Death and Significance: Part 2July 5, 2019
Recently, I was in a business development meeting where there was a discussion of why business owners avoid planning for what they are going to do with their companies and the next third of their lives. I said the biggest obstacle is the fear of death. People looked at me and the conversation was dropped. The following day, I was talking to an author who sent me his new book to read and write a testimonial. During our conversation he mentioned the book The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. While I was talking with him, I went over to my bookshelf and told him I was holding the book in my hand.
Denial: “I don’t want to talk about death.”
Denial provides the context for a life based on the fear of death. In a traumatic situation, repression and denial are essential for our emotional and psychological well-being, but chronic repression and denial consume vital life energy. The fear of death prevents many people from living life. It is paradoxical that the fear of experiencing life to its fullest is often because of people’s fear of losing it when they die.
Researchers have discovered that people avoid talking about death and dying because it is “sad,” “depressing,” “bad luck,” or “too far in the future.” Some say they are too busy living to focus on dying. Those who are willing to talk about death say their loved ones resist having this conversation because it is depressing. Some people believe that if they think about death, it will make it happen sooner.
“The Death Factor” of Owners: Many owners equate leaving their companies with “dying” which causes them to avoid thinking about or talking about leaving their businesses. The reasons why people don’t want to talk about dying are the same reasons that many owners don’t want to plan for what they want to do with their companies: “It is too far in the future,” or “ I am too busy running my business.”
Balanced Way of Thinking about Death: The categorical perspective of absolute, either/or thinking views death as a failure and as a fall into oblivion. The cyclic perspective, created by balanced thinking, helps us view death as a natural life transition since life and death are complementary aspects of the dynamic unfolding of the life force over time.
Expanded Awareness: A fish died in my aquarium this week which had me thinking about the fact that fish and animals do not fear death because of their simple-consciousness. It was when our species moved from simple consciousness to self-consciousness that we became afraid of death. Paradoxically, it is awareness that creates the anxiety and terror of dying, and awareness which is the last aspect of our lives to go. The expansion of our consciousness is in the process of occurring because of scientific advances. The resulting expanded awareness can help you realize how inherently significant your life is.
The Upside of Death: If people didn’t die in the past, there would be no room for us to be alive today. I have known older people who have wanted to die. They are physically worn out, tired, all their friends have died, and most importantly, they want to be with a loved one who has died. Feeling comfortable talking about your death will allow you to take the necessary steps to create your will, health directives and all the other documents for end-of-life care.
Awareness of death shatters the illusionary “arrogance of the living,” and the false belief that we are going to live forever. I always told my son when I was bringing him up that we live on a terminal planet; no one gets out of here alive. In fact the universe, and everything that is in it, has X number of years to exist.
Your Body Is a Rental: We live because stars died. You do not “die,” since all the molecules in your body: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus are recycled for the emergence of new life after you die. The same is true with the other five trace elements in your body: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium are reused to create new life.
A Significant Life Lives Beyond Death
Living significantly and dying with significance transforms the avoidance and fear of death. Becoming aware of, and accepting, the fact that you are going to die transforms the fear of death. Significance helps you discover your life’s purpose and how it fits into the grand scheme of things. Viewing death not as an end event but as a reference point helps you do what is important and meaningful now while you have the gift of life.
Significance transforms your perception of death from terror to being a motivator for making important contributions to your family, community and the world. Death provides a sense of urgency for us to do what needs to get done to live a life of significance. Significance transcends the death of your physical body and allows you to:
- Feel that part of you is eternal
- Perform acts and deeds of significance
- Leave a legacy
- Share your wisdom
A Bucket List states in writing all the activities that you want to do before you die. A Significant List is an objective,”to-do” inventory list of all the important things you can do before you die. A Significant List fills your life with meaning and purpose and enables you to feel proud of your life when you die.
Are you willing to get on with the joy of living by getting over the terror of dying?
To receive a Significant Life Questionnaire which provides you with an objective analysis of where your life fits on the Degree of Significance Scale as well as 21 ways you can experience more significance in your life.