The harrowing D word is death. From what I have observed, most people can get themselves to say the word but only in the appropriate circumstances and in hushed voices. I can only hypothesize these people think of death as unsettling and, maybe, even deranged.
…we can lessen our fear of dying by living a regret-free life, meditating on our effect on subsequent generations, and confiding in loved ones about our death anxiety.
― Irvin Yalom – How to Die by Jordan Michael Smith
Some people may proclaim I am obsessed with the idea of death. All I have been able to say in response is I cannot help the way I feel about it. It is part of life. True, the end part but still, it is one of the aspects that defines our existence. After reading Jordan Michael Smith’s article in The Atlantic magazine, the remarks that have been tossed my way no longer leave me frustrated and angry with people who are intimidated by the thought of not being alive in this world.
Irvin Yalom [psychotherapist] stated, in the interview, that talking about the fears of death help us come to terms with it. For someone who is horrified by the thought, I can only imagine how they would struggle with this type of conversation. I do not seem to have a problem with this subject and end up posing questions about how it would feel to die in various circumstances and what is beyond the final act of departing. These questions horrify some people.
I have few regrets in my life. Most of what has happened throughout the years have come about as reactions to the circumstances I was facing at the time. True, there were times when I could have made better decisions but, for the most part, I used the knowledge I had at the time and tried my best to weigh the consequences right in deciding on a course of action. I was not always right but it was not because of any lack of trying to do the right thing at that particular moment. I do not feel I need time to rectify any mistakes I have made in my past. I could die in the next minute and all would be good.
This is not to say I have been an angel all during my life. I certainly did many things that were flawed, cruel, foolish, or impulsive. Sometimes it was not just one of these things too but two or three. Nevertheless, once coming to my senses, I made atonements for those actions. Although I felt intense guilt when realizing what I had done, I do not harbor guilt. Does this make me brutish or insensitive? I do not know.
I thought it odd that Yalom mentioned meditation, yet, with more time in solemn thought, I recognized the fact that I do use the practice to clear out the clutter of the details of my life in order to better understand the big picture of life. In doing this, I believe I have a comprehension of the circle of life that many people are unaware of, are ignoring, or are just too frightened to take the time to consider. Could it be that when I meditate I am making peace with myself and, therefore, am more open to the subject of death? It is a possibility, although, I think other aspects of my existence also come into play with my nonchalant attitude towards death.
I would think Yalom is comfortable with this topic because of his profession as a psychotherapist. After all, how many of his clients/patients have needed to talk about this very subject? I can only presume the number is large. Yet, during his interview with Jordan Michael Smith, he gave the impression he possessed some profound worriment about the departure that is undoubtedly going to take him. Of course, he is 86 years old too. I am over twenty years younger than him so I might feel some apprehension later on that has not touched me thus far. Conversely though, seeing I have had a near-death experience, I may not feel any of the disquietude associated with death when it befalls me because I have a flash of what it could or would be.
Death continues to be a mystery. I am aware I am not the only one who finds the subject thought-provoking but I do believe our numbers are few.
Are you anxious about death?