Death Becomes Us

This week has been rough. Not for me personally, but for the United States and for the world. Bombings, earthquakes, explosions, sinkholes and more. And whenever there is a large pile of death in the news, or in my personal life, I have to ask the question that my friend Andrew furrows his brow over.

What is the purpose of life?

He (my friend) doesn’t furrow his brow in trying to answer the question. He furrows his brow because he doesn’t understand why I ask it in the first place. He never reads my blog, but I’m just going to explain it for him anyway.

The question, I mean. Not what he doesn’t understand.

Confused yet?

I write because I am driven to do so. Oh, how I wish I had been driven to do so 20 years ago, but I digress. I write because characters that have been in my head for decades are screaming to get out, and new ones are lining up to take their place.

But why? Why do I do this? What’s the purpose of anything we do?

On one hand, there is no purpose. At least not in a material sense. Nothing I do now will survive. I could write the next MacBeth or Of Mice and Men and, ultimately, it won’t matter. Sooner or later this planet will be destroyed. And even if we escape from this planet, sooner or later every planet will be destroyed. The universe will end. Poof.

But that’s not my point. My point is this.

Regardless of whether my work (or anybody else’s) will live for a day, a year, a century or billions of years doesn’t explain why I write. It doesn’t explain why Beethoven wrote music, or Picasso painted. It doesn’t explain why a single mother of four gets up every morning to work two jobs just so she can have a lousy apartment in a bad neighborhood.

She, and everyone else including me, does it because some day we can’t. We’ll be dead. So, in the limited time we have available, we are moved to do things that are bigger than ourselves. Of course, not everybody is able to do more than the minimum. For some, the fact that we will be gone soon is a motivator to do nothing. And for some – I fear my friend is one of them – seeing the universe as pointless means they never truly push themselves to be greater than they could. Andrew’s done some great things in his day. He’s run some kick-ass Pathfinder games. I don’t want to insult him in any way possible. I have the greatest respect for him as a friend.

But I think in the dark watches of the night he might be inspired to paint, or learn an instrument, or write, or…something. But he doesn’t. He says to himself “There isn’t any point, so why bother?” I’m assuming this is his view based on actions and statements I’ve witnessed. But even if he doesn’t possess that mindset, there are plenty of others who do. And that’s a terrible pity, a horrible waste of potential beauty.

Andrew, if you wrote a book, I would read it. If you played an instrument, I’d listen. Whatever you would do, I would want to be a part of it. Because you and I will both be gone some day soon, and the seconds are ticking.

You see, what motivates most people is death, pure and simple. I’m not talking about a fear of death; that’s generally paralyzing. I’m talking about the poignancy of it. Without death, we are nothing. Without understanding the life we have is a gift, we can’t really appreciate how soon it will be gone and how precious it is. Without an end, there is no beginning, and no middle.

Death becomes us, and that’s a simple fact. At least for me, because it answers the question. What’s the purpose of life?

The purpose of life, dear readers, is to LIVE!

I love this pic! However, it isn’t mine. Credit due to whomever this belongs!

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2 thoughts on “Death Becomes Us

  1. David says:

    A quote from your writing that really struck me.
    “So, in the limited time we have available, we are moved to do things that are bigger than ourselves.”
    Thank you fro the reminder!
    David

  2. Anthony says:

    I confess death does not motivate me in the same way. I track with the idea that death places a ‘limit’ and brings a ‘preciousness’ to life. And also in the same way, I’m deeply moved to make my life count -to have it orbit around something bigger than myself. But if it’s just death that’s supposed to get me off the couch, I’ll just open another bag of potato chips. And thus my surface sympathies to ‘Andrewian’ philosophy.

    I think we need more. Death brings us to the table. It makes us ask the hard questions. But the feast of life comes from something else entirely. Living for something bigger than myself, means a purpose beyond just “to live” with a nod to its preciousness. Even the hedonists of every generation understand that, and are still missing it. There is something inside Andrewian philosophy that is touching the plates on the table so to speak. It is the need to live for something that will pass on; that will escape death’s ultimate grip. I suggest a life of purpose requires a worldview where death is not quarantined; it is quelled. The great Shadow has been overshadowed! A worldview where we don’t just say “live on! because it’s coming…” but rather “live on! because something now escapes its grip.”

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