September 25, 1995
What is man's purpose in life? Is it defined more by what follows death? Death is the framework enclosing our life, but it should be neither feared nor scorned, neither looked forward to nor run away from. It will be there, surrounding us, but should not be viewed of as limiting us.
Too often it is seen as a fence, perhaps keeping us from greener pastures, perhaps from dangers, or perhaps from a nothingness that is incomprehensible. With this in mind, the fence is an obstacle. Some choose to jump it, some to avoid it in the hopes it's not there when next they turn around. Some think they might dig under it and escape their fate in that way. Some walk the other way, only to find themselves facing it again, until it is nearly underfoot. Some spend their whole lives looking forward to it, planning for it, and making it the most important point of their existence. There is, of course, the talk of gates in the fence, where one will eventually walk through, given their choice wasn't a leap or a tunnel. In all, regardless of philosophy or religion, irrespective of the lengthening days of modern medicine, and no matter which way the barrier is breached, each of us, at the proper time, will cease breathing and cross that fence.
We have spoken of fences, of limiting enclosures, and I have said they need not be so, even as I say they are just that. So entrapped by this once-breachable barricade, all that remains is the demeanor of the individual caught. Like a trapped animal, does the heart beat faster? The breath come quick? In an attempt to escape, do you bury your head in the sand? Or do you make a last ditch effort and close your mind to the costs, seeing the freedom of escape as your only choice? You hide in fear, you enter a state of denial, or you sacrifice yourself to break free of the sheer terror of capture.
A beat. Take a breath. Return from hiding. Stop for a moment before your frenzied escape attempt. Open your eyes. Look around you. See.
Perhaps the fence does surround you, although close by, perhaps closing in quickly or not, there remains ground between you and this mighty barrier. The ground is fertile. It grows, if you pause for a moment you can feel it, alive and breathing beneath your feet. And above, still there floats a sea of clouds, stars yet shine. Look again at the fence. Inches away, it has now retreated. A world of possibilities surround you.
Although death may provide a definition of sorts of life in regards to the scale of time, it does nothing to define what may occur within that given span of time. For some it is long, seeing one century turn to another and perhaps even seeing the same decades, a hundred years apart. For others, it is less, maybe a week, or a day, or a small handful of minutes. Each is a lifetime, and that is what each of us gets.
And it is not death that provides for the quality of that lifetime, it is simply a finite set of time enclosing an infinite breadth of possibilities.
Copyright (c) 1995 Everett A Warren