Why You Should Think More About Death
Earlier this week, I wrote about the meaning behind the upcoming Día de los Muertos holiday. To further explore the theme of death and transcendence, I bare a part of my soul to give you a glimpse into the inner workings of my mind with this short story. The story is from the viewpoint of a 6 year old me, doing what Alan Watts urges us to do in the above quote, acknowledging immortality. Before you read on, understand that I now live a fuller life because of this specific dark and somewhat morbid contemplation. Ever since this incident, I have been and still am on a quest to find meaning and lead a life full of purpose with the goal of leaving behind a memorable legacy.
You’ve been staring at yourself in the mirror for what feels like hours. You’re alone. Crying hysterically, uncontrollably in your parents’ room. Your mortality has dawned on you and you are freaking out. It hit you with atomic bomb intensity, that you will die one day, knocking all the wind out of you. That life doesn’t go on forever, that your parents, siblings, relatives and every person on the face of the Earth will also perish. But the thing that truly drove you into panic is the fear of being forgotten. You are only 6 fucking years old… why the hell are you not playing and running around outside with the rest of the children, blissfully oblivious and care-free, you will wonder later in life. But nah, that’s never been your style. This moment right here is the first identifiable reference point that shapes you. A person with a philosophical mind that inhibits your being, much more than you would like it to… But you like to do this. To stare into your reflection and wonder who you are. Who you truly are and what the purpose of it all is. You look deep into your eyes, trying to get a glimpse into your soul, and wonder what the hell this is all about. You wonder how the rest of the world perceives you. You do all this shit alone when none of your siblings, parents or grandparents are around. You know you’re a weird kid. And you don’t want to give another reason to your mother to worry about. She’s got enough on her plate with your asthma, Elvia’s depression and back issues, Oscar’s rebellion and taking care of her Epileptic mother. Gris is good. She doesn’t give too much to worry over. You figure you’ll give her a break too. That you can handle this on your own. This is where the independent shit stems from. The reason why later in life you don’t really know how to show vulnerability and ask for help, even to your closest friends. You don’t know how to reach out. This is the pivotal moment when you decide that dealing with the inner turmoil on your own is the way to go. You don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because this is the Northern Mexican way of dealing with things – shoving them under the carpet and pretending they were never in the room. For better or for worse, these pondering philosophical sessions define you. You are good at it too. Your family has no fucking clue what goes through your restless little mind. Probably wouldn’t know what to do if they knew, you think. Now you realize maybe you never gave them enough credit. Now you try to take baby steps each day to open up, to show vulnerability and connect.
I once read about Edward Sharpe + The Magnetic Zeros' lead man, Alex Ebert. Apparently when he was also about 5 he asked his psychotherapist father if he would one day die. His father, matter-of-factly, answered 'yeah'. This knowledge took a toll on his life, causing him to resort to drugs and dwell in darkness. However, through music, he eventually found the healthiest way to express his inner angst and ultimately accept the circle of life (Take a listen to this beautiful song). I understand the idea of our inevitable deaths can cause discomfort and distress but it’s essential to acknowledge this crucial component of life sooner rather than later.
How are you dealing with this realization, if at all? What is your take on this? Do you rather ignore it until you must face it? Have you dealt with this fact of life or are you putting it off?