During my morbid years, you know, the years that are accompanied by knowing everything, followed by the years of futility before we realise that adults are weighed down with responsibility rather than just being deliberately boring, I found it attractive to look forward to death. Living beyond the age of 23 was not a life goal of mine, not because I was suicidal, but because it just didn’t seem like a probable outcome at the time. This improbability allowed me to live with a sense of freedom in my heart, feeling unrestrained by the burdens of deep contemplations of a future that I saw no reason to look forward to.
This is not morbidity, and I’m not saying that to convince myself either. I’ve always viewed the advent of death to be one of liberation and ease. Life is a struggle, and the struggle is real for all of us. We find different ways to cope, to distract ourselves, and to push forward beyond the current state, but it doesn’t come easily. It requires effort. If that effort is not met with relief or joy at the perceived success of it, it intensifies that struggle. Those perceptions of success therefore become the trappings of morbidity or ease. If poorly informed, it convinces us that success may be in the shape and form of something that is detrimental to us. If well-informed, it may reveal that we’re not as celebrated as we thought we were, which has its own ball and chain to bear.
Perceptions are therefore at the heart of the matter. How we perceive life or death draws us closer to either, or rarely to both. But we find ourselves facing life with a binary disposition. The debates and the philosophising are far too often focused on how to cheat death or live a fuller life, but is rarely focused on true balance. That true balance, for me, is how to appreciate life while embracing death. The one is meaningless without the other.
People die a million deaths in a single lifetime, but very few live a single wholesome life before death. This is not surprising since many focus on understanding the definition of wholesome relative to someone else’s views without reflecting on their own needs, and then are convinced that they have a wholesome life, while never truly experiencing it for themselves. Life becomes a tick-box exercise when we are so externally focused and so internally ignorant. This is probably what I find most fascinating about the self-help book culture. We spend so much time looking for insights from others, that we spend only a fraction of that time seeking insights into ourselves. I know many would disagree by suggesting that their poring through those self-help books is their efforts to find what resonates with them, but that’s still like a child going to their mother, looking at the sun shining through the window, and asking if it’s morning yet.
That seems to be at the core of it all. We’re often so insecure about our own capability that we need someone else to affirm it for us before we believe it for ourselves. I’ve never understood why the opinions of others are so important to our own lives, because I’ve always seen how two people acting independently but sincerely, regardless of race, religion, or culture, align with the same human ideals, and goals. But we’ve distracted ourselves with labels and compartments that go as fickle as defining our perceptions of others based on the compartments to which they belong, before we even see them as independently minded human beings.
That’s where the chicken and egg situation arises. Do we behave the way we do because we’re conditioned to align with the traits and attributes of the labels that we subscribe to, or do we subscribe to those labels because we find familiarity in their traits and attributes? For this reason I despise labels, token events, and the like. It preconditions us to a conformed response to life rather than encouraging us to live and think independently. I think the insecurity that drives us as a point of departure is what informs our inclination to first be surrounded by nurturers before we believe that we are capable of exploring and overcoming on our own.
I’m not suggesting that we only learn from our own mistakes, and that we ignore the experiences of others. I’m saying that we set out with the belief that it is achievable, and then draw wisdom from sources that talk to our goals. However, defining that goal first before seeking such guidance is the difference between leading and following.
Dying is easy. We kill our spirits regularly, often several times a day, because the threat of failure and its perceived humiliation is so daunting, that we’d rather slay our souls than believe in ourselves. Humiliation is relative. A failure only becomes humiliating if the opinions of those around us defines who we are, and what we think of ourselves. But that’s the problem right there. Most of us know no other way of living, and then die a thousand deaths in the face of rejection.