I Went in Search of Death, and This is What I Found
“To live is the rarest thing in the world, most people exist, that is all” — Oscar Wilde
Preparing For Death
My entire life I have been pulled towards the deeper questions in life. What is a human? What is my true self? What is reality? My earliest investigations were in my early childhood. I sat next to a campfire and looked at the stars. A question arose, “what is all this?” From there, my curiosity never stopped.
Subsequent years later, I was preoccupied with one question in particular. What is death? It became an obsession. My teen years were plagued with heavy depression. I remember sitting in the bathtub researching the most painless ways to end it. I continued contemplating the mysteries around death. If I could understand this missing piece of the puzzle, my mind would finally leave me alone. It was the only thing I cared about moving into my latter years of college.
I put my efforts into studying depth psychology. Diving into the work of Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, the human psyche, and myth. I was on the right track. Continuing to dive deeper into the unknown depths. After I graduated, I still felt something was missing. I had all the intellectual knowledge I could feasibly absorb, but I needed something else; something experiential.
A year after graduating I was living with a girlfriend, and the question had all but disappeared back into mystery. I was in a job that I hated, in a relationship I hated and living a life that I hated. My days turned into drunken blurs. Spending most of my waking hours using every method I could to desensitize myself from life. I was living in Colorado. Cannabis was legal, so I figured, why not add that to the list.
My diet of fast food, alcohol, marijuana, and television disconnected me from the world. I was a phantom. Riding the waves of life. Existing, but not truly living. Then one day from the depths of my soul came the softest of voices, reminding me of a question I forgot over the last couple of years. What is Death? I was home alone one day. The question was the only thing I could hold in my conscious mind; screaming at me and consuming me. I thought, what do I have to lose. I put on some binaural beats, ate four large cannabis gummies, smoked a full bowl, and finished off with a ½ gram joint. I went into a dark closet and began to meditate.
My Life Changed Forever
I entered a realm I had read about but never actually experienced. A place known by many names: the underworld, the unconscious, or Hades. The home of death, decay, and everything that I had been searching for for the last 20+ years. Terrified, I was about to open my eyes, take off the headphones, and walk out of the closet to come down nicely. Then that voice from within spoke, only much louder than before, “if you leave now you will never get the answer you seek.”
I let go of everything. My ego shattered, disappearing into the abyss. I became nothing. Entire lifetimes passed by. Nothing became everything. I experienced everything I had experienced in my three-dimensional human life. Every trauma. Every joy. Every deed I had ever done. Every deed that was ever done to me.
I was greeted by death after the life review. Confused. Lost. Death spoke to me as a master speaks to his pupil. “I hope you understand now.” I was in tears. Everything was so clear. When I finally returned back to my conscious body, I began to implement the gifts Death gave me. I left the relationship, gave up alcohol, started eating healthier, and started to live rather than go through the motions.
Death Gives Life Meaning
Death woke me up from a deep sleep. It allowed me to see beyond all the things I thought were important. Death wiped away all the bullshit. Chasing after a “successful” job, achieving status in my social circles, and living life as a consumeristic robot. All these disappeared and lost their value.
What truly matters is the impact we have on others and the world around us. In our action, and our character. Death acts as a mentor, and asks the question,
If you came with me today, what goes with you?
The grand tapestry of existence is incomplete without your thread. What is your thread?
Seeing the Fragmentation is Part of Becoming Whole
The world might appear to be operating in duality and opposites, but really, they are parts that make the whole thing possible. Everything in life is incomplete without seeing the whole picture. We can not feel hot without knowing the cold. The bad times help us deeply experience the good times, and vice versa. We cannot know ourselves without the understanding of the other. Death asks, “Are you seeing the whole picture, or merely a sliver of one side? Where can you see the bad in the good, and good in the bad?”
What an amazing gift it is to be alive. Everything had to take place to bring this moment into creation. From the birth of the entire cosmos to my parent's meeting and giving me a name, to all my ancestors who had to do the same. Everything that brought me to this moment typing out my story. Sharing it with you.
You will have a last moment with every one and everything in your life. However, you don’t know when that will be.
