Thinking about life can force a person to contemplate a wide range of circumstances. Two biggies that have come to mind recently are being born and dying. This pair of inevitable events are bookends, staples of the human condition – literally and figuratively. That’s because both are experienced by every single person on the planet.
Long ago I was there in person to bear witness to the death of my father. More recently I was front and center for the birth of my youngest son. Each event held unparalleled meaning. They were wildly different yet in many ways uniquely the same.
Both consisted of high drama, though distinctive in their unfolding. Both drove me to tears. Both exuded an unearthly power that ironically left me feeling as if they were the most natural things in the world. In retrospect, perhaps they are part of the same process – life – just at different ends of a continuum. Watching a person leave this world. Witnessing another enter it. The immensity of it all, to participate in such profound coming and going.
I also experienced fear. Fear of the unknown and its meaning. Such bewildering complexity bundled in experiences that are oh so common to all human beings, yet in the moment too expansive for my puny intellect to comprehend. Both shook me to the core.
I’m no scientist. Nor am I a person of the cloth. But in each instance I empirically observed and divinely felt a magnificence associated with the two events. A power that, if I choose, can be readily harnessed to great purpose in my life. And the lives of others.
When I think about all that, it makes me wonder: why are we, as people, so unable to get along with each other? After all, each and every one of us have or will experience these same momentous events, in some form or fashion. I mean really, it’s not like other things we share in common like the noting the weather or breathing air or eating food. I’m talking living and dying, the alpha and omega. Perhaps the very essence of what it means to be or not to be.
Maybe one of the reasons coming into life and/or leaving it fails to bring us closer as a single race is people’s level of comfort (or rather, discomfort) when it comes to the topics. There are so few people willing to “go there” in conversation. I mean talk with any depth about either subject – especially death.
Even with respect to being born, most folks avoid specific conversations about it. Oh, they speak in general terms but nothing too deep or specific. In our culture there’s actually one day a year that gives each of us a chance to delve into meaningful dialog on at least one of the topics. I’m talking birthdays.
Sure we celebrate them. Rarely is there any eloquent reflection on what it all means. Life, the opportunity to be here, the hopes and dreams associated with it.
An exception I expect is with respect to mothers. I imagine, this is because of their very active and no doubt painful role in birthing their children.
I personally believe most of us would benefit greatly from candid and authentic conversations about life and death. Unfortunately, those are the last things folks want to think about – let alone discuss.
Yet experts say talking about death and (therefore life?) is among the most beneficial therapies for humans, as it relates to our individual and collective health. Especially if entered into with honesty and integrity. How much more compassion would we hold for one another, no matter our differences, if such conversations were no longer so taboo? One can only imagine. Or one can start the discussion.
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.