The dying and almost dead seem always to offer the same answer. The living seem always to offer the wrong answer.
Or do they? Why should we be so inclined to take the word of the dying over the living?
In the face of death, we are capable of unspeakable betrayals, crimes, and self-delusion. Perhaps, it is the living who have the luxury of wisdom, while the dying and almost dead have only the poverty of imprudence.
To further complicate matters, the brain remembers very differently than it experiences. With a few tricks of timing and intensity, the remembering brain can be tricked into choosing for itself one of two experiences which is objectively worse than the other. Are we experiencing or remembering, when we face death? Is it a remembering that demands an experiencing or an experiencing that necessarily diminishes what is remembered? In our final months, days, and minutes, what tricks of timing and intensity might be affecting our judgement?
Admittedly, there are many far-from-dying sages who have offered the same answer to the question of what truly matters as the dying and almost dead offer, but these answers are motivated by a deep understanding of the fact that we are all dying. Birds of a feather flock, cherish, and die together.
So, who should we trust? The vanities of the living seem pointless to the dying. The myopia of the dying seems pointless to the living. The answer to this final question lies, I think, in an experience shared by both the living and the dying — the sated joy of being in the presence of the wide open being of the very young.
The very young are a direct connection to the divine pleasure of a wide open, loving, and enchanted being that we know we experienced but can’t remember directly, a being which is too easily lost in the wind chasing that we learn to call living because we are so afraid of dying. The living and the dying both learn in the incandescence of the very young all that matters in life. The dying, however, don’t have the time to forget the lesson over and over again.
Happy New Year.