The Sentence

The gift of life comes with its inevitable companion, the sentence of death. You can’t have one without the other, there is no choice. You live, you die. As soon as you start living the clock starts ticking. Every life, human, animal, plant, no exceptions. There is no control other than adding the full stop through suicide, self-destruction. The length of the sentence is arbitrary and therefore unknown, unlike the sentence pronounced by a human court sitting in judgement. The sentence though is full of commas and colons and semicolons and capitals and hyphens, all defining the events of our life. But where does the natural judgement on the length of the sentence come from?

This has exercised the minds of many people over the millennia as it has mine of late with the news of Daisy’s heart problem. Is it pre-ordained, a fixed term set at the start of life? Is it decided by a god? Or maybe one of many gods? Or a number of gods in concert? Or that mysterious balancing mechanism of Buddhism, karma? Whole belief systems have arisen through this search. And some even postulate with irrational certainty about the possibilities after the sentence has been carried out. Are we just part of a surrounding paragraph, part of some great novel? Is there another dimension that awaits us, a heaven or a hell of some kind? Us being, of course, some unidentified part of our existence, on this plane at least, that is commonly referred to as the soul. We all use the term but do we really know what it is, can we point to some part of our body to show where it, the soul, that intangible, eternal component that may continue on after the frail body is gone, where in that feeble body does it reside?

This grasping for eternity that most humans have, along with the capacity to think in the way that we do, is to my mind the curse of humanity that the writers of the Bible were referring to with the Adam and Eve allegory. It is what distinguishes us from the rest of life forms on this planet. I surmise that the other life forms accept and understand the cycle of life and death and while not exactly welcoming the end, I don’t think they suffer from some delusion of eternity as many of us humans do. Why do we humans find it so hard to just accept and enjoy this precious gift of life for what it is, for whatever term it is, without distracting our enjoyment of it with a quest for immortality?

Our attitude to it is bizarre at times. We all know the fact at a logical, rational level, you live, you die. But at an emotional level, many try to ignore it and live as if there was no possible end to it because there is another life of some sort waiting at the end of this one. There is an extremely good chance that that is a fallacy and this is all there is, enjoy it for what it is. It may not be something that exercises our thinking on a constant basis, nor should it be, given how little control we have over it. Suffice to say that not many of us are in a hurry to meet it, that big full stop at the end of the sentence.

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