Death, The Terror!
Death! An evil? It is terrifying and wraps its incidence with dark all around gloom and numbness. No living entity welcomes it. Death is not only inevitable, irreversible, universal but also final.
Kahlil Gibran says:
‘Life and death are two ends of the human’s journey on the planet. With life, death is a shadow. For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.’ In the words of Michael Shermer, the historian of science: ‘The ‘purpose’ of life is to survive, reproduce and flourish, and it has been fulfilling its destiny for 3.5 billion years in an unbroken chain from the Precambrian to today and encompassing all forms of life of which we know.’ Death, the invincible victor? We know that death is the human’s disconnection with all his relationships and the world and entails the death of his consciousness.
Death begins with the first breath.
Only people affected by the fatal and debilitating diseases, loneliness by desertion by relatives, extreme poverty, social shame, unbearable debt, torturous attacks of guilt consciousness and so on may unwillingly embrace death. To them, death is better than life, a life that is lifeless.
Unfortunate deaths occur in accidents, individual murder for robbery or out of hate, and homicide in implementing irrational scriptural commands. These result in agony to the relatives and friends of the deceased.
As A. C. Grayling, the British thinker puts it:
‘Death is natural to a rational human being. If we base our view of death on evidence and reason, we see it as a natural process: the ceasing of bodily functions, including consciousness followed by the body’s dispersal into its physical elements, remaining part of nature but in a different way.’
‘Death is therefore the basis of life and fully half of its rhythm.’
Can We Be Immortal?
Humans desire endless life, immortality. Longing for immortality is inherent in humans. Humans have endless goals. Their endless desires and goals are the source of their misery.
‘Propagating our genes into the next generation’ and creating and leaving an everlasting legacy behind us are the only forms of immortality known and available to us. A man can attain immortality through his memorable legacy. He can live on in the minds and hearts of his family or society or the world if he has produced and left behind him an unforgettable and enduring bequest for them. This legacy will be an inscription in stone for him.
Nature does not allow her child, the human being to be alive forever and takes him back through his death. She maintains a balance between life and death so that life and death should continue. From the Earth to the Earth! This is man’s journey on this planet.
Basavanna, the unique Indian mystic says:
‘What you call life
Is a wind-blown lamp’
‘Death is to me A solemn festival.’
This view belongs to the rationally spiritual realm. A seeker faces his non-existence with equanimity because he will attain liberation from existence and union with the Void, not a supernatural god.
Human beings long to immortalize themselves through their souls too which do not exist. According to the Bhagavadgita, the Hindu scripture, unlike the human body, the human soul is deathless. But there is no disembodied soul or mind. No body, no brain; no brain, no mind; no mind, no soul. The human body is primary and the mind or soul is secondary. The hard fact is that, simultaneously with the death of the body, the mind or soul in the body passes away. Neuroscience has proved it.
You and I have only one life gifted by mother nature. Let us make the most of it by living a good life individually and socially and leave an enduring legacy behind us. This is the only option, and this is enough for us to immortalize ourselves.
Science has been engaged in attempting to extend the human life span with the aid of technology including medical technology.
Science and technology have not so far invented a way to make living things infinite. It is a sure hope that they may enable us to live infinitely or at least for a period of life longer than the present highest human longevity of 125 years. They can ‘defeat death’.
Death Is Defeatable
In the words of John Donne, the poet:
‘Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so.
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more.
Death, thou shalt die.’
The great poet’s purely spiritual message we may apply and adapt to our rationally spiritual message: Life is short but its genetic inheritance and human legacy are immortal.
The human being needs no long life for a fulfilled and happy life, ‘a good life.’
As Basavanna says:
‘What does it matter for a man
Of good repute, to live five days?
What does it matter to live four?
Or three or two?’
The ‘good repute’ relates to the good work done and left behind by the human being as his legacy for his family or the society or the world.
The human being dies and can defeat death!