We Are Born Only to Die [Archives:2000/10/Focus]

March 6 2000

Common Sense
By: Hassan Al-Haifi

There is a lot in life that we, as human beings, take for granted_. Yet they are real and they exact, at times, a considerable part of our very own time. However, we pass through such moments non-chalantly, as though they are not worthy of any current flow in our already overtaxed minds. Are we really being unfair by letting such moments pass, by finding little value in reflecting back on some very meaningful moments that should really be given more than just a back seat in our minds?
Perhaps the complexity of life and the large volume of information that we need to absorb to keep pace with the world around us is occupying our minds so much that reflections on any diverting matter in life could keep us away from new information, which is readily available and potentially enriching. Perhaps modern life, as it pushes nature away from us farther and farther, day by day, has also pushed away the inspirational moods that cause us to reflect on its wonders and spectaculars. Perhaps the ready made culture we live in has caused us to forget that there is a raw source for all the conveniences that we are enjoying in life and that the factories and workshops that produce such amenities and conveniences are only a means and not a cause for our enjoyment of such amenities and conveniences.
Whatever the case, no matter how complex life may come to be and no matter how our sustenance and enjoyment of life become so easily accessible to us, in their ready-made formats, we are still not free from fairly basic phenomena that return us to the mercy of the workings of nature on our being. Such workings of nature provide fuel for thought and heavy contemplation that sometimes lead us into that very expanse of the unknown that is very much a part of us, which we often ignore. The two most significant phenomena are our birth and the inevitable end that all life must reach Ð death.
As much as man has learned and even sought to partake in the first phenomenon Ð conception, through a fairly comprehensive understanding of the mechanics of conception and the physical, chemical and biological intricacies involved in the human and animal reproductive process Ð with a lot, of course, still left to the unknown, it is the second phenomenon that is still very much unraveled in terms of its timing, destination and aftermath, from a metaphysical and supernatural standpoint. Once all the mechanics and physical dynamics of the human body cease to function and its control function Ð the mind Ð halts its infinite expanse of data absorption and screening, has it all really become the end of us, or are we just transformed into a different universe that has different laws and different physiological and sociological facets?
Even if one wished to delve into research on death, one would find it most difficult to determine where the beginnings of it really begin. If it is a well calculated fated event, than it would imply that its beginnings are there even before we are born and therefore are beyond our capacity to touch upon, since it entails going far deep into the supernatural, which, by virtue of our nature, is not permitted at all.
While the causes of death are various and regrettably often self-inflicted by man, the ultimate end is the same: the central organs of the human body that are the vital sources of our continued sustainability have come to an abrupt halt thus ceasing all our bodily functions and terminating our being.
In a normal person’s life, the full span of our being can be broken up into various periods that are perhaps intended to work towards the spiritual development of man, as his age progresses. By the time we reach the first half of our average age, excluding calamities and other abnormal circumstances that bring about earlier terminations of our life span, the first half (around 35 Ð 45 years), we have basically come to the end of completing the sphere that composes the various human interrelationships that our life has come to be evolved into: relatives (parents, brothers and sisters and other close of kin); spouse, children and grandchildren; livelihood associates (professional and occupational colleagues, trade or business relations, etc.); social relations (friends, organizational and community activities, congregational associations and goodwill efforts, etc.). All the people in the sphere form the binds that produce the life experiences that offer meaning to life and sometimes provide the rewards and punishments for our very own actions within these human connections. Of course, the degree and the attachment of the different individuals that are interconnected by this sphere differ for each person involved in the sphere, and the emotional attachment is also governed by many sociological considerations and cultural factors that are far too broad in scope to delve into here, but it is in this area where we find the greatest need for becoming so attached to life. We tend to often forget that even in this, there is tragedy and sorrow, which may have significant value in getting us to reach the spiritual maturity we need to help us feel secure that for us life has reached its fulfillment. Then, if the end comes, we have nothing to worry about what comes next.
When the mid-span of our age has been reached, we start seeing the sphere we have built around us, or have found ourselves in, begin to disintegrate, as some of those in the sphere meet their fated end, sometimes early and often tragically. The end for these people, as it seemed to us at the start, comes too abruptly and without warning, and may trigger a signal to us that for sure life has now taken on a new course, as we realize that even for us the inevitable end is about to come. While death itself may not seem so alien to us, since we are now seeing it or hearing about it daily in the vast communication and information network that is easily accessible to us, it is when it starts to hone at the periphery of our sphere that we realize that death is surely a part of us, no matter how hard we try to dispel the thought of the inevitability of our eventual congruence with our very own termination.
When death starts to hit closer to home, especially among those who we have relied on for emotional support throughout our lives or who later entered our sphere and then became important sources of our emotional and inspirational strengths, it is then that we find ourselves really in a state of bewilderment, as such elements in our sphere are hard to replace, if they are replaceable at all. Furthermore, the times have also changed and there is a different mix of cultural and sometimes even physical circumstances that are more unfavorable to the establishment of alternative ties that would replace those who have once been so much a part of us.
Over the last decade, this observer has seen several very close relations and friends slowly pass away from this tumultuous life we live in to go on to the more serene and static phase of the afterlife that we know very little about, except that it is an interphase in the human experience that culminates to the last accounting, which we must make with our Creator to see if we have really been worth the gift of life, which the Al-Mighty was kind enough to grant us. Slowly it started and then reached a phenomenally speedy rate. Over the last nine months alone, a brother, a sister and finally the grand lady who brought all of us to being Ð the mother, all reached their fated end. For the two former kin, it was truly tragic and untimely and abrupt. For the latter, perhaps the grief of loosing the former had its catalytic effect of bringing about the unwanted passing of someone who has filled our life with so much passion and love. But, this is death and there is nothing to turn it back. It can come slow and it can be fast. For the first one it was fast, abrupt and frightening: a sudden heart attack that was fatal instantaneously. For the second, it was an agonizing illness helped along with neglect by those who should have taken care to bring relief to its victim, which may have been possible. For the third, it was sudden, but not instantaneous, as those who sought to find relief out of the coma struggled exhaustingly to seek some way of insuring that the soul does not leave its container, for this person is an important pillar in our sphere. But, alas, God is the one who decides in this matter. God bless their souls, and may we follow them in peace and with the faith that assures us that we have been true to our Creator. After all, it is He who has made it clear that, in the end, we are all born to die.