BE ALWAYS READY TO DIE
Death arrives just once. It is an event we have some say over, like a farmer tending his crops towards their full ripening at the time appointed according to their planting and expected period of harvest. Yet though he spends much time, energy and study on tending to his crops, there’s always some chance of frost, or flood, or pestilence, or ravenous beast, coming and ruining it all at an unexpected day or hour. So too our lives, planned out in accordance with the insurance agent’s actuarial tables, provisioned with some number of years for childhood, another allotment for youth, sill more for marriage, career and family, and a special time thereafter for ourselves, before the last and final allotment to perhaps bear or even suffer before death, and then the event of life is over. This scenario is an easy one to prepare for, as it’s the default plan – everyone makes ready to die at a ripe old age; and most oldsters go to their death with some seeming satisfaction that they’ve played the game right. But what of those who go early? Don’t we always say “they were taken too soon.”
Our lament over early death is perhaps due to a sense of being cheated – cheated out of time – time owned use by life by virtue of our being born. Or maybe we feel we aren’t ready, as who expects to go so soon? But isn’t this folly? Who is guaranteed of long life? And who among us is reasonable to accept such a guarantee? Believe it possible perhaps, probable maybe, but certainly – folly. Not being ready is more understandable. So, let’s become ready.
We’re ready for death when we live well. But to live well we must know what it means to live well. We need objectives for our life, something to strive for, a way of doing and being which is worthwhile, a standard to follow. We also need principals. These are different from objectives, as principals are the tools we use to construct a worthwhile life, a life capable of moving in the direction of the objectives, over and around obstacles, and through the times we might otherwise want to give up.
So, before we can be ready for death we must be ready for life. We must outfit ourselves with a purpose and a means to achieve our worthy ends. And then begin living that life. And when death finally comes we’ll meet it well, wherever it happens, at whatever age, and whatever circumstances; satisfied we’ve lived well, and good, and for a reason.
The rest of this book outlines how I handled this challenge in my own life. The objectives and principals I produce and lived for, which brought me peace well before my end.
Notes from my muse
Alone in the wild I can feel my breathing. Whereas when I’m with my fellows, in the seeming safe and sound, breathing is thoughtless and automatic. Out here, I wonder at the keen apparatus which keeps me going. What if it simply stopped? Why in the world does it continue? No guarantees. There’s no one to catch my fall. There never really was.
The desert wind is a better reminder of death than a sea breeze. It’s the heat and the dry that does it, and the sound it makes blowing through cactus and scrub. And the sand...everything gritty and hard, getting in your mouth and coating the skin with dust. Therefore, go to the desert to remember mortality. Leave the sea for soft dreams of forever.