Death and Finding Your Purpose

J.C. LaCroix Uncategorized

"Journey into Skull Cave", JD Hancock, Creative Commons License

“Journey into Skull Cave”, JD Hancock, Creative Commons License

You are going to die.

That’s right, you.

Don’t get me wrong here, chief – it’s not personal. Its going to happen to me too, and your friends, my family, that guy I like on the TV or radio, and yes, even that little hottie down the way that you should approach, but don’t. Of course, its not limited to class or status. The President will die, just like the little retarded man that rips my tickets down at the movie theatre. Your heroes will die, just like my enemies. The brilliant and the beautiful will kick it too, guaranteed. All people, in all places, of all creeds and races.

In fact, it’s the only real, true, total truth we have left nowadays…

Death is certain, life is not.

Now, you might be dismissing me at this point with a yeah-I-know. But, this is where I want to stop you, and ask a few simple little questions:

  • If you stop to consider that, one day, the rising and falling of your chest and the soft patting of that heartbeat in your chest will stop, do you get even a little bit uncomfortable? No? What about if it happened in the next five minutes?
  • Have you made a serious, committed effort to confront your own death lately, or are you sticking your head in the sand on the issue? Do you think this is a bad idea in the long run?
  • Are you having difficulty finding your purpose? Is it difficult for you to find your motivation? Are you having a hard time deciding what you want?

If the answer to any of those questions was yes, then by all means, keep reading, because this one’s for you…

The Long Sleep

There is a matrix that has most of us wrapped in its grip. The bulk of those who read this live in developed countries, or developed areas at least, and that means the culture is sure to be dominantly materialistic. I’d like to compare this type of culture to its counterpart, and then make a point.

Hang on, this little part of the ride will take a moment.

Death & Materialistic Cultures

They revere youth and spend a great deal of time, money, and energy trying to cover up signs of aging. Viagra, wrinkle cream, pin-up models, MTV’s Kurt Loader. Bodies are kept in out of the way places, generally hidden until the viewing part of the funeral ceremony, and this viewing is kept as brief as possible. Funeral ceremonies are subdued and somber, like being in a library where everyone is privately depressed. People who spend great deals of time talking about death or examining it are considered morbid. I mean, morticians are just a tad creepy, right? Don’t try to tell me they don’t get their necrophilia on, just the once. Grieving is a private, personal process, usually only supported by the immediate family, if that at all, and grand spectacles of grief are somewhat embarrassing.

Work & Materialism

Personal success and personal wealth are virtually synonymous – a person who is wealthy and moderately happy is considered by many to be more successful than someone who is extremely poor but very happy. Hence, the President is more successful than the ticket-ripping tard at the movie theatre, even though he constantly laughs and smiles. The work or job a person has is a prominent subject in introductions. I mean, come on, it’s the first question out of someone’s mouth at the club when I go out. Try this, just say “nothing” next time you’re asked what you do and watch the gears spin. Keep saying “nothing”, and you will witness a little mini- breakdown in the person’s mind. Kinda fun. The bulk of a person’s time is spent working, unless wealthy. And, those who are not wealthy and do not spend a bulk of time working are considered lower on the social chain than those who do. Dirty, dirty, hippy bastards, or my personal favorite, welfare mamas. Often, a common strategy is to try to solve internal problems with purchases. Hence, the welfare mama feels socially rejected, so she tries to cover it up by sitting on the couch, watching the Maury show, and eating ice cream.

You are not the father. Spoon. Tears.

Now, contrast this to non-materialistic (the majority of the rest of the world) cultures, where I can make similarly true statements.

Death & Non-Materialism

The aging are revered and consulted, and making it to an old age is considered a sign of success in and of itself. Funerals are grand spectacles. Bodies are often put on display for long periods of time in the home, or carried through the streets. Those who deal directly with the dead, or spend time investigating death are given a boost in social status. Grieving is public, and dramatic. In fact, a lack of properly over-the-top mourning is considered an insult.

Work & Non-Materialism

Wealth is one form of success, equal to other types. Title or Job is secondary to introductions, usually interests, family, or personal connections get the spotlight. Work is meant only to enable leisure time, which is the end-goal. Often, the poor must work long hours, but are pitied for doing so. Finally, spiritual pathways (religion or otherwise) are often turned to when trying to solve personal problems.

Synopsis

As you can see, that’s quite a difference. You probably see what I am getting at, but if you don’t, I’ll just say it:

The difference between the materialistic culture and the non-materialistic one ultimately boils down to the fact that the latter has embraced and confronted the truth of death, while the former is, in fact, running from this truth on a daily basis.

Which, then presents a problem.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I live for gluttony. I like my shit – my computer, nike’s, McDonald’s, personal wage slaves, Wal-Mart, and hell, you’ll take my home thermostat from my cold, dead hands. I accept my cultural standard, and believe that material wealth is an essential component of success. On the other hand, this does not mean I have to buy in with the rest of the masses and succumb to the Long Sleep.

