learned one thing in four years studying politics at university: Don’t talk politics with anyone, under any circumstances.
After I graduated, that joke quickly became one of my strictest rules. I generally don’t engage in political discourse on any level with any person. But for you, America, I’ll make this one exception.
Look, as a northern brother, I get it. I really do. Having a racist megalomaniac running for president is never ideal. Having that would-be tyrant promising to commit a laundry list of war crimes if he gets into power makes it worse. Seeing that candidate gain momentum and support anywhere in the world (other than North Korea) is both shocking and depressing.
I can definitely sympathize with the people who have already hit the panic button, but I don’t share in their quickly spreading fear that America is becoming the fourth Reich. The power is still in the hands of a collective people who, other than a minority of droogs lost souls, will continue to be the champions of reason and light in the face of a growing darkness in this world.
It is difficult to watch, however, those who claim they are strongly against Trump continuing to be his greatest source of power.
When Hercules faced the Hydra, he quickly noticed that every time he cut off a head, three would grow in its place. You shouldn’t be making the same mistake as Hercules, because one Trump head is terrifying enough. There simply isn’t enough road kill in existence to maintain that many terrible hairpieces. Yet everywhere I look, people are cutting off Trump heads, making the fascist Hydra more powerful with every swing of their sword.
I understand it was well intentioned, but when anti-Trump protesters shut down a Trump rally in Chicago, that was a victory for Trump. Freedom of speech and expression are foundational pillars of the democratic values that anti-Trumpers are claiming to be defending. When you limit someone’s free speech – no matter how borderline insane his or her speech may be – you limit our own. Free speech will be your greatest weapon against Trump’s antics, and yet by shutting down his rally you’ve legitimized the strong-armed repression of that freedom. It’s now fair game for Trump supporters to respond in kind.
The problem is, you’re treating Donald Trump like he’s a bully.
Like we were all taught as school children, you believe the best course of action is to approach that bully and punch him in his squishy, piggish face.
You’ll shut down his rallies. You’ll quote him in your tweets and add a snarky comment that berates him. You’ll splash his comical face on every form of social media. You’ll dedicate your time and energy writing articles or blogs (much like I’m doing now) pointing out the inconsistencies in his campaign promises or the similarities between him and Hitler. You’ll keep throwing punches until the bully backs down. Swing for the fences.
If Trump was a bully, those punches in the nose would probably be just what the doctor ordered.
But Donald Trump is not the bully of the American political school yard. He’s the class clown. It may seem like a subtle difference, but a bully and a clown get their power from two very different places. A bully takes his power from preying on weakness.
And where does the class clown get his power from? From being given other people’s attention. Your attention.
The class clown starts out innocently enough. First he puts his hand up with a smirk on his face. The teacher, knowing this particular student’s need for constant attention, sighs before reluctantly asking “Yes Donald?” Donald makes a fart noise with his hands. The other boys laugh, the girls say “Ewwwww gross!” Donald violently nods his head in approval of himself. His hair piece nearly falls off.
Best day ever.
But the laughter and the attention is fleeting – attention that Donald is desperate to keep his short-fingered hands on.
He knows just the thing that can get it back. An old classic that never fails.
Slowly sneaking his hand up his shirt, he breaks the silence in the classroom by making fart noises by flapping his arm with his hand in his armpit. A few of the boys laugh. The girls ignore him. A poor result, indeed. Even Donald knows he has nothing to nod approvingly about. His hairpiece is safe…..for now.
The class clown feels desperation. It’s time to turn up the volume. He knows no one really takes him seriously, because he doesn’t even take himself seriously. So, he turns his jokes outwards. He looks at the student landscape very carefully when choosing his victim. Being a coward, he wants easy prey.
He starts by making fun of the one red head in the class. Not much of a thinker, Donald says “Hey ginger, nice red hair!” A few of the less intelligent kind boys in the class are excited. They actually get the joke. They smile and say something along the lines of “Ha! He DOES have red hair!” They laugh along with Donald and ask him to hang out next recess.
