How should any of us view death?
Ah, a loaded question if there ever was one. But in this context I am referring to one Farish Jenkins, who died recently after succmbing to pneumonia complicating multple myeloma http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/us/farish-jenkins-fossils-expert-dies-at-72.html?emc=eta1&_r=
A well respected paleontologist and professor at Harvard University, Jenkins, when asked about his impending demise responded, “I am quite familiar with extinction.”
As a man whose professional life involved delving into fossilized remains of creatures that lived and died millions of years in the past as well as entire species and varieties of animals now extinct, he had a perspective on the nature of existence that few of us do.
Now none of us can truly know our mental/emotional state of mind when we die. Will we be racked with fear and agitation? Or will we accept the impending inevitability with grace and acceptance?
Of course I have no idea what Jenkins believed about regarding the afterlife or survival of consciousness after death. Perhaps he did have some sense of it, perhaps not. Ironically both an understanding of the nature of reality from a spiritual and scientific perspective might offer all of us a level of serenity when our time comes.
If Jenkins died with a sense of deeper understanding regarding the ephemeral nature of life, he might have made his transition in peace. At least I would like to believe he did.
We should all live with the awareness that personal extinction is our destiny. It is not something to be obsessed over. It is certainly not a concept which should paralyze us with fear and anxiety. If anything it gives our lives a greater sense of value and meaning.
The quality of our lives, the deeper meaning we give to it, the ability to place our fears and anxieties in perspective, the notion that life is a gift and that opportunities await us at the next moment—all of these are not diminished by our awareness of our personal “extinction”.
It gives us a moment to pause and consider–don’t waste this incarnation, this one, too, shall pass.