09 May 2013

Are There Better or Worse Ways to Die?

I recently came across a few photos from the factory collapse in Bangladesh showing some of the victims.  I am reminded every time I drive the Interstates around Chicago just how many people have died so far this year in traffic-related incidents in Illinois, the figure prominently displayed on over-the-road signs.  Any number of organizations list the number of deaths in a year from AIDS, hunger, cancer, heart disease, suicide, guns, alcohol, bullying, and even wisdom teeth removal.  Practically every hurricane, tsunami, tornado, heat wave and snowstorm has a death toll attached to it.

Let's face it: there are all kinds of things in the course of a day, week, year or lifetime that can kill you, and one of them has your name on it.  Some of them are natural, some of them are human-caused.  And if somehow you escape a definable agent or situation as the cause of your death, in the end, age itself, with the increasing deterioration of the body, will seal the deal. 

There's no guaranteed life expectancy that announces itself with the cut of the umbilical cord, either.  Some live a minute, some an hour, some a day, some a week, some a month, some a year, some a decade, and some a century.  It's hard to make sense of a better or worse time to die.  After my friend died a month ago, I was walking in a grocery store and saw an old, enfeebled man making his way with a walker.  "At least Dan will not have to deal with old age," I thought to myself.  Of course, he will never enjoy a retirement, either.

None of this overstates the case.  Nothing in this is pessimistic.  Just the facts, folks.

It's at this point that I find myself settling into practice: what is this? what is this birth-and-death?  I didn't ask for birth, I don't ask for death, yet here they are!  There's no escaping this life; there's no escaping this death.

If you think you have an answer, you're fooling yoursef.

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