That was easy. Now Donald has attention, AND support. His hair piece is once again in danger from his incessant nodding.
Recess comes, and Donald is approached by the red head’s best friend. Let’s call him Bernie. Bernie heard about Donald’s words and wants to chuck the mitts. Donald threatens to sue. His dad is rich, you know. Other kids take notice that Bernie’s anger didn’t phase Donald. It starts to create an illusion that the clown has real strength rather than empty words. Donald goes back to class feeling even better about himself. Sure, Bernie’s attention was negative and threatening, but in the game of buffoonery, attention is king.
Unfortunately, picking on the red head stops getting laughs, even from his most loyal goons supporters. So he moves onto other carefully selected victims. He tells the class the child of Asian descent and her family invented global warming. He spreads rumours that the Mexican student in the class is both a rapist and murderer – and then suggests to the other students that a wall should be built around that student’s desk to keep them all safe. He convinces a few kids it might be funny if they didn’t allow the Muslim student come to the class the next morning, or to stick one of the teacher’s gold star stickers on him.
With each passing day he gains a few more followers and, more importantly, more people trying to fight him at recess. Sure, everyone is talking badly about him – but they ARE talking about him. He’s quickly gone from low grade jester to king of the court. Love him or – as many of the students do – hate him, he’s become the most popular kid in school from the endless attention he’s receiving. His hairpiece is hanging on for dear life in the maelstrom of negative backlash he’s bathing his wrinkled body in.
There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” – Oscar Wilde
All of a sudden, Donald’s absurd words have power. All the attention people are giving him somehow validates the garbage that’s falling out of the hole in his head. People feel increasingly pressured to choose a side. Those who aren’t in his class or don’t understand the magnitude of his hateful words see him as the better choice. After all, look at all these punks trying to fight him at recess but he’s not even bothered by it. He just keeps doing his thing – importing wives from Eastern Europe, tweeting about Rosie, and telling people his daddy has a big swimming pool. In a strange way the clown is almost powerful in his nonchalance.
There’s still hope for you, America. There’s still time. For the strength of a clown is also his weakness. Attention can disappear as quickly as it fills up a newsfeed.
If you’re anti-Trump, stop being the main source of his power. Stop following him on twitter. Let the people at his rallies burn crosses or whatever it is that they do. Let him talk of walls and rapists and how impressive he is for inheriting his daddy’s money. He’s not going to win an election with his economic intelligence, his speaking ability, or his progressive sociopolitical ideas, because he doesn’t possess those things. He’s going to win an election with the power you’re giving him. The power of your attention.
Leave the little boy to his fart jokes.
Or may God have mercy on the red head kid in the class.
Be good to each other,
Featured Image: http://www.thedailybeast.com Hercules and the Hydra: Pinterest Trump as The Joker: I actually have no idea where I got this, I found it saved in my phone. If you own this image I apologise.
Have you ever had THE moment? I think we all have, at some point in our lives. The moment we observe genius and we’re lifted into action on the wings of inspiration.
It might have been the first time we set our eyes on Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies.” For some of us, it was the first time we heard the angelic voice of Freddie Mercury singing “Somebody to Love.” It could have been the first time we read a poem by Sylvia Plath, the first Steven Spielberg film we watched, or the first time we saw Meryl Streep on the big screen.
Regardless of what the moment looked like, that was your inner artist showing itself.
I’ve had many such moments in my life, but I remember the first time with absolute clarity.
When I was growing up, hockey didn’t appeal to me much. It was very un-Canadian of me, I know. I hated getting up before sunrise in the middle of winter to skate in an arena with ice on the walls. I didn’t like how my feet would be frozen for hours after I took off my skates. I didn’t like how much it hurt when I fell on the hard ice. I decided hockey wasn’t for me.
