Tuesday I was driving back from Portland to Farmington. I was nearing Augusta thinking about where I’d pick up a bite to eat, as well as getting equipment for my just turned nine year old son to start a video editing hobby. It crossed my mind that interstates are dangerous places, it’s always possible that an unexpected turn of events could lead to an accident. My last thoughts of this life could be about how I was feeling hungry!
This wasn’t a disturbing or ghoulish thought. Death is an integral and necessary part of life. I think to really embrace life and be content one has to first overcome the fear of death. There is one fundamental reason people fear death – they believe that this reality and life experience is the only thing of value, and that once it’s gone one suffers extreme loss. If one believes that, then the events of the world are of monumental importance, they are the essence of life’s meaning.
Such a view shifts focus from looking inside to looking at the world for validation, approval and self-worth. The world is really bad at providing those things. Career only provides temporary validation — there’s always one more step to take up the latter. Advertising and movies have created unrealistic ideals of beauty, family life and success. The world is more likely to make people feel worse about themselves, focusing on what they lack, where they fall short, and what’s missing from life. Others might fixate on sports, politics, fashion or something to stay distracted. Fear of death increases dissatisfaction with life.
I was simply curious. So I decided to open up my mind and just say whatever words popped out. “What does one feel upon death,” I asked? Then I said the word “accomplishment.” I said it without thinking and puzzled. Accomplishment? “But not every life is an accomplishment is it?”
I then answered myself, “Of course it is. Life itself is just an experience. It is an exploration of the nature of existence. The universe is unified, everything is connected. Lives provides information and understanding. A life as a drug addict murderer accomplishes as much as a life as a Nobel scientist because it explores how it is that context and personality lead to those sorts of experiences. The individual is a conduit of information.”
I then pondered the words that had just come out of my mouth and continued to talk out loud. “The individual is an experience point, but I and the world in which I inhabit are part of a unified reality, and life is a way to experience how that reality works. A person who experiences a very horrific existence may in fact accomplish more than a person who has an easy existence…
“No…every life is an equal accomplishment. It is part of the tapestry, it is part of some kind of universal self-learning/awareness…”
I paused. “OK, what does that mean? Does it mean nihilism, anything goes since all life is accomplishment? No, because that kind of attitude is only possible when you separate context from individual experience. Whether or not you say ‘anything goes’ depends not just on you as a discrete individual, but the way the context of your life experience shapes how you understand and interpret your reality. The discrete individual does not make choices outside of a context, who we are is very much determined by our place in the universe, we are not disconnected entities navigating a world separate from ourselves.
“Maybe life is being a part of everything. Maybe what’s inside reflects all of what’s outside and vice-versa. Maybe different people living different lives are not truly ‘someone else’ but a part of me experiencing the world from a different perspective.”
At that point I had to exit the interstate so I stopped talking and shifted my focus to driving my car and avoiding a life ending accident! I got a personal pizza at the Pizza Hut in Target, and then bought a Sony camcorder and video editing software at Best Buy. As the sun was setting I headed up towards Farmington, enjoying an absolutely beautiful evening. Even though my mind went elsewhere after that, the world seemed a tad more magical than it had before.