Encounter with a speeding car: Some reflections on life and death
The other day, I was late from work and was hurrying back to home. The dusk had already settled. I was walking lost in thoughts and had to cross the road near a busy crossroad to catch the vehicle on the other side.
In the metasystem of existence that is the world, would there be any mark left in my name? Or would I simply vanish in thin year the moment my physical existence ended?
Well, that is probably what people call soul-searching. And I am inexplicably happy to ponder over these things after that speeding car generously spared my life that day. This may not resonate with anybody else's life but for me, a piece of autobiographical writing is a sort of catharsis. Who can guarantee I'll live another thirty or forty years to write my autobiography as an elderly man? After all, what harm is there in reflecting upon your own life every now and then? My perception is that we are so disproportionately consumed by petty day to day issues that the larger questions pertaining to life, and death, escape our attention to our own detriment.
Therefore, I take these opportunities like this to set aside my bitterness and cynicism towards life and the world and see it in its true and beautiful colors.
After all, what could be so bad about a neat death on the roadside that day? (I have no guts to imagine what my life would be like if I were grievously injured leading to some handicap). Except for a brief spell of grief over a tiny geographical location inside the tiny country of Nepal, the world would be left unperturbed, the birds would keep chirping, the rivers would keep flowing and people would keep being born and dead. Metaphorically speaking, I would be leaving my space of existence for a newcomer to this world; after all, we take turns to come here and depart, and that is the sole basis of continued existence of so many species in the limited space of the planet. What could be possibly wrong in my being departed relatively early?
I feel sorry for people who depart from this world unhappy and planning for years and decades ahead. It is a terrible thing to go for something like death unhappy and unprepared. Given the unpredictability of human life, I feel we should always be ready for an unanticipated termination of the trail of existence we lead.
So to say, I am not as unprepared for death today as I was half a decade back.
After a decade-long spell of gloom, frustration and bewilderment, I had collected together many pieces of life over the past four years and was a reasonably happy person. I had finally got some of the attention that I thought from childhood I would one day earn. People knowing me for my work rather than as a relative were in many dozens. I had finally discovered my passion and unlocked some of the gates towards the hidden world of my creativity; after all, I was not as barren as the person that I once feared I would turn out to be. Moreover, there were also people who appreciated my work with equal vigor as that of those who ridiculed and dismissed it. I was finally connecting myself with this potentially hostile world.
In other words, I was slowly coming to terms with my own existence in the world. I think that is one of the most important ingredient of happiness in human life: coming to accept yourself as who you have turned out to be and not who you long(ed) to be.
If you dread death, that is the surest sign of your unhappiness. An important dimension of happiness is contentedness and once you are relatively content with life, death is not particularly dreadful though disappointing enough.
The realization that we have now forgotten most people who died in our lifetimes should be enough to make us rationally conclude that our own vision of the world without us is rather distorted. The person who dreads my death the most is myself and one who dreads your death the most is yourself. The grief and sense of loss of somebody are often more transitory than we happen to think at the time of their death. Even the parents who go through untimely demise of their child succeed to move past the tragedy with the combination of psychological maneuvers; every wound--both physical and mental--heals sooner or later, those who can master their lives manage to heal it neatly while others let a big and ugly scar to remain. And the scar is, however ugly, a scar and not the wound.
(Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
This is the first part in the 'Life and Death' series by the author. The series is, in turn, part of the author's ritual to publish autobiographical essays on every of his birthdays. This particular essay is the prelude to the main essay to be published soon on his birthday this year. Read the earlier parts of the series here: Twenty-eight years of solitude, and Twenty-nine years of insignificance