One night my family was watching hockey on T.V. A guy named Mario Lemieux was playing, and I was instantly hypnotized by him. He was a magician. His stick as his wand, he cast spells no other human could. Every time he stepped onto the ice, he created something from nothing. He made everything look effortless.
To this day, he’s still the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a unicorn. I didn’t understand it then, but I was witnessing genius in motion.
Needless to say, my little heart was inspired. I gave hockey another chance. Suddenly, the arena didn’t seem so cold. The broken bones didn’t take so long to heal. The frozen feet thawed a little quicker.
So why does the witnessing of genius inspire us the way it does?
Art – in all of its forms – comes from a place we’ve forgotten. It comes from the higher realms of the self; it comes from the same place as our souls. We give it many names: heaven, the cosmos, the universe, Valhalla, source, Olympus, and the list goes on. From the moment we’re born, the deepest parts of ourselves call us to return to that place.
This is why a masterpiece inspires us. It gives us a glimpse of the divine; a glimpse of the divine within all of us. For it is only when we see God in another that we come to realize that God is in ourselves. We stop seeing ourselves as separate from the universe around us, and start seeing the cosmos as a part of ourselves.
That is why it lifts our hearts when we express ourselves with creation. Our soul sings when we dance and paint because, for a moment, we are opening ourselves up to the higher realms that we came from. For a moment we remember that we are Gods.
You don’t have to paint the Mona Lisa, or write Romeo and Juliet to find that place. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. The most intimate parts of ourselves don’t care for acclamation or praise. Our souls only long for us to remember who we are; to remember the divine perfection in all of us.
A soul – personified as the artist – is in each of us.
It is why Michelangelo spent over four years painting the Sistine Chapel.
It is why Mario Lemieux spent tens of thousands of hours on frozen ponds.
It is the reason that I write.
Art is the language of our soul and the artist is the one who speaks it. So take some time to create something, big or small. Paint a self portrait, build a tree house, or write a ballad. Take a dance or yoga class. Write a song, or learn an instrument. Find a way to express the soul trapped inside of you. Remind yourself of that feeling you get when you open yourself up to the heavens.
Remind yourself of your own divinity.
Because you are as infinite and as sacred as the stars we look upon.
It has an astounding ability to filter the way we see the world. By shaping our values and norms, it can directly affect our appreciation for the little miracles in life.
Take pizza for example.
Our social conditioning has rendered the ordering of a pizza into something routine and relatively unimpressive. It’s something that is generally accepted aslogistically simple. It’s become a completely unappreciated achievement of humanity.
But if someone was to do exactly the same thing – that is, get on their phone and press a few buttons – but expect a baby, it would be absolutely absurd.
Think about what goes into the making of a pizza.
If the pizza has pepperoni on it, an animal has to give birth to another animal, which must survive childhood and reach adulthood, that animal must then be murdered, processed, shipped, and cooked before finally appearing as part of your pizza.
If it has olives on it, an olive tree had to be planted somewhere, probably the Mediterranean, had to mature enough over several years to bear fruit (is that what olives are?), be shipped across an ocean, and find its way to meet the pepperoni in a perfect union of infinitesimal coincidence in order to appear as another part of your pizza.
But you also love a bit of mozzarella. No problem. A cow must be born and raised. That cow has to first be forcefully impregnated and must carry her calf full term. In the meantime, she will be permanently chained to a milking device before having her calf taken from her at birth. This process will repeat itself until that cow can no longer get pregnant or produce milk.
The milk is then separated into curds and whey using acid and rennet. The curd sets, is drained and salted. Mozzarella is stretched and kneaded in hot water to give it that special texture a pizza lover has come to expect. It’s packaged and sent to meet it’s fate in that fiery oven with its new brothers the pepperoni and the olives.
This doesn’t take into account how the dough came to be, labour employed in the creation and cooking of the pizza and it’s elements, the delivery man, the electronic exchange of energy in monetary form, or the mind power you put into essentially manifesting a pizza by pressing buttons on a little magic box that fits in your hand.