Its an illusion, you see, that we’ve been indoctrinated into — willfully or otherwise, it doesn’t matter. We work to distract ourselves from our world, our problems, our dislikes, and most of all, the fact that we are uncomfortable with ourselves. It’s a great irony, we don’t like ourselves, because materialism makes us measure ourselves externally, so we lie about that, and say we work for other reasons, even though its just one big distraction. Heh. Yet, the truth that those selves will one day be rubbed out makes us far more uncomfortable than the lie we made up for our own comfort. So we end up with a culture that is, well, insane when viewed from the outside.

Now, I call bullshit. And, I will retort with some verbal voodoo, but try to stay with me.

I don’t really know where the Long Sleep came from. Near as I can tell, at some point in human history, the majority of the world was relatively similar in terms of standard of living. Then, one group developed science. Science was good, it lead to methods and processes that ultimately brought about the industrial revolution, and everyone had more and more shit in their houses. Problem was, it challenged existing power structures, and instead of science and religion, it became science against religion. These two camps fought a war. This really shook people up, and in the chaos and confusion, they clung to their stuff. Likewise, the science camp had to distinguish itself from its enemies (those pesky churchy people) so they went all reactionary on the empirical question. Thus was uber-objectivism born – where that which is part of the tapestry of life can somehow eject itself and float around all intellectually-disembodied, and only that which can be observed and measured, exists.

Okay, so philosophically, I don’t care about who is right or wrong on the question. I only give a shit about the side-effect:

People in this war had to redefine themselves. And in the new objective paradigm, it had to be by something they could measure.

The only thing they could measure was their stuff. So they started defining themselves by physical things, what they owned and how they looked. The problem is, yourself is not “external”. Yourself is “internal”, and has very little to do with your stuff. So people now have a paradigm that takes self-worth, which under the religious paradigm was inherent at birth, and makes it an impossibility. It is an impossibility because to measure yourself by that which is not ultimately yourself is a foundational move of self-rejection. Having rejected self, the people are inherently uncomfortable with theirselves, and since they are with themselves all the time, they try to fill it with more stuff.

So, with humanity building a paradigm that is at odds with reality, death lingers around the edges. It shouts out the nature of the lie, because we will all be alone with ourselves, without all our stuff, when we experience death. So these people run from facing death like the plague, since it will undo their entire mental sandcastle. They also try to fill the void with constant distraction – work, more stuff, entertainment, company. But, more stuff and distraction is only more self-rejection, which leads to more stuff and distraction…ad infinum, ad nauseum.

This, my friends, is a downward spiral that I call the Long Sleep which, for those of us who live in materialistic cultures, has strangled away our lives for some time.

Goal Paralysis

This Long Sleep is the cause of a state which I call Goal Paralysis, and it is something that often gets asked but rarely gets answered. The questions go like this:

  • I can’t seem to find motivation, can you help me?
  • How do you discover your purpose?
  • How will I know I’ve found my purpose when I’ve found it?
  • I can’t seem to figure out what I want?
  • I’ve tried a lot of things, but nothing seems to light me up, what is wrong?

All of these questions are the result of a disconnect. The brain says “answer my question of purpose/desire”, and nothing happens…

Let me tell you, finding your purpose should be the easiest thing in the world for you. In fact, you know it right now, its just a matter of tapping in – remember, its who you are in the most fundamental sense. Not being able to do it, or find it, is a huge internal warning sign, like waking up and not being able to remember your own name.

But, if you’re asking such a monumental question to a person you don’t like, don’t trust, don’t accept, then silence is all you will get. In short, all those layers of the long sleep are a wall of lies that you must first penetrate to reach your inner voice.

If you have rejected yourself, even a tad, then you’ve rejected that voice along with it.

Time to take it back, yeah?

Confronting Death

To awaken from this long sleep, we need an alarm clock. Death is the ultimate clock, because it ticks by each second, getting closer, and yet we don’t know how much time we have. Likewise, to free ourselves from this prison, we need a sledgehammer. Death is the ultimate tool, because we have established that its very nature stands as a contradiction to the philosophy behind the long sleep. Finally, we need an antidote for the poison of goal paralysis. Death is that antidote, because it is the oppose of purpose. In short, if you have lost your keys, you will find them when you stop looking. If you have lost your purpose, you will find it in the place where it no longer exists. That is, when you no longer exist.

For Darkworkers, this process is fundamental – I will explain that statement with a reminder that our power does not come from our dedication to ourselves above all else. The reality is that our power comes from our dedication to the Axoim of Accepting Truth.

Death is, of course, the first truth of Life.

