If and why we Fear Death

Life is change. It begins with change as a single sperm among millions fertilizes an egg, creating an embryo that develops into fetus. We are born and we grow, changing all the while, and despite struggles to the contrary, life will end with change as its support systems cease. Change is as ubiquitous as it is natural, but human beings fear it. We fear death because we fear change, yet each moment we change. Each moment we are different. If you stop and think about it, we are reborn every instant of every day. Nobody is the exact same from one second to the next, nor from one minute, hour, day or year to the next. Each moment we die’ only to be reborn’ in the next split second. Existence is an ongoing process of creation. The wave breaks eternal, and flux is the only constant. Ha, ha. Never let it be said that the universe lacks a finely honed sense of irony.

Change is the animator, and the best life has to offer cannot exist without it. Take music, for example. Its magic is born of a flowing impermanence. Static notes and beats are quite dull, but when animated by change, melody and rhythm engage the ear. Alan Watts elucidates in The Wisdom of Insecurity. For the greater part of human activity is designed to make permanent those experiences and joys which are only lovable because they are changing. Music is a delight because of its rhythm and flow. Yet the moment you arrest the flow and prolong a note or chord beyond its time, the rhythm is destroyed. Because life is likewise a flowing process, change and death are its necessary parts. To work for their exclusion is to work against life.’ Nothing can stop this flow, and despite our craving for permanence we will be consumed by the timeless tide of transience. Fear and neurosis manifest themselves when we attempt to shield ourselves from this truth.

I have felt the transitory truth of the flow, yet completely transcending the resistance to the flux and living fully in it is a tall order. Acceptance is often fleeting, yet desperately grasping for permanence is not unlike trying to still the seas. Change is the animator and its wave is forever breaking. Ride it.