To put things into perspective, the cheese on your pizza and the pepperoni on your pizza is made up of stardust from two completely different stars. Those stars had to both be born, act as nuclear fusion plants for billions of years, burn out in a beautiful blazing supernova, and have their tiny particles spread across the universe.
They joined the trillions of such like particles that formed earth, before those particles partook in a million year cycle of being born, dying, and being reborn again, before it finally ended up as part of your pizza – at the same time as the other stardust from a different star.
A baby by comparison only takes 2 humans and 9 months to make, compared to the many humans and collective decades the clockwork of pieces your pizza represents – pieces of pizza, no pun intended.
Yet the idea of ordering a baby would appear absurd, when logistically and energetically it’s much less absurd than the ordering a pizza.
This doesn’t even take into consideration the evolution of food, cooking processes, transportation efficiency, technological advancements, harvesting capabilities, and overarching factors of globalisation that were required to develop in order for the ordering of pizza to become common place.
The art of making a baby hasn’t changed since the dawn of time.
It shouldn’t have to be said, but I do not value the making of a pizza above that of a newborn child. We value a baby because it represents life in it’s most beautiful and fragile form. A new soul has come to this planet to experience it’s journey.
In meditation, there’s a few different reasons as to why the mantra is used.
Some sects of Buddhism or Hinduism believe that muttering certain words manifests change. The words plant a little seed in the plan of the universe which is then nurtured by our positive deeds, good intentions, and dedication to our practice.
Other sects believe that the mantra is a set of arbitrary words used to numb the mind.
This is because when we take any word, and say it over and over and over and over again, it loses all meaning.
When the word eventually fades into the realm of meaninglessness, we are essentially muttering nothing at all. We have short circuited our way to an empty mind. A quiet mind.
A mind content in its meaninglessness.
An integral element of turning a word or a mantra meaningless is that there must not and can not be anything behind the words. We have to say the words without putting any feeling behind it.
We may have originally known the intention of our mantra, and we may have started our chants with intense purpose and sincerity, but somewhere along the way we must lose that intent and meaning in order for words, and their meaning, to fade into oblivion.
This is exactly what happens in life when we go through the motions.
We get up every day and follow the same routine. Go to the same job, to perform the same functions, with the same faces surrounding us, who are also performing their own monotonous functions.
Too many of us call this life. Too many of us call this living.
Like the mantras that lose all meaning, along the way we’ve lost what’s behind our words and our actions.
We’re performing the action of living, without actually possessing the intent to live.
We’re just saying the words over and over and over again. Our actions are for the sake of action.
And in this way our lives become meaningless.
We confuse the action itself as being the crucial element of life, when in reality it is the intention behind our actions that matters the most.
Life isn’t about the vacation or the trip, it’s about why we’re going, what we’re getting from it, or what we’re running from.
It isn’t about the code we live by, it’s about why we’ve chosen that path. It’s about discovering the fears and the pressures that have convinced us to live life a certain way, and it’s about choosing – for your own reasons – to find a different code to follow.
It’s not about the corner office job, but why we get up and work there every day.
Once you lose the intention behind the action, it becomes meaningless.
One should therefore not rely on mere words, but everywhere search for the intention behind them.” Buddhist Scriptures.
And that goes for anything in life.
You can be a brilliant poet, painter, athlete, lover, worker, or mother, but if the intention behind it isn’t pure or has been forgotten, then your actions cease to have meaning.
Your actions become a mantra.
Your boss, your partner, your children, and your team mates will all begin to feel the insincerity behind those meaningless actions.
Life is never about the choices we make.
It’s about why we make those choices. It’s about those tiny moments of integrity, when we know we’ve made an unpopular choice but have stayed true to ourselves.
It’s about being fearless in the face of external pressures or socially constructed fears.
Life is the fire, intention is the oxygen that gives it strength and beauty.
So breathe some fresh air into your life.
Take some time to reflect on why you’re doing everything in your life. Look at everything you do today as a choice, and question the intention behind that choice.
