|Life and Death and Things In Between.
||[Mar. 5th, 2007|12:07 am]
|||||Wings of Forgiveness - India.Arie||]|
Okay, so I read Tuesdays With Morrie yesterday and it really made me think about death. Not in an "I'm going to kill myself" kind of way, but in a "death is an interesting topic" kind of way. Kind of like hearing the clock ticking in French did a few weeks ago. I'm going to combine the two things into a rant that will go beyond death, I know that. All quotes are from the book.
In the time it took you to read this sentence, somebody somewhere died. A child just lost his beloved grandfather; a mother just lost the chance to watch her youngest child grow up. With death, experiences are cut short and people are robbed of the chance to live out their lives. Death is a natural occurrence, and it's one thing people can't escape. People live their lives in fear of death-- but why?
"Everyone knows they're going to die, but nobody believes it." People fool themselves, saying things like "I'm going to live forever" and "this isn't going to kill me." They fool themselves because they don't know how to deal with death. They don't want to die; they want their time on this earth to continue for as long as possible. They don't want their loved ones to have to deal with the grief and sorrow that death brings with it. So instead of accepting the fact that everyone dies, people ignore it. They don't think about dying on a daily basis; they'd rather just be invincible. This idea of being invincible isn't helping anyone. It's instilling a fear of death inside millions of people.
Fear is one way to deal with death, but "there's a better approach. To know you're going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That's better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you're living." If you constantly wake up and think, "I could die today," you might actually enjoy what you do. You might actually go out and try to help people. You might sympathize with people suffering on the other side of the world. You might actually learn to understand your emotions, and you might actually learn how to step away from them. If you are prepared to die, you will love unconditionally and you won't be afraid when your time actually does come.
Another problem with death is that "people act as if [it] is contagious." They don't like to see people dying because they think that they'll be next, that they'll come down with the "sickness" of death, that they'll never be able to live out their dreams. Seeing someone else's life end shouldn't worry people about their lives ending; it should just make it seem more natural. Because "it's natural to die... [and] the fact that we make such a big hullabaloo over it is all because we don't see ourselves as a part of nature. We think because we're human we're something above nature." But death is natural--10 out of 10 people die. It's just something people need to learn how to deal with better.
And when you do think about death, "it's more than the negative that you're going to die, it's also the positive that you understand you're going to die, and that you live a better life because of it." Once you realize that your time is limited, you might actually go out and try to do cool stuff. You might try to help people who will be there longer than you so that they can enjoy their time just as much as you enjoyed/enjoy yours.
The book also talked about how Morrie (the professor guy that the author talked to) could sympathize with everyone now that he was dying. He could read the newspaper and actually feel the pain of the people starving in Africa and the people being killed in Bosnia. Because he was also dying, he understood how they felt, and he wanted to help them. "Maybe death is the great equalizer, the one big thing that can finally make strangers shed a tear for one another." So if everyone, to paraphrase Tim McGraw, lived like they were dying, people might care more about each other, and they might learn to understand the pain and suffering that people go through. I don't know; I just thought it was a cool thought. "Be compassionate...and take responsibility for each other. If we only learned those lessons, this world would be so much better a place."
Enough about death; let's talk about life. "Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn't. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted." That is so true, and I can relate to it so much that it scares me. A lot. I mean right now, for example, I don't want to be upset. I keep telling myself to get over it. That's the logical, rational part of my mind. But the other side, the irrational, idealistic side, stays upset because it doesn't know how else to react to the situation. It's hurting me, but I know it shouldn't. There's also the whole college thing. Part of me wants to go off to college, and a big part of me wants to go to England, but the other part of me is scared and keeps pulling away from it. My mind is at a constant battle with itself, and I can't win... or lose. It's just always there. And that's cool.
So I know this is in agnostikah, and it doesn't really have anything to do with religion, but that's okay because I don't care. I think it's cool, and quite frankly, I don't feel like talking about religion. But this book did talk about the meaning of life.
"So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning." This is because love is important, and so is compassion. People need to help each other to ease suffering and to share pain and agony and stuff like that. "We really don't experience the world fully, because we're half-asleep, doing things we automatically think we have to do," like mindlessly paying bills, going to work every day, maintaining a schedule, going to bed, waking up, et cetera. It goes on forever. It's like we're in a trance, on auto-pilot, doing what we think we have to do. We don't do what we want to do, and we don't experience the things we want to experience. Life should be fun; it shouldn't be a burden. People should do what they love to do, not what they have to do.
