It will still take us.
With all that we have learned as humans, there is one thing we still know very little about, and that’s death. We know it is a universal experience. It is not limited to humans. All the other animals on Earth that are born experience death. Plants experiences death. The stars in the sky are born and will die. Death is universal, and as far as we know, a core part of time itself.
For death to be such an omnipresent part of the Universe, it’s paradoxical that we are so afraid of it. We don’t talk much about it, as if that might conjure it up. Maybe it does, I don’t know. But I do know we don’t like to talk about it very much.
A human can die in many ways. Some ways are generally acceptable to us, like old age. While we don’t love accidents, we understand that we will never avoid accidents entirely and we accept their occurrences and the idea that one may happen to us.
We don’t love death from diseases. We name and even personify diseases to direct our fear and anger at them.
We are confused by suicide, but because it is increasing in prevalence, we are developing a stronger ability to discuss it, understand it, and find compassion in our interpretation of it.
There is one type of death that seems to drive the most fear and anger from us. We detest when one of us intentionally causes another one of us to die. This act feels like an incredible violation of all that is natural and brings our mortality to the forefront of our consciousness, triggering feelings of being unsafe and insecure.
If death by another is the ultimate form of cruel treatment from one human to another, a spectrum of lesser crimes descends from it that push those same panic buttons of safety and security. Transgressions like theft, retribution, abuse of power, assault, vandalism, and verbal abuse come to mind. These are just some of the attacks humans perpetrate against our own.
Naturally, we have an ongoing inner dialogue about how to avoid these attacks… because who wants to be attacked?
If I never leave my house, I limit the paths for an attack against me to the doors and windows of my home. If I never stand up for those taken advantage of, I will likely avoid the bully’s violent response. If I never speak out against the unjust leaders in my organization, I will not face their retribution.
These are all rational thoughts as we try to balance our wish to survive with our need to live with ourselves in peace. The problem is, something inside of us doesn’t love when we operate from a place of fear. When danger is present and confirmed, fear is a helpful guide for our actions. When danger is imagined, we start to limit ourselves based on scenarios we can’t control, predict, or confirm.
Living to avoid imaginary danger can create inner turmoil that could be worse than whatever the person we fear was going to do to us. Whether we know it or not, we all have a purpose, and we best find peace when we live from that purpose in spite of the potential dangers that might arise.
The game of Chess offers an analogy for us as we think about how we balance the need for safety and security, and the drive to take risks, grow, and make a difference. Here are three truths about Chess that I believe are also true about life:
- Death is inevitable. Play to avoid, and it will still take you.
- Your actions can accelerate death, so be thoughtful and skillful in your efforts.
- You can’t be sure of the outcome. But if you play with thoughtfulness, all the skill you can muster, respect for your opponent, and a sincere desire to win, you will enjoy the game and have few regrets.
The third truth represents the best I believe any of us can do.
Whether you want to play or not, if you’re alive, my friend you’re in the game. The illogical harm of humans by other humans has been happening for as long as we have recorded history, and it still mystifies us. It doesn’t make sense and likely never will. But it is part of the game.
This frustrating reoccurrence is an unavoidable constant in our lives.
To make the most of life, play thoughtfully, skillfully and with ambition regardless of this predictable yet unpleasant constant. We must do our best to befriend the unknown, and play boldly with the greatest fear reserved for leaving the game with our best moves unplayed.
There is no life worth living without risking an encounter with the dark unknown. Every day that it doesn’t take us is another day that playing with purpose makes the world a better place. And if it should happen, our example of how we lived will inspire others to continue living lives worth living.
Be comforted, hug someone, live on purpose.
And have a grateful day.