I was chatting online with Lowcountry author Richard Cote about what he terms "gentle death". This was in response to his Facebook posting about the assisted death of well-known right-to-die activist Nan Maitland.
Since then I have had a chance to think more about this subject, and have come to the conclusion that I am definitely ambivolent about it at this point in my life.
Because I like to watch.
I like to watch events unfold. I like to watch the seasons change. I like to watch politicians continually make fools of themselves. I like to watch the light change as I drive from Charleston to Florida. I like to watch the tides rise and fall. I like to watch my friends having a good time at a party. I like to watch the moon rise above the treeline. I like to watch the Milky Way slide smoothly across the clear Winter sky.
And I haven't even got started.
I said to Richard, "I believe that we all have the responsibility to live our lives to the absolute fullest. Anything less is perhaps one of the deadliest sins. I hear people saying how bored they are... how can anyone be bored with a whole universe just sitting there waiting to be explored?"
And what have I found in my explorations?
For one thing, I have found that one can avoid getting bored in a Doctor's waiting room, or in a gov'mint office, or in the auto salesmans' Closing Room (you know...the one with no inside handle on the door...). Simply put: watch people.
I like to watch people. They are inscrutable, unpredictable, generally entertaining entities, However, people are at their most uninteresting if there is a television in the room. Go into a restaurant with televisions sprouting from the crown moulding like an insidious vine. See the people stare blankly at the screen, not paying any attention to their friends, their servers, or their lives.
So what is the answer to the question I posed in the title?
The answer is that we die when we give up living. Some people do it by never looking around themselves. Others entertain themselves to death to the background of a bluish flickering screen. Some die in a cubicle in an office building, but they still manage to get up and go home at five o'clock.
And a few live their lives as though they will never die. They tend to smile a lot.
I smile a lot, even when the going gets tough. After all, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. But that is another blog in itself...
Here are a few pithy quotations I shall leave you to ponder.
"We spend too much time living in the ‘what if’ and need to learn to live in the ‘what is.’" - Rev. Leroy Allison
"A bird does not sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song." - Chinese proverb
"There is the risk you cannot afford to take and there is the risk you cannot afford not to take." - Peter Drucker
"Excessive self-esteem is the greatest rein on genius." - French organist Marcel Dupre
"They can't say 'Yes' unless you ask them..." - moi
Now go out and live...there will be time enough to die in a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a lifetime...
Jus' doin' the Charleston...
PS - Look for Richard Cote's new book "In Search of Gentle Death", due to be published later this year.