It's interesting how sometimes "we feel lonely,... to the point of tears, but we don't let those tears come because we are not supposed to cry. Or how we feel a surge of love for [someone] but we don't say anything because we're frozen with the fear of what those words might do to the relationship." I'm sure we've all been there... I know I have. And sure, I regret it, but I have to move past it. People hold back their true feelings because they're afraid. Afraid of rejection, afraid of being alienated, afraid of being different. There's that song "big girls don't cry" and the idea that boys shouldn't cry. These ideas make it difficult for people to have emotions. Men don't want to be seen as "babies," so they suck it up and try to stay strong, when really all they need to do is cry. Crying is not a bad thing. It's a human thing.
It's also a human thing to crave human interaction and relationships. The book talks about a girl in the mental institution who would wake up in the morning, come out of her room, and go lie in the middle of the floor all day without saying a word. All she wanted was for someone to notice she was there. Everyone wants to be noticed, everyone wants to be cared about. It's human nature, and it makes life difficult sometimes when you feel like nobody is there and nobody cares. I feel that way a lot. I know I do.
The biggest part of human interaction is obviously communication. A lot of people have lost the ability to have a real conversation. "We are great at small talk: 'what do you do?' 'Where do you live?' But really listening to someone--without trying to sell them something, pick them up, recruit them, or get some kind of status in return--how often do we get this anymore?" It's true. Because "so many people with far smaller problems are so self-absorbed, their eyes glaze over if you speak for more than thirty seconds. They already have something else in mind--a friend to call, a fax to send, a lover they're daydreaming about. They only snap back to full attention when you finish talking, at which point they say 'Uh-huh' or 'yeah, really' and fake their way back to the moment." My favorite of their responses is "mmk." That quote just made me laugh because I'm guilty of doing just that. My phrase is usually "that's interesting" though. See, I know I do this. I hate this. I know I do it, but I don't want to do it. That's the whole tension of opposites thing again.
So, now let's discuss American culture (or lack there of). American culture sucks. It makes people feel bad about themselves, and it's just so overwhelming and stupid. People spend "so many hours on things that [mean] absolutely nothing to [them]: movie stars, supermodels, the latest noise out of Princess Di or Madonna...Why [do] we bother with all the distractions...? [People] give up days and weeks of their lives, addicted to someone else's drama." I don't get it. It would be better if people went out and created their own "drama" per se. People should stop taking their own lives and relationships and surroundings for granted and just let things happen.
So basically, the only way to get rid of this stupid culture is to go beyond it and create your own. "Don't... disregard every rule of your community.... Don't go around naked... don't run through red lights. [Obey] the little things... But the big things--how we think, what we value--those you choose yourself. You can't let anyone--or any society--determine those for you." I mean, it would be pretty neat if society didn't have any standards or any rules, but realistically that would never happen. I think it's just important for a lot of people to realize that they need to live for themselves. Oooh, I'm feeling some India.Arie lyrics coming on... "I was always too concerned about what everybody would think, but I can't live for everybody, I gotta live my life for me." Love.
So, we need to live for ourselves. This is one of the best words of advice from the book: "If you're trying to show off for people at the top, forget it. They will look down on you anyhow. And if you're trying to show off for people at the bottom, forget it. They will only envy you. Status will get you nowhere. Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone." It just seems so real. Nobody around you is going to care about your status as a wealthy businessman. The people above you are still going to think you're stupid, and the people below you are just going to think you're stupid for trying to be better than you are. Now I'm making it sound like people are arranged by wealth, but they're not. It could also be something like intelligence, beauty, or creativity or something. I don't know. I guess "if we saw each other as more alike, we might be very eager to join in one big human family in this world, and to care about that family the way we care about our own."
So since I started this thing off about death, then got off on a few tangents, I will bring it back to death again. In a minute, maybe. The other advice I liked was "don't cling to things, because everything is impermanent" and "don't let go too soon, but don't hang on too long." I hung on too long. Now it hurts. Give people and things a chance, but don't cling to stupid things and don't waste your time on things that are going nowhere and apparently mean nothing.
Before you die, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself "for all the things [you] didn't do. All the things [you] should have done." Just don't "get stuck on the regrets of what should have happened." Go out and make those things happen. Life is what you make of it. So "make peace...with yourself and everyone around you." Life would just be so much better if people understood it. Not that I understand it because beliiiiieve me, I don't. At all.
"None of us can undo what we've done, or relive a life already recorded... [and] there is no such thing as 'too late' in life." So basically, as Auden said, "Love each other or perish."
Sorry that's so long; I had nothing better to do this weekend.