This realization made me treat every encounter of life as a gift. One that, for good or bad, I would never experience again.
My eyes were opened to the scale of how interconnected all of life is. My heart started to encompass the entire globe, not just my own body. I truly understand the notion of living for something beyond myself. I am going to die one day, but my actions live on. We are all the result of millions upon millions of actions from the past. What we do today matters.
I can no longer live solely for myself. The notion of planting a tree, but not enjoying the benefits it provides became more than a cute saying. It became TRUTH. There is no such thing as “my life.”
There is life. All of us influencing it with our bodies and minds. From the past to the present. Every deed, guided by wisdom or ignorance, shaping our collective future. This is the true nature of our immortal lives.
Most Fear is Rooted in Death
Death gave me a little trick to tackle my fears in life. Whenever I am afraid to act or speak from an authentic place, I remind myself of something death told me. “This isn’t coming with us, so do it now or do it never.”
Afraid of giving a public speech? Professing your love? Quitting that job? Leaving that relationship? Imagine you were going to die right afterward; how do you handle that moment differently?
Death is always there for us to turn to when we need help. It is easier to live an authentic life when we simply turn to death and are reminded that we can leave this life at any moment. Nothing is guaranteed, so I stopped being something I am not. I quit withholding who I truly am.
When death is there walking with us through life we speak more genuinely. We tell those we love how much they mean to us. When we know we could die tomorrow, we stop wasting today; living life on purpose.
Life is more than what society and culture tell us it is. We must shape our own path in life with each unknown step and not follow down one that is already paved. Death can help us see through what we are and what we are not. Everyone and everything in this universe have a “verse”, a song that only they can play. Without it, this world is incomplete.
Life Requires Depth
Being acquainted with death allows us to see the silliness of our own egos on a grander scale. We are a pinprick of light in an infinite existence. Consciousness operating a meat suit on a living marble, spinning through the cosmos around a life-giving fireball. Pretty damn magical.
The forces of the universe have shaped everything long before we were born, and will continue long after we are gone. If we want to be a part of it, we have a lot of maturing to do as a species.
We have been operating as a species for a long time, but have only scratched the surface. We can create a different world by diving and operating from the depths of our true Selves. The one intimately familiar with death. The aspect that is not just human, but redirects us to ask what does it mean to be human?
We create a deeper life when we move beyond operating on all the anthropocentric ways of operating. Man/woman, white/black/red/yellow, religious/atheist/spiritual, left/right/blue/red, American/Russian/Chinese/etc.
All are true, but only scratch the surface of who we are. We are humans, and once we redirect our focus on what it means to be human, life opens up new doors for us. In the realm of death, these things don’t exist.
We know this intuitively. When we are at a funeral and see the body, all of the above are still there in the open casket. It’s the essence of what drives the individual that has disappeared. Soul, energy, or whatever other names you want to use. That piece sparks the creation of a different world.
This Planet is our Body
The enormous amount of suicide on the individual level is mirrored collectively in the ecocide of the environment. Both existing as an extreme form of disconnection. Cut off from life. We think of “outdoors” as somewhere we go to escape. There is no such thing as outdoors. That is the world!
Indoors is the artificially created setting. We’ve built walls to separate us from the reality of what we are connected to. Leading to what eco psychologists call “Nature Deficit Disorder.”
When we let go of individual survival, all our priorities change because we see the entire planet as our body. Other’s suffering, the planet’s suffering becomes our own. The greatest problem we face in trying to fix everything that’s wrong with the world is ignoring the reality that we are not separate from this world.
Meeting death was like recalling an old truth from a long-lost memory. It was the archetypal underworld of The Hero’s Journey described by Joseph Campbell, or what Carl Jung referred to as “confronting the unconscious.” Death does not have to be something we fear and push away. Something we try at all costs to ignore. It can be embraced and celebrated for the gifts that it provides.
I entered this world lost and confused. Numb and unsure how to navigate this fragmented world. I now walk through this life with death calmly at my side. Allowing the wisdom and love it provides to act as a roadmap during my time here on Earth.