Also, some of you may be thinking about how your view on the afterlife plays into this – my answer is simply that it does not. For example, if you believe death is the absolute end when you die, then all of this still stands, because for you what you do with your life is absolutely critical, since it is all the time you have. If you believe in reincarnation, then you know that death is like pushing the reset button on your Nintendo, but with no real ability to save your game. So the you that exists in this life, is erased and does die, even if the energy that is you goes on. Your “self” is still bound by death. Finally, if you believe in an afterlife of some kind, then your ability to act fully in this world ends when you die, and thus, the actions and effects that are your presence in the world will pass away. In all of these cases, there is some sort of time-is-finite, meaning, you need to confront this truth and get your ass in gear. Unless, you don’t know the answer, in which case the process of confronting death can only help you along the way to discovering what you believe.

Now, some of you might still be resisting the idea of confronting death because you still think its just plain weird – or that the exercises I suggest below are just too damn strange. Well, I point to that as proof that you’re still held in the long sleep. The majority of the world just doesn’t feel the same way. Now, fuck the herd, but it does indicate that you might be off in your perceptions. I will prove that by asking you: Would you feel the same way about someone who investigates rainbows, or thunderstorms? How about someone who collects rocks, or studies earthquakes? Do you feel that way about physicists? Of course you don’t – but you shouldn’t about death either. Death is simply a natural force in the world, just like rainbows and earthquakes.

I ask you in turn, how should studying and investigating death be any different?

So, how do we go about this? Don’t think for a second that looking at pictures of death, or watching some HBO special on forensics counts. You need to make this first person and personal. Keep in mind, I’m not recommending anything I have not done. It proceeds in the following stages. Start at the beginning and as you are ready, advance to the next stage at your own pace.

The Stages

First, start small, just go get a paper and read the obituaries. Reflect on death in an intellectual way. First, the person in the obit, then your own death. Who were they, how did they die? Who are you, how will you die? When you start to get a little queasy, you’re ready for the next step.

Next, get closer to it, but start with animals. I volunteered at the humane society, and I recommend this for everyone. However, if that is too much, then simply as you go around through life, if you see a dead animal in the yard or on the road, stop when you can, and walk up to it, examine it. Notice how you feel. If you see a predator taking down another creature, watch it. Pretend you’re the prey, and note your reactions.

Now, we need to turn to our own species – simply by going to funerals. This is actually a Buddhist practice, to go to funerals and meditate on death. Dress nicely, and act kindly to those who are there, they’ve lost someone and they don’t need you being a jackass. At showings, people tend not to talk. If anyone asked me how I knew so and so, I told them that I happened to see the obit, and I ran into them on the street a few times. I briefly explain that I didn’t know them well, but they said something once that had a big impact, and I just wanted to pay my respects. Trust me, most of the time, no one will say anything, they’re a little busy. If they press the issue, act a little overwhelmed, and if they won’t let it rest, have something cryptic and zen-like pre-prepared. They almost always move on at that point. Before you go ranting about the ethics of the above, just note I’m doing the best I can to get around dead bodies for more than 30 seconds in a culture that pees itself around the notion of personal death. If you can come up with a better way, like hanging out at a morgue somehow, go for it.

Here comes the hardest stage – its really simple though. Volunteer at a hospice care facility. Being with the dying is often more difficult than being near the dead, and this is where the real payoffs will come. This will probably cause you a lot of discomfort, but the rewards are tenfold. I’ll give you one tip – most people struggle with what to say, but in reality you just need to listen. Its not as hard, in terms of the interaction, as you might think, the real hard part is being with someone as they pass. Odds are, you won’t be, but you might, and that brings this whole series home, into the last stage.

Lastly, get some friends/family together and do a mock funeral for yourself. Dress up the area, use some candles, put on some cheesy elevator muzak, and ask them to all speak as if you had just died. If, during death contemplation, a certain death bothered you, pretend that was how you died.

Conclusion

Once you go through all those stages, not only will you have ended the long sleep, I guarantee you motivation and purpose will no longer be in your lost-and-found box.

They’ll be right out in your happy little hands. This process is the quickest way to raidly speed our Descent.

Finally, I’d like to you some notes as you go through this process:

Go through all the stages, in order. They were designed with a purpose in mind. It is not meant to be pleasant. Don’t turn away just because it feels bad, in and of itself. Remember, you’re tearing down lies, and that always hurts. After all, its called Dark-WORK-ing for a reason. On the other hand, if you’re at one stage, and proceeding to the next stage is just overwhelming, stop. Hang out where you are until those negative emotions become more manageable. The reason is that you won’t internalize the insights this process generates as well. However, the only exception is the hospice stage, push yourself through that. Your libido may go through the roof. Dealing with death will cause a reflexive affirmation of life. I’ll show you something great to do with all that, look for my Rooting post.

Expect major psychological changes – your priorities, wants, values, ethics all might change as part of doing this, then again, that’s what you want here.

So stick with it, and love yourself along the way, folks. It will work.

It has for others.

It did for me.