That is where your power comes from.
You have the choice and the power to live life how you want to live it.
Don’t let any person or misplaced fear take that away from you.
When I was growing up, I always took great delight in the autumn season. I’m not sure if it was because my birthday was coming up, hockey season was around the corner, or simply because of the beauty of the Canadian wilderness in fall.
The ordinarily green landscapes would be stroked orange, red, and yellow by the paint brushes of the gods. Fields full of grass became oceans of amber. Bronze sunsets would tint the city gold and set the sky ablaze.
And yet, everything around me was dying.
It’s curious to think that I don’t know of a single person who has wept for fallen leaves, or wilting flowers, or dying grass. We innately understand this is the way of things. We know that spring will come, and the cycle of life (and death) will renew itself.
Why then, do we fear death? Why do we see our own death as the end of the straight line we’ve travelled since birth? Why is it so uniformly regarded as something negative?
Whether we’re afraid of what comes next, or dying painfully, or just the thought of our lives ending, it’s the ultimate boogeyman in the human experience.
Even the Romans, as battle hardened and fearless as they were, refrained from uttering the word “death.” By doing this, they gave power to the very word.
Death is certainly a part of life, and is certainly inevitable. It comes for us all. Does this give it power over us?
Of course not. We do not fear sunsets and sunrises, we do not fear the passage of time, we do not fear breathing. Yet these things are all inevitable. Inevitability doesn’t give something strength, but fear does.
The fear of death is death’s only weapon against us. Like the monster under our bed, it grows in ferocity and size as long as it remains the great unknown. In tackling the fears that surround death, we free ourselves from its grasp.
Why, exactly, do we fear death?
(1) We fear death because we don’t know when it may come.
We fear the idea of dying young.
I think of Jimi Hendrix, Alexander the Great, Amy Winehouse, Frédéric Chopin, John Keats, Tupac, and Tutankhamun. They all died at extremely young ages. Yet I would be willing to bet they lived lives more rich and full of experience than many of us rotting away in a cubicle.
On the grand scale of time and space, the difference between living 30 years and 80 isn’t even a blip on the map. Whether we die old or young we’re only here for an infinitesimal period of time, a period of time we cannot control.
We only have the power to make those years count.
(2) We fear death because we don’t know what comes next.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I usually have no idea what day of the week it is without ample reminders. Every day is a surprise. I’m at peace with the fact I generally have no idea what’s coming next.
We didn’t know what came next when we escaped the womb and came into this world kicking and screaming. We didn’t know what came next when we shipped off to university.
Sure, there was a little nervous energy, but we were generally excited about that great unknown. It was all new and beautiful.
Life can change in an instant, and that’s exactly what death is – life changing in an instant.
Whether death is the start of a new life or the end of an old cycle, change is never something to be feared.
It is only our concern with what may come in the future, or what happened in the past, that binds us to the wheel of life and death. By remembering that the present moment is the only moment, we free ourselves from that ever spinning wheel.
(3) We fear death might hurt.
I think I can speak for all of us by saying life usually hurts. Breaking bones was a price of playing the sport I loved, for example, and I broke pretty much everything above my waist – twice.
We’re riddled with coughs and colds and aches and pains and pimples and gas. We battle the seasons; we’re freezing in the winters and choking on smog in the summers. The suffering of life is unavoidable.
It seems a bit absurd to worry about the suffering of death, when our suffering is constant and unrelenting in the life we’re living. As far as we know, death is a release from our daily human suffering. Death is the absence of pain.
I’ve seen many people and animals suffer in life – but have never seen one struggle in death.
I often wonder if a rose would be as beautiful if it were perpetually in bloom, or if we would cherish the springs if there was no winter. Life isn’t beautiful because it is long, or painless, or safe.
Life is beautiful for the simple fact that we are mortal. Death is what makes life a special gift. Every moment can be our last. For this reason, everything we touch, smell, hear, taste, and see is magical.
