'Burbs of Philadelphia
A New Volume is Starting
Chapter 10: Death
“Dust to dust, ashes to ashes”, said Bruce as we shifted our conversation towards death. I recently interviewed Bruce, a man who has given his life to helping individuals who are struggling with mental illness and serving pilgrims who come in and out of the small town he lives in. We covered a variety of topics and one of them was death. I shared with him that although I have always been clear, in some way, about my purpose of being here, there was always a missing piece. When I was 15, it was clear I wanted to be of service to humanity in some way. Even after founding Aahana, I always felt like there was more to being of service than I was already doing. I often overlooked the small things in the process- the small ways I could be of service to myself and others in each moment of each day.
I used to question the purpose of existence if, eventually, I was going to go back into the earth. Sounds morbid, right? I think more people think about it more than you would think. Before leaving to travel and meeting a number of people who currently feel or have felt the same exactly way, I thought I was the only one.
Pandurang Shastri Athavale often quotes a nursery rhyme about a character, Solomon Grundy. It goes a little like this:
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Grew worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday,
That was the end,
Of Solomon Grundy.
The beginning, for me, started when I truly realized there was so much before me and there will be so much after me. When I say I realized this, I mean I truly understood that we are just one part of one whole, beautifully operating ecosystem. During the Week 1 assignment, of a 6 week Laddership Circle I am taking part in, we were assigned to read a variety of articles. In the piece ‘Letting go of False Solidity’, Mickey Singer writes: “Why should anything that anyone says or does cause you to get disturbed? You're just on a planet spinning around the middle of absolutely nowhere. You came here to visit for a handful of years and then you're going to leave. How can you live all stressed-out over everything?”
Those words almost made me laugh, because they are true. Right now, we are a tiny speck and in the whole history of this universe; we are just a small blip in the radar. It’s as though we are everything, but we are nothing at the same time
It was a combination of circumstances, people, and things which caught me, held a grip so tight around me and made me realize that I am not dying tomorrow and even if I am, then what? All this time, I have either been running towards something or running away from something. We run towards a lot: money, love, security…we run away from a lot too: fear, loss, threatened sense of belonging, etc.
I had to take a step back and ask myself: What have I been running to? What am I running from? When I truly took a step back and thought about all of the above mentioned, a voice from within quietly said: ‘Nothing’.
I think it is the vast sense of ourselves and the depths of who we are, the experiences we have accumulated, and the dreams that we feel so inspired to reach that somewhere along the way we think we have forgotten ourselves and wasted years of our lives. However, in reality, I think this realization is actually the place where we find ourselves again. When we get to this place, it brings death to a new light and helps us be okay with it. It allows us to contemplate death and the moment we begin to contemplate it is the day we can begin living our lives at ease.
Some extra readings (Thank you for sharing Nabil!):
- What Good is Thinking About Death
- Neuroscience Confirms That To Be Truly Happy You Will Always Need Something More