Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sacrificing the Beauty of Life to Deny Death

"Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have."
-James Baldwin

Often we identify ourselves by the things that we do or have. If we have a large four-bedroom house we may think of ourselves as rich, whereas if we earn a small paycheck or none, we may consider ourselves poor. Whether we are these adjectives or not doesn't really matter because they only offer a temporary label.

What does make a difference is if we believe ourselves to be these ideas. Once we identify ourselves as rich and believe it - we become trapped. We isolate ourselves from others by this arbitrary distinction born from our thoughts. This belief alters the way at which we look at the world. We begin to see others only as "like me" and "against me". We close off any genuine open connection before it is even given a chance to evolve.

The mere fact of recognizing someone else as poor or rich belittles our shaky belief, unless we refuse to identify the other as an equal human. If we can see why someone else is rich or poor, we begin to empathize with them and notice similarities to our condition. If we quickly box people off into these static labels, we don't see the poor man as another human-being and lose the chance to connect with him because we've already emphasized the differences. Rich and poor are temporary conditions. These change and the more we grasp at them and try to prevent their natural progression, the more pain we feel.

By identifying himself as a rich man, not only do others get isolated, the labeler loses hope for himself. He loses the hope to change. To accept being rich as who he is, this man denies himself the liberty to change. He becomes rigid and sharp towards others who threaten to take away his conception. If this man suddenly becomes poor, will this change his outlook on life? If re-acquiring his riches no longer becomes an option, will "being poor" eventually become who he is? Is there a difference between these two self-labels?

To accept that nothing that we consider ourselves to be, is secure, scares most people. It frightens many people into blindness. All human beings share the fact of change and death. With this acceptance, our lives become our expression of change - we can use it as an advantage. Can we keep our back straight in the face of death and live with confidence? Do we choose to hide behind a rigid structure for our protection at the price of our freedom to change? Can we open our eyes to every one's imminent downfall and help everyone enjoy their time to live?

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