November 16th, 2009
Contemplating our own death is something we humans do, we wonder how our life will come to an end. Some would argue that religion and the thought of an after-life were created only to ease our fear of the inevitable. We all hope for a peaceful, painless demise, perhaps to slip away while in a deep sleep without any indication of its coming. But, lets face it; most of us will feel the breath of the grim reaper just before our passing, and it will terrify us. If we find the breath to have been just a warning and the end didn’t come as expected, we claim some earthly luck or divine providence, and in our future we heed the warning by not repeating the action that put us so close to becoming worm food in the first place. However, today, we won’t be afforded the luxury of surviving death; today we will die. You see, regrettably, we ventured to the edge of a cliff. The cliff is the edge of a great canyon lined with jagged rocks. To fall into the chasm would most surely mean certain death. Oh, there’s more bad news; coincidentally, there is a very hungry pride of lions blocking any healthy escape from our position. So, although being eaten alive or falling off a cliff would be horrible ways to go, we should only make our choice of the two by first examining our potential frame of mind, method of the life ending act, and how long the pain may last. In this reflection we just may discover the most “palatable” way to go.
The lions startled us by moving ever closer to our position. We take a step back, and, in doing so, push a small rock over the edge of the cliff. For a brief moment, we follow with our eyes the path of the rock as it tumbles toward the bottom of the abyss. The rock hits the bottom, but, due to the distance, we did not actually hear it hit, but our mind replaced the brief gap of silence with its own crashing sound timed with the visual of the rock exploding into a million pieces. One step closer to the edge and we would have met the same fate as the rock! Time slows down, our senses intensify, and we feel like all the blood is starting to drain from our extremities. Just then, we can hear a growling that sounded as if it was produced by the devil himself. Unlike the cliff, the lions provide us with a very different and more immediate threat. We don’t turn to face them straight away; maybe in a hope that they might just go away and leave us alone, but, as the seconds pass, we realize that is clearly not going to be the case. We slowly turn to face the lions while trying not to make any sudden moves that may trigger an attack. Now, our attention has fully returned to the lions. We are so overcome with fear we cannot even count how many there are. We have fixed our eyes on the largest and closest feline. Even with his mouth closed we can see large teeth, but those are not what grab our attention. We fixate on the pupils of his eyes, they seem as big around as quarters, and, when we look deep into them, we realize we are the only thing that lion has on his mind; we are his prey, and he is hungrily sizing us up for the kill. Tears are now starting to well up, making everything a bit blurry, and we are too afraid to blink. Oh God, what do we do?
Launching ourselves off the cliff would be taking our own life; we may suffer less, but how would it affect our after-life? Most religions frown upon people taking their own life. Besides, if we jumped, our bodies would quickly reach terminal velocity, we would be gasping for air, as it would be like trying to breathe with your head poked out a car window at about 120 miles per hour. The sudden stop against the hard, uneven ground would break every bone in our body, and death would be instantaneous. On the other hand, the lions would each bite and rip into our flesh, tearing the organs from our body as we watch in horror. We may even stay conscious long enough to hear the popping sound our leg would make as it separates from our torso. Are we having fun yet?
The bodily pain from jumping of the cliff will be very short lived. With any luck, we may lose consciousness before we even hit the ground, but the pain which will hurt the most will be the mental anguish we will experience from the fact we will not be able to say goodbye to those left behind, and the pain brought on by the wondering of whether or not we made the right choice. Conversely, the pain we will experience at the claws and jaws of the lions will be mostly physical in nature. The trauma of having our flesh ripped open by the multiple predators will generate unbelievable amounts of physical pain that our only thoughts will be in its relief. Death is moving ever closer, and as the pain becomes more than we can bare, we will ultimately embrace the concept of our death and wish it to hurry along.
We are ultimately defined by what we do with the things we can control and how we react to the things we cannot. Even in our no win scenario involving the cliff and the lions, we had only two real choices to make; admittedly, each leading to a closed casket funeral, but provided tons of information to reflect upon. In life, we are confronted with various challenges, and a majority of those choices will not have to deal with life or death, but know that each decision we make is an example that others may use to help guide their future actions.
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