Daily Prompt: Facing The Inevitable

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about mortality. Specifically, when you realize you weren’t immortal and how you reacted to it. This actually happened to me a couple of times when I was growing up, the first of which when I was still a child. When I was in elementary school, I’d always spend my Christmas vacation at my grandparents’ house. It was a tradition that involved weeks of decorating the house, wrapping presents, and cooking yummy desserts. But 1995 was different; my grandfather had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and was rapidly declining. I’ve already written about watching him die, so I’ll skip straight to the aftermath. That was the first time I’d ever been so close to death, and the realization that yes, it is a thing that happens. But I never cried over it; I never knew my grandfather as a person, but as an old man who gave out laughs and tickles whenever possible. When the adults awkwardly asked me if I had any questions about death, I shrugged and said no. He’d been sick for almost a year, and the writing was on the wall. With it came the understanding that death was an inevitability – it was just a matter of how and when – and that I’d have no choice to accept it. So I did.

Yeah, I was kind of creepy as a kid.

The second occurrence happened a few years later when I was in high school. I was walking onto the campus when I witnessed a car speed through the red light right next to me…and into a kid who happened to be in the crosswalk. I’ll spare you the details – pretty sure I’ve mentally blocked out the worst parts – but I’m sure you can imagine it. I pride myself on being a fighter now, but back on that chilly, bloody morning, I couldn’t do anything. I stood there, utterly transfixed by death’s proximity and brutality, and I watched a dozen or so people run to assist in what was already a hopeless cause. I knew it was already over, that other people were taking care of it, that I’d just get in the way. I slowly turned away, hands slightly trembling, and numbly walked to my first class. I don’t think I spoke that entire day, even when they announced the accident and death on the PA system.

It was then I realized that death wasn’t reserved for just the old and sick; anyone can die anywhere. What made more of an impression was the sheer randomness of it; there was no dramatic build-up, no final family farewell, nothing but a big hunk of metal zooming into an unsuspecting victim. And if could happen to some kid crossing the street, it could happen to me. If you look at the mortality rates provided by WHO and do a little math, that roughly translates to two people dying every second. Yeah, think about that. I’ve had that stat burned into my mind for years. It’s a sobering reminder that my – and everyone else’s – days are numbered. I don’t fear death, though; I’ve embraced my mortality head-on as I’ve grown older. I’ve come close to dying myself three or four times now, so I’d like to think we’re on good terms. I’m more afraid living a disappointed and unfulfilled life; there’s far too much to see and do, and I refuse to be just another statistic in a history book.

The acceptance of mortality is a double-edged sword, though. It’s a very liberating experience, but it can lead to a slippery slope of some rather grim philosophical pondering. Death is an inevitability; you cannot escape it forever. Most people try to ignore it by distracting themselves with whatever they can. The advent of social media has certainly ensured that people desperate to be remembered and acknowledged won’t (for better or worse) be forgotten so easily. For others, particularly anyone severely depressed, it underscores how vapid and pointless daily life can be; death is ever-present, so why bother sticking around? For me, I’ve come to realize that life’s inherent meaninglessness isn’t a bad thing; as Nietzsche once explained, you can give life your own meaning. Skipping out early is an option, but there are so many, many better ones to try first. Since death is coming regardless, might as well do – and be – something awesome to pass the time. It’s not easy to do – I still have moments when I feel the exact opposite, and I do not look forward to growing old – but it’s more fulfilling than the alternative. My problem is finding happiness and fulfillment, but that’s a whole other issue.

As for death, it’ll stop by and visit eventually. I intend to make the wait worthwhile.

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The Importance Of Karma

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Post is all about karma. Basically, what would you do if karma was scientifically proven to be real? That’s actually a really interesting question; how would our lives – if not society as a whole – change if we knew that our actions and decisions would directly affect our futures? Though it’d be much more beneficial and fulfilling in the long run, I’d hesitate to say that all the results would be good. See, the thing about people is that we’re…well, we’re people. We as humans aren’t capable of perfection. Not everyone’s ambitions and goals are altruistic, either. There’s a huge gray area when it comes to motivation and morality; what happens if someone uses positive karma to gain power or control, only to reveal themselves as a despot? Does anything change if such individuals genuinely believe their efforts are morally correct? What about guys like Jean Valjean? Is he going to suffer negative karma because he stole a loaf of bread (and thus part of someone’s livelihood), even though he did so to keep his family from starving? What about mercy killings?

Not so easy, is it?

As for me, I’d act mostly the same. I’ve come to discover in recent years that karma, while not scientifically proven, definitely exists on some level. How we treat each other – and ourselves, for that matter – can come back to haunt or bless us in unexpected ways. As much as we all like to think evil is cool and awesome, it doesn’t pan out very well for anyone in real life. If you treat people poorly, you have to constantly be wary of betrayals, vengeance, manipulation, and even physical violence. Assuming that anyone actually wants to have anything to do with you. It’s stressful and lonely. You might rule with an iron fist and have vast luxury, but that won’t necessarily make you happy or satisfied. Look at Louis XVI; he really lived like a king…and then the French Revolution happened.

Not fun.

Instead, I’d approach karma much like I do with Nietzsche’s views on existential nihilism. Basically, life is meaningless. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing; we’re given the opportunity to create our own meaning. And since we’re all stuck in this together, then why not help each other make it better? Doing so is in your best interest, too. You can’t really develop yourself as a person – and thus become an Übermensch – unless you learn, help, and interact on some level with others. Karma is similar in that regard; we gain it by improving the lives of ourselves and others. Kindness doesn’t make you weak; if anything, you need strength – mentally, emotionally, physically, or any other form – to help people. That doesn’t mean you have to be all cheery, outgoing, and instantly agree with everything and everyone. You’d end up losing your part of your individuality. Rather, you should develop your own views, but remain respectful of others. I mean, I can be an incredibly icy, sarcastic pessimist and prefer books to being social, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to help others. I’d like to think that such actions are part of what makes this whole debacle called life worth living.

What do you think?