As many of you know, I believe in reincarnation. I’m very sure of my belief. Well, I don’t believe in anything 100%, and I consider no belief of mine beyond questioning, but I believe in this about as much as I believe in anything.
If you’re interested in my reasoning, you can read my article Life After Death. But this article isn’t about that. What I felt like talking about now was how my belief affects how I live.
Knowing that I won’t die (my body will die, but I won’t die) obviously takes away a lot of fear and anxiety. Some say the fear of death is the root of all other fears; I’m not sure about that, but I feel like I can take life a lot easier since coming to terms with this. I think that perhaps, most of my fears are a little less strong since then. It’s easier to challenge this “end of the world” feeling I sometimes have; I know that rationally, there will be no utter, final end. Things will work out. Worst case, I’ll leave this body, which is not so bad.
I once had a crappy date with a guy who confessed to me that he didn’t want to have children pretty much because they would one day die, and he didn’t want to subject them to that. By extension, I would guess that he would rather have never been born, than have to face death. Now THAT seemed like a bleak outlook.
I asked him why he feared death so much. He said, “well, it’s painful… and final…”.
I told him that I had been through much worse physical pain, due to Crohn’s disease, than I expected to go through before most possible deaths I could imagine. Actually, the pain aspect of death doesn’t worry me that much at all.
I think we can assume it was the other part of death that really worried him. It’s final. He was so scared of losing… what? Himself? Something like that, I guess.
I’ve observed that animals don’t have a fear of death. Sure, they are scared of things that might kill them. But they are not scared of death. When they are dying they are not shaking in fear. The fear is gone by then; they just wait, relax even, and let it happen.
I think when we fear death we fear the end of our self-conception. Of our image of ourself. We somehow know that we are something more than our body… yet, we also believe or fear that we are our body, and fear that the death of our body is the death of that something more. I think that’s why when we are already dying, we can still have something left to fear.
They say that coming to terms with mortality helps you live better because you remember that you only have one life to live. It’s strange, because I often feel the meaning in such phrases, and resonate with it, even though I don’t believe that I have only one life to live.
I’ve had brushes with death before. They’ve each helped me become more awake, braver and more ready to live life the way I want to. I think most of all, they’ve shocked me, reminding me that so many things we consider important are really unimportant. It’s like looking at the stars… it gives you perspective, and perspective changes everything.
And I think these experiences have helped me separate that “something more” from my body. When we consider death, that “something more” starts to disassociate from the body… the body doesn’t seem like such a safe thing to identify with any more. That’s scary, but once you get through the fear there is peace on the other side. Your “something more” is safe. You are safe.
I don’t need a belief in eternal death to inspire me to make the best of my life. Even if I have billions of years to do whatever I’ve been waiting to do… if not now, when? And if I’m suffering now, where is the consolation in thinking that outside forces might accidentally improve things for me sometime in the next billion years? I still have to take the reigns of my life. Facing up to the mortality of my body helps me to do that, cause it reminds me to live for what is real, not for illusions, not for petty little things that become nothing when I’m looking up at the stars at night.