Death is our constant reminder to appreciate this life that we’ve been given.
Appreciate the people around us, the things that we have, and the healthy bodies we’ve been given.
The rain was splattering heavily against the bus window. I couldn’t hear it over the pod cast I was listening to, but the visuals were just as calming.
The bus was unusually crowded for the time of day, and I happened to be one of the few people without a person wedged into the seat beside me.
But alas, my personal freedom was not meant to be.
An elderly gentlemen stepped onto the bus, closed his umbrella, and shook it dry. He dusted off the sleeves and fixed the cuffs of his brown suit that he could have stolen from the set of Mad Men.
He spotted the seat next to me and made his leisurely advance toward it.
As he walked toward me, a million suggestions about him flooded my head before he got to my seat. Out of touch. Senile. Grumpy. Bitter. Lonely.
In short, I believed from the moment I saw him that he had nothing in common with me.
I tried to smile at him when our eyes met, but the scowl on his face appeared to be a permanent fixture. Cranky old man, I thought to myself.
He wiggled in his seat as though he was jostling for position. I tried to show him with my body language that I couldn’t move over any more than I already was. We weren’t off to the best start.
I tried to keep my gaze outside of the window, but the man kept fidgeting. I tried to ignore him, but I couldn’t.
I eventually checked to see what he was doing. He was pulling out a book. I was surprised to see it was Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan (…..Canadian!).
The nerd in me couldn’t help but remove my headphones and tell the man that was my favourite book from all of my undergraduate history studies. As I began a one-way conversation about some of my favourite points, he looked at me almost bewildered.
I instantly recognized that look of surprise, and that’s when it hit me.
He had judged me in the same way I had judged him.
I thought of how I must have looked to him when he first saw me. I was in gym gear, with long hair, a beard, drinking a shake, and with my headphones on.
I look at myself sometimes and think I look more like I belong at the battle of Thermopylae than I do in a law classroom. It was comical to imagine how he saw me.
To him, I was probably just a young punk who knew it all. I was probably listening to hip-hop or whatever “kids these days” find appealing. I was probably off to “do my exercises” so that I could better “chase all the girls.” I probably even smoked those “marijuana cigarettes.”
And who could blame him? With how I looked, it might have been a stretch for him to guess that I was actually listening to a podcast on the third Punic War, heading for a quick workout so I wouldn’t go stir crazy studying for law exams.
We talked about the book and our favourite personalities of the first world war. Our talks on the first world war quickly became talks about the second. We talked about our relatives who lived through it.
He found out I was a Canadian, and told me about his travels to Ottawa and Toronto. We talked about my travels in Australia.
It also turned out he was a professor of History. We compared our favourite Roman generals. We talked of famous victories and disastrous defeats. It may be nerd speak to some, but we were connecting through a mutual passion.
When he got on the bus, I had immediately assumed that this was a man I had nothing in common with. It’s safe to conclude he had assumed the same. Yet here we were, finding common ground at every turn. He reminded me of my grandfathers, and the passion they instilled in me for life.
I almost missed my stop because we were in such deep conversation. I found I was legitimately upset to part with my new friend. We said our goodbyes and I left with a deeper faith in our connectedness as humans.
I say, sir, that you can never make an intelligent judgement without evidence.” – Malcom X, The Playboy Interview.
We say it all the time – not to judge a book by its cover – but this experience took it a step further for me. I don’t think its at all possible to judge a book by its cover.
We really have no idea who a person is until we dive into their world.
We can only judge the mask they show to us. We can judge the trends they support, but we can’t judge them.
We have no idea if it’s Beethoven or Drake playing through those headphones. And, even if we did know, what does that really tell us about a person?
The more obsessed we’ve become over our own appearances, the more judgemental we become of the appearances of others.
The only way of truly knowing anyone or anything, is to get to know them.
Imagine a world the same as ours, except the moment someone felt the need to judge someone they instead took a moment to connect with a fellow human being.