Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Do Not Fear Death, For I Have Truly Lived

I recently read a great post over Dragos Roua - Brilliantly Better. He wrote about the difference between living in reality and living in an illusion. He states that "If you are experiencing fear of loss in your current situation, then you’re in an illusion." He goes on to explain that "In real life, you have nothing to lose. You’re already complete. You can only enjoy your life every second." There is a LOT more than that post, and I highly recommend you follow the link - he's an excellent writer.

Anyway, I was reading the comments, and one reader really lambasted him because she felt that we have a great deal to fear losing in real life. She was concerned about losing the people and things in her life. She felt that his definition was totally off base, but I feel he was right on the money.

Let me elucidate. Fear has been called an acronym for False Expectations Appearing Real. I believe that to be true. Studies have shown that the vast majority of the things we worry about never happen. Of the ones that do, they are seldom as bad as we feared they would be. Now, I am not saying that fear is illusory in all situations, but unless the danger is imminent (for example a wild animal is charging straight at you) then chances are caution, rather than fear, is called for.

A few years back, we had a fire in our house. We lost almost everything on the second floor, including all 30,000 books in our library. We did have insurance, but the system for replacement was so convoluted that we never did get it all sorted, and finally ended up fixing the house ourselves, as the contractor never did show up. Our books were our most valued possession, and we never got them back. I tell you this because it taught me a very valuable lesson (no, not that insurance companies are evil - I already knew that). We lost our family heirlooms, our books, and most of our furniture, but we were fine. All the stuff we lost was just that - stuff. I won't say I am happy about the loss, but in the end I am still me, and I now know that even if I lost everything I owned, I would be okay. In a weird way, I am a better person because things are less important to me now. I know they can vanish in an instant, so I am not attached to my possessions. I still value them, but I do not fear losing them. Thus, I am living in reality from the material point of view, not in an illusion.

The illusion is that when you lose things you are diminished in some way. Much of our modern way of life is designed to foster this illusion. Much of the current concern over the economy is that money is not liquid enough. What that means is that consumers are not spending like they used to, so business is nervous. Unless people quit saving and start spending, many economists are predicting a depression. That's why the government stimulus program was concocted, to give people a reason to acquire more possessions, and thereby stimulate the economy. Of course this ignores the reality that most of those possessions are manufactured in other countries, so the money doesn't stay in the country, but it is, after all, a global economy. What you buy does not define who you are as a person.

Another fear people have is loss of income. Many people have lost their jobs recently, myself included. This is the fear of the unknown, for most people define themselves by what they do. One of the first questions people ask when they meet a new person is "What do you do?". The usual response is to give your occupation. This is a way of deciding pecking order, in my opinion. Whoever has the best job is given status. I haven't changed in the last month, yet I get a far different response when I say I am unemployed than I did when I was a manager for an internationally known company. I am not worried, as I know I am a person of worth and that I will be compensated commensurate with my talent and what value I give to my community. Because I know I am a person of worth, I am not afraid. I live in reality, not in the illusory world where my job determines my worth. The unknown excites me, rather than terrifies me, for I know that every adversity makes me stronger.

Many people also fear loss of health or fitness. This is still an illusion. I am not stating that accidents and illnesses do not happen, but rather that the fear of it is based on fantasy, not reality. Until it happens there is no reason to consider it, and we are robbing ourselves of appreciating the marvelous machine the human body is. Nick Vujicic is an extraordinarily successful man, and he was born without arms and legs. There are countless examples of people overcoming physical challenges, so even those in dire straits have reason to hope. The realistic approach is to focus on the joy you have, and not worry about what might happen.

Finally, we have the fear of death, whether it is self death or the death of those dear to you. Again, this fear is ultimately a waste of our time and emotional energy. We cannot prevent it, so rather than fear what is the one inevitable fact of all our lives, learn to make the moments you have count. Spend quality time with those you love, and realize it is not the moments you breathe that matter, but rather the moments that take your breath away. When someone you love dies, it will be painful, but rather than feeling sorry for yourself because they are no longer with you, focus on how fortunate you were to have them in your life. Celebrate their life, and be grateful that you made the memories you could. As for fearing your own death, if you focus on truly living your life to the fullest, when it arrives you will not fear it.

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