Death: The greatest leveller

The democracy of death hits you hardest when someone you know just can't die, but does finally die.

Death may be the greatest of all human
— Socrates

The democracy of death hits you hardest when someone you know just can’t die, but does finally die. Death is a certainty, but most of us are caught unawares when faced with it. Nothing seems to prepare us enough for it, as is evident in the overwhelming grief experienced by us when we are faced with the death of a loved one.

On the one hand, man exalts himself as alone of all living creatures, to be privileged to know and conceive of his death as a must in the double sense — that it is inevitable and without exception. On the other hand, man, once again the only one among all animals, dreads, resents and fights this unexceptionable inevitability with such paranoid vigour that death has been rendered obscene in our time. Epicurus poses a very relevant question: “Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?”

All religions talk of the continuity of life. They also speak of an ethical system in which the good is rewarded and the bad punished. Very few spare a thought for what and how the final moment will be. Most of us are in fact afraid to die, because in death we face the unknown. What we see when someone dies is the dead body. What we do not witness is the entry into a new life.

Some of us panic when we become aware that our life is reaching its end and some never really come to terms with their mortality. Even the old and the feeble who have lived full lives cling to the present and fear the day when they must die.

It is true that several of our life experiences remind us of death in small ways. When we have to part with our possessions, loved one, a friend or lose money, end a relationship, have a divorcee, or simply retire, we experience death in these minor ways, which are a preparation for the final moment.

The best preparation for death is to let go, and thereby achieve inner freedom. Though inner freedom may be hard to achieve, we are in everyday life faced with a choice to either stubbornly remain tethered to life or to let go. In letting go we experience the pain of death in less harsh ways and that I believe will make the final passage easier for us.

To the celebrated poet, John Keats, as to many great thinkers, death is extinction, an abyss into which life finally disappears. He writes:

“…then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.”

The poet Reiner Kunze is equally poignant:
“You are one being among many
Only you hang on to beauty
And know: you must part.”

Disease and death are essential ingredients in man’s development. Remembering we’ll be dead soon can make life more meaningful and enable us to make right choices in life. Because almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure are finally going to be buried with us. These things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked; there is nothing to lose.

Moin Qazi is a well-known banker, author
and Islamic researcher. He can be reached

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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