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Stuart W. Mirsky
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Death and Dying

A correspondent of mine from India sent me a message this morning. A young man drawn to western philosophy for a while, he has now turned to a local guru in his home country who has been guiding him on his path of discovery. What he failed to find in western philosophy he now hopes to uncover in his native tradition. His message to me was about how we're all dying every moment we're alive and how realizing that enables us to transcend the dread of death through a turn to an all embracing feeling of love. Love for everything, he wrote, love as the means of connecting with this moment, with the world we are living and dying in. It prompted me to offer my own meditation in response, one that is perhaps more pessimistic than his but which hinges on this question of how love, whatever that is, can be enough to transcend. Is transcendence of the sort envisioned even possible?

Death is part of life though I'm not sure that's entirely satisfying to one who is dying (in the sense of experiencing impending dissolution when one is suffering a fatal illness and watching one's body fall apart and realizing that, with this, comes the end of one's being as a distinct, self-aware entity). Of course it pays to realize that all of us are in such a state of decline at every moment, even if it is happening so incrementally that we barely notice. Yet, as we age, we can't help but notice because we experience the loss of faculties and physical capacities. My mother is 91 and acutely aware of her failing capacities. She has arthritis that severely restricts her movements and hearing loss and some vision loss and she is very much aware of her bodily discomforts. She needs a cane to help her keep her balance when she walks. She remembers how it used to be though and is sad at the obvious differences she sees in herself, between then and now . . . .

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