Almost everyone knows Hamlet’s soliloquy on death, “To Be or Not to Be,” with its sinister doubts about the hereafter. But, if research is to be believed, those who have encountered the Grim Reaper and survived seem to benefit from the experience. I can testify to this fact. Years ago, I was diagnosed with a fatal illness. My life became one of shadows and anger and regret. I saw, as if through a looking glass, that I’d wasted my life. Happily, the sentence was eventually lifted and a mistaken diagnosis admitted. I awoke from my nightmare with a new vision of what my life should be.
Michael W. Wiederman, in “Mortal Thoughts” puts the experience this way:
..people who have an abrupt encounter with mortality tend to seek meaning in life and those who pursue meaning in life can handle mortality more easily. (“Mortal Thoughts by Michael W. Wiedermen, Scientific American Mind, July/August, 2012 pg. 57).
According to Wiedermen, people who have not encountered death tend to insulate themselves against their fear in one of two ways. They engage in dare devil stunts, watch horror movies or stock car races as a vicarious means of exposing themselves to death while feeling in control. Or, they ignore the inevitable by keeping themselves busy.
As to the essay’s conclusions, I can only add my small testimony. Shaking hands with death taught me to focus on meaningful work and relationships. Material objectives mean nothing.
(Courtesy of www.penguinbay.net)