When the time comes to die, make sure that all you have to do is die! —Elisabeth Elliot
Life is interesting, for everything is absolutely uncertain except one thing — death. Death is a taboo topic for many cultures, but it is literally the only thing that everyone in the world will experience, be it the president, janitor, queen or economist. Everyone, no matter what, will experience death and that is certain. Some are more efficient at reaching there, but we will all get there some day.
I Feared Death
For the longest time, I feared death and aging. Living in the fountain of youthfulness, I appreciate the curious thoughts about all possibilities, the endless hopefulness in the future and the ambition that is not wiped away by the cynicism of reality. (I think that’s the answer to life.)
More often than not, most of my friends enjoy hanging out with me because I still provide the naive ambition to change the world, something that reality has killed for them. So I feared, I feared that one day, I will be a bitter old lady, too cynical to continue enjoying the beauty the world can provide.
That was until I learnt about death.
People say that they fear public speaking more than death itself. But I am absolutely sure many people fear death enough for industries and research institutions to continuously create drugs to slow or reverse aging. (Case in point: research abut Merformin)
There was a time where I was invested in Buddhism and the Tibetan & Bhutanese way of life. We typically understand time in a linear way, with a past, present and a future. However, time is relative and has no structure. It is whatever you deem it to be.
And in some cultures, time is cyclical. There is no clear distinction between the past, present and future. It is all interconnected and a huge blur. Does it mean to say it invalidates the linear time form of life? No, it is just a different way of organizing the structure of how one understands time.
Cyclical timelines talk openly about death, for death is part of how we are born again in the reincarnation philosophy. That aside, the way they understand and deal with death opened my mind to a new perspective of death.
By mixing both the linear timeline of the world and understanding death from a eastern philosophy, death becomes a lot less scary and in a way, I do look forward to it. Because when the time comes, all I have to do is die.
Can you die today?
The curious realization I had is that once you accept the fact that you will absolutely die some day, it frees up a lot of constraints, fears and worries.
Everyone is going to die anyway. Time exists only here, right now. So there is nothing stopping me from going to seize the day, do everything I want, do a good job and fill the world with more love than I have entered. At the end of the day, death is certain and from now till death, the possibilities are endless.
At death, it is not like I can bring my research papers, certificates, contracts and whatnots with me. Death is just the end. Full stop. Fini. Nada. So from now till that point in time, I can do everything I want. The only constraint is what I set myself up for. Obviously I am not stupid to set many constraints, so by accepting death, it frees up all constraints.
I remembered in 2012, I was in some jungle with friends going towards a waterfall. I feared every step I took and my friend just said, go for it. What is the worst that could happen? You die. You’re going to die anyway, so you’re not changing the end of your story.
And so, I learnt to be brave and never looked back since.
At the same time, death is not just about doing everything you want with no consequences. That would actually be a pretty bad idea. So I started asking myself, “can you die today?”. And since 2014, the answer has always been yes.
Yes, I can die today. Yes, I can die right now. Yes, at this point in time, I have done everything I could. There are no regrets, no worries, nothing. I am happy and my time is up now, that is fine.
I look forward to death. When it comes, it is going to be calming and peaceful. And all I have to do is die. In the meantime, that is really up to however you want to craft it. It’s been more than 10 years now that I have been living life to the fullest, adding goodness to the world and having new adventures.
There is something about the certainty of death that opens my brain up to embracing all sorts of uncertainties there are to come.