Death, a subject or an entity, one cannot say. In many languages, including French, death has a gender, whereas it is an “it” in English. Which one makes more sense ? I leave that to others.
Without asking for my due, chance brought me to watch two short films : A 97-Year-Old Philosopher Faces His Own Death and Ram Dass, Going Home. Later in the week, I came across What really matters at the end of life and, finally, an interview with Ram Dass, the year he died.
In the first video, that of the philosopher, we are plunged into the reality of a man who has thought, written and published about death and who, at the end of his life, declares to us, with a tired gesture of the hand, that this is quite a lot of rubbish. The man has loved his life ; he is sad to abandon it. He cries at the memory of his companion, who died five or six years earlier. He remembers, regrets her presence.
Nevertheless, behind this bitterness, he continues to live what is left of his breath. His gaze inevitably turns towards the trees, the beauty of the sky, the softness of the garden and its protected wind.
In the second video, which you can only watch if you subscribe to Netflix, we meet the famous Ram Dass, a fiery spiritual guide who has introduced the spirituality of India to the Western world. Ram Dass is still, in this video, in possession of his means. One could say that his peace is contagious, imbued with a certainty that one could envy. There is the same observation when we observe nature and participate in it. In front of a beautiful landscape, and Ram Dass lived in Maui, Hawaii, the human being submits, dresses in humility. The interview that can be seen on YouTube shows us a Ram Dass diminished, searching for words, no longer able to fight the after-effects of a stroke suffered in 1997. But his certainty remains, him smiling with his beautiful teeth and his blue gaze pointing at the camera to invite you to the Light.
The contrast is striking between the philosopher and the guru, one living within the walls of his existence, the other traveling or juggling the multiple dimensions of consciousness.
Certainly, nothing can be decided here. All bets are off, as they say. My best friend calls himself a “nihilist” in the sense that he believes in nothing but his present life. Death is, for him, a disintegration of what is without wanting to find an explanation, to reformulate to better accept. He is a man full of life, very green for his age (it is intimidating). This life is enough for him.
For my part, I would tend to be like this handsome man, a doctor, severely handicapped by an accident and who now cares for people at the end of their lives, as he explains in this TED conference. One, I find him super handsome (how shallow I can be). Two, it brings me back to when I lived with Claude, then a counseling student who had decided to accompany people with cancer. His reasons were probably shamanistic but never mind. I was deeply touched by these people who came to him to get some help or at least some precious time to talk about their life before it flies away in memories. It also brings back the memory of this man who declared that he wanted to kill himself from the height of his existential certainty. I had written a short story about him that was published in La Vie dure. I had a hard time convincing him not to do it, feeling powerless, insufficient in my own certainty or logic. He must still be alive, I think. He had thanked me because I had made him promise that if he had any doubts about doing it, that it would be enough not to do it. I was probably very naive, and many will cry out in horror at my behavior. I was certainly not equipped to deal with that situation. I’m still probably not. But at least I can now give out an emergency number… There is something good about modernity.
Recently, one of my colleagues died suddenly of natural causes. He was 42 years old ; I had only known him for two months, and, if I calculate correctly, I may have been the last co-worker he spoke to. The death of others will always come as a shock, even if they have no ties to you. Other situations around me remind me of death these days. Sometimes my own fatigue is heard as if it were the messenger of the Grim Reaper. Also, there is this virus that, like a tragic clown, makes us cry with laughter or laugh with misery.
It is so, and I can only surrender. This is not the first time I have written about it in these modest promenades. And our lovely doctor invites us to do so as well. I don’t always manage to do it ; it’s part of my nature and my journey.
In his insistent benevolence, Ram Dass reminds us of his mantra : I am loving awareness, I am loving awareness, I am loving awareness. This is like the philosopher, the doctor, and the sage. In another video, Finding Joe, we are encouraged to find the heroic journey that is each of us. Discover your bliss.
Castaneda, and many others, many others, urged us to make death our friend, to imagine it like a bird on our shoulder. This is not morbid. It is necessary to live, not in fear of death, but because death exists, because it indicates to us, without being able to know the precise moment, that there is an end to our experience. Whether we believe that there is continuity or not, in a universe of undifferentiated consciousness, is not the purpose of life. The philosopher is right to sweep away his certainties, the wise man is right to dance with them, the doctor is right to provide us with his heart and some pills to make us happy.
The quest is to be what is in us and make sure that the universe is not wounded by it. That is probably the only certainty I can offer here.
I am loving awareness.