A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Thinking about Death yet again

I forget now where I first got the message. I know that I was doing it routinely by the time I graduated from college. It has stood by me as the best spiritual advice I have ever received, bar none. It has presented itself before me as the absolutely indispensable kernel of all genuine spiritual teaching I have ever encountered:

Every day, at least once a day, and for at least 5 minutes, think very carefully and vividly about your own death--about how, when, and why it might come; and about how well you are prepared to meet it.

It takes on more meaning as you get older. By then it becomes perfectly possible to realistically consider your own death as happening in less than five years, or less than ten, and certainly less than twenty.

My supervisor was the target of a robbery attempt two days ago. She fought off her assailant at the cost of a bloody nose, and a bloody Sunday church dress, and kept her purse. But the thug made the motion under his jacket and into his pants, then stopped himself when he realized there were suddenly three other people on the scene, and ran back to his accomplices and their car. Had the other three people not been there, my supervisor, at this very moment, would probably be in a drawer at the morgue.

You can count on your own death, but you must bet on its time. Every plan that we make, every asset we accumulate, and every touch of forethought, is an ante of chips for the dealing of a new hand, which we are betting will not be Aces and Eights. For, like Wild Bill Hickock, sometimes we can't avoid sitting with our back to a door.

Those who don't deliberately think about death are making the bet that it will never come.

They'll lose.

And they will lose more than they can ever conceive of. For death is the great opportunity of life, if you are properly prepared for it. It is the culmination of what all of your efforts in life should be directed toward.

How strange it is to write that last sentence with perfect and unshakable conviction that it is true, and also with perfect and complete awareness that most of my neighbors and friends, even the church-going ones, will find it totally incomprehensible. For I can assure you, from the bottom of my heart that, it takes effort to die well, and not just faith.

How do I know this? Because I have made some of the effort over the years, have seen how it has changed me, and can infer how it will finally function within a few days after my breathing stops. Before you take someone else's word for the mere necessity of faith to be able to die well, ask them what effort they have made to truly ask the question of themselves, for themselves. And ask them, as well, why they are so sure of the answer.

Have you ever asked yourself if you know how to die well, as well as how to live well?

Have you?

Maybe you should.

These days my own musings on death are like some large, well-run, British bookmaking establishment, offering odds routinely: 1 to 20 on death by five years, 1 to 5 on death by ten years, 1 to 3 on death by 20 years. The odds are shortening for me on all alternatives very quickly. If you have been reading this blog, you will know why I think so. Why I think so is not the point at the moment. You can watch the reasons in Congress, if you choose.

What is the point is as the odds shorten, I have to make my preparations for death more intensive and allow them to take more of my time. It is a trade-off. I abandoned most of my idle pleasures (or they have abandoned me) long ago. The only thing left is the possibility that doing things like writing on this blog might be of help to others, either in the smaller sense of my contribution to the public good in my country, or in the larger sense of honesty about my troubles that will encourage similar honesty about the reader's troubles. Such honesty is an important component of the work to prepare for death: it is a constant reminder that things ARE as bad as you think and you cannot use distractions to really cheer yourself up.

But as death comes closer, the amount of good I can do diminishes. So the reason for prolonging life diminishes as well, and the most important thing to do is to bring your preparations for death to the highest crescendo you can manage when the hour comes. So this blog, like my life, is living on borrowed time.

I have written earlier of the bright white wall I see when trying to look ahead to evaluate the genuine possibilities for our political life in 2008, or even 2012. The wall is still standing at 2007 with no particular alternative to be favored past that time. It is a unique phenomenon for me, since I have always been able to extrapolate trends, often as far as twenty years ahead, with fair success.

As of now, I can only see two alternatives: either that wall marks a radical change in world society which will invalidate all bets, or it represents my own private crescendo of my preparations for death. In either case, the obvious prudent course is to intensify them.

It might be profitable for you to consider the first alternative and begin, if you haven't already, to take that little five minute death break that I have been doing since at least the age of twenty and that has meant so much to my life and my future.


Blogger Concerned Muslim said...

I'm very scared of death & I think it's partly because I'm young and want to live. It's interesting but there's a hadith (An Islamic prophetic saying) that tells us to remember death at least 3 times a day - to make sure that one is living life morally & justly. I view my life & goals as a service to God anyway...

Interesting post!

11:42 PM  

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