02. Dying is Living
“Don’t die wondering.”
First of all, don’t die. Second of all, it’s fine to wonder. Wondering is natural. To be curious from the moment we open our eyes, to absorb with all of our senses the things we may learn empirically from all that surrounds us. We wonder what it is that we see and hear, the things that move us, the things we cannot understand. We wonder and question every waking moment, and perhaps those spent fast asleep as well. So then what is so wrong with dying and wondering in conjunction? Well, dying is fine too, if you must do it. It happens to the best of us, the worst of us, all of us. It is inevitable. From the day we are born to the day we die, we are all progressing in various paces towards our own death. Life is transient. One day, an expanse of days and nights to come- lined up in front of you in an awaiting stream, another day, all of those moments just memories to be remembered, never to be relived, never again taking up the same amount of time that it took up when it happened.
That is heaviness in one sense. Each day weighs as much as a whole lifetime since it is the only present that you can live. Today is the only day in which you have the capacity to change what happens, to affect it and to absorb from it; it is the only day left for you to live right in front of your face, in your hands. Yesterday and all the days before it are no longer yours to shape. Tomorrow and all the days to come are not yet yours to claim and make your own. Damn yourself today, and that is what you live with for a lifetime. It lasts eternally long while you live it, the only “time” that you can experience being “now.” That is the meaning of today. A heavyweight truth. Yet, where there is one, there is the opposite. As heavy as today is, it is also the lightest of things. This is because it is the day that holds all the possibilities in the world, the chance to build higher, the opportunity to turn around and walk in the complete other direction than where you were headed just a day before. You can abandon everything leading up to this day in the pursuit of something new and not look back. There is no obligation to what you must do on this single day. You can allow it to raise you up or steep you into the depths of its uncertainty. A gust of wind, or even a summer breeze can blow your life somewhere completely new. It gives you humility in your existence. That is something to smile about, the lightness of being.
I can’t quite tell you why but I have never had a discomfort with dying. Never felt afraid, even when pondering it for an extended period of time. Even when faced with a narrow miss, an encounter with it of some sorts, even when considering my own ever impending, ever possible-at-any-moment death. My mom used to tell me it was because I was young and had the foolish naiveté of a youth, the belief that that we alone are invincible, and the worst would never befall us.
But it wasn’t this that guided my beliefs. It was the acceptance of the fact that our existence is not permanent. That is something I had accepted from as far back as I remember. Perhaps it was the passing of seasons that taught me how fleeting things are. With each spring, new leaves. Come autumn, the falling of the same leaves. The time my parents let me keep a pray mantis and a cabbage butterfly in the same plastic tank and watched me witness the preying, the closure of one life and the continuation of another brief one. Every sunrise and sunset a new one. We are no different. That was the conclusion I had come to at a very young age. I’d never found myself conflicted at this idea. Like waves, we come and we go.
This is the reason, I think, some of us cling so fiercely to our living lives. Afraid of not existing. Some people fear the unknown beyond and grasp onto a faith that gives them something afterwards. A destination they give themselves for comfort. Not existing is a strange concept. Existing is all we know. How can we even begin to imagine what the opposite of that would be like? It’s understandable that some people can’t face it. It’s one that I won’t ever know, not because I will never cease to exist, but because once I don’t, I won’t exist. I won’t know, at least not the same me that I know of. No one can tell me what it is that lies beyond that for sure. Maybe, it’s nothingness. I am fine with that. All things come to pass.
With this in my consciousness at all times, that is how I live. I may cease to exist at any moment. I am very at peace with that knowledge. Not because I don’t always feel like there is more I wanted to do, should have done, didn’t get around to do, etc., but because at any given moment, I am happy with who I am, where I am, when I am. All of my actions, I make with a high level of awareness. I will not act, if I am not okay with ceasing to exist in the next moment. Thus, I have never done something in which in the next moment, or down the road, I have regretted. I don’t quite think of it in those terms all of the time, but essentially, that is how I am. Surprisingly, it doesn’t slow me down as much as you might think, doing this. I have learned to be highly attuned to myself and listen closely to my instincts. So far, I have, in every moment of my life, been happy with what that has led me to. Ultimately, life is not mine to own. It just is, and I happen to have had the chance to participate in it for a given amount of time.
Exactly what I do in this given time is all that is within my control. That is where I pour my energy. What can I leave behind with the existence that I do have, to create meaning in having existed as myself? To be lasting beyond my own existence (as we all wish to be to some level, I think), to me, involves having touched the lives of others. There is no single way that I wish to achieve this. Just simply by living. The other ways in which I accomplish to do this is just that, other ways, the “everything else” in my existence. I simply follow the clarity in my heart and the light in my mind.
The quote, “Don’t die wondering,” demands me to not die while still not having conquered all of my wonders. But it is impossible to know everything. Everything is always fluctuating and growing, every second that I have to live, there are is an expanding amount of things that I could know and I want to know.
I am always wondering about something, whether it be: what exactly that pattern on the waves below signify, if I can pinpoint the changing colors of the ocean to a particular oceanic shelf and change of elevation on a map later, how old this plane that I am flying on is, whether it has passed safety regulations, when the last mechanical check was since some airlines are pretty unreliable about that, which particular wind current we are straddling and riding on the back of right now, at what rate are we being overtaken by the rising sun behind us, calculating this with what knowledge I have of the revolution of the earth, the angles, the time zones, the circumference of the earth and the velocity of the plane and our altitude
…where the people sitting next to me are from, what their relationship is, where they are going, what they are talking about, how many people in the plane have been looking out of their windows the whole time just as I have…what the difference is in between the people who do look out and who don’t ever bother, what the view is like from the pilot cabin, what it would be like to be an air marshall
…Kant and the Critique of Pure Reason and his worldview versus the view given by Hume, solipsism, how reason and rationality comprise how we perceive the world, yet perception is something that can so easily be altered and differ from one angle to another, there is not such thing as an absolute perception, is there? Is there such thing as an absolute truth?…I will never stop wondering.
Yet, take my breath away, stop my heart now and I will die. If my plane dropped out of the sky right now, I will be able to let go peacefully. But, I will have died wondering all those things. There is nothing wrong with that. Of course, I would say that because I will die wondering, but truth be told, I know this isn’t quite the wondering they speak of, whoever “they” are that left this demand on us.
Don’t die doubting where you are, what you have done, who you are on the day that you die, whenever that is. This comes with a certain heaviness because you must, in every moment, make decisions and take action in a way that you are not unhappy with. How can we ever know, truly, if out of the infinite number of ways we could have done something, the one path we chose was the one to be? But you see, that one that you chose is the only that had fruition, given breath, the only one that was given your life, your energy, wings to “be”. I was given the time that I was given to exist and all I know is that I am grateful of it.
Being okay with dying at any point equates to being happy with the life you are living at any point. In this light, the act of dying is the same as any other act of living. Every act of being that you have had the opportunity to be. Being able to take it in stride as you would take any other thing in life. It is the lightness in being. Being brazen and bold in your living, graceful in letting go. Maybe that’s what it’s all about.
If my plane plummets into the seas right now, in the instance of my death, I will be smiling.