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04 September 2017

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Murali

You are spot on. The biggest problem we face is our own self and the delusion in search of non-existing knowledge out side of us. As you say if we sit comfortably and contemplate our own experiences both good and bad, there will be a greater awakening to the world outside of us. But as we search for knowledge outside of us be it internet or other mediums we are bombarded with irrivelent information such as the pop us ads etc. I have to plead guilty of the later but sometimes I do practice the former!

Linda

I am overwhelmed by this gift of your constant thinking. I agree with you about not wanting to live if my wits are gone, but I fear that it will be impossible for me to tell what that moment might be. I am I guess still afraid of death even though I strive to overcome this feeling. We would all like to die peacefully in our sleep one night but I think this rarely happens.

wisedupearly

Death of education by smartphones is a recent meme worrying educators. The ads, news bites, and apps are crafted specifically to attract attention. They are the end result of marrying Madison Avenue with Silicon Valley and only the most effective/annoying/distracting survive to become the template for the next generation. To my generation computer games seem crazy but incredible amounts of money are spent developing each new game. Man's ingenuity has been turned against himself as mental addiction takes its place next to chemical addiction.

David E. Solomon

Very nice piece Richard,

I would be interested in knowing how you feel about Sherwin Nuland's book when you finish it. My wife and I read it a number of years ago (the exact number of years escapes me - like many other details in my ageing brain). My wife liked the book more than I did, I felt that in the end Dr. Nuland was not nearly strong enough in his approach to what awaits all of us.

We have both filled out DNRs and DNIs, but unfortunately - at least in New York state, that does not absolutely guarantee that your instructions will be followed. In any case, the only thing that we really fear is a painful end (or an Alzheimer's end).

Dignatas in Switzerland has the answer for that, but you must be of sound mind, be able to get yourselves there at the appropriate time and finally, not inconsequentially, you must have be able to afford 15,000 Swiss francs.

My uncle suffered from Parkinson's and feared Parkinson's dementia more than anything else. He took matters into his own hands three days before his eighty-first birthday.

On the other hand my father made it to eighty-five before he had the misfortune to step off his bulldozer on to a downed power line on his property. He wanted to live for ever and to that end he let doctors do far more to him than either of us would have consented to.

We miss him dearly, but in some fashion my wife and I both feel that the accident that took him, saved him from many unpleasant days at the hands of the medical profession.

Again, really nice article.

Regards,

David
PS: Sometime ago you wrote and excellent piece about your mother. When I saw the posting, I was somewhat overwhelmed. Very few people would have been confident enough in their own skins to have posted that article.

I took a few days to think about a response, because I thought nn one else was likely to respond. In the end, I did not respond because so many other people did so and did it so well.

My mother was also a perfectly dreadful woman, but at least yours sounded like she had a brain, not mine.

dilbert dogbert

In my early years I marched along the trail knowing that in the mist dimly seen was "The Wall". Now at 81 "The Wall" is clear, spotlighted in bright sunlight.

readerOfTeaLeaves

Having watched my father pass away in recent months, after several years confined to a wheelchair and in the care of gifted, compassionate immigrants, I sincerely appreciate this post.

In those last weeks, the most help that I could offer was to play him any opera, musical, jazz, or orchestral piece that he requested -- all via a quick search on my iTunes account. In the last hours, when he could no longer speak, Indian Chakra music (also via iTunes) helped his breathing and was a balm beyond what words could ever express.

What he taught me is that it is not how we die -- in his case, stoic, uncomplaining, loved, and treasured -- but how we live, that matters.

His life, like so many of his generation, was shaped by several years spent in the US Army between 1943 - 45, much of it in the South Pacific, then Japan. The catastrophic destruction that he witnessed, which he did not share with me until he was well into his 80s, shaped the way that he lived his life, and sharpened his priorities, his beliefs, his politics, his ethics, and his capacity for friendship. Also, his capacity for making a decision, then sticking to it.

He once told me that after watching 'so many bodies stacked up like cordwood' in the cleanup of Yokohoma after it had been firebombed, he promised himself that he would never, ever remain in any job if he was miserable after 72 hours. He kept that promise to himself, and helped countless others also try to find meaningful work, be productive, and laugh through job losses, down cycles, and lawsuits.

In other words, his military experiences in WWII seemed to liberate him in a sense to live his life as fully as he possibly could, and he always felt grateful to have had a solid education, a superb local library, and -- much later -- The Internet to help him reconnect with friends strewn across the country.

Today, he would be called 'resilient'.
Many of the traits that helped him be successful in a long career were sharpened in the US Army, and he felt that 'kids today' would have enormous benefits from some kind of national service. That generation knew how to pull together. Whether today's kids can figure it out remains to be seen.

EvanHP

I'm in my 40's. I had a heart attack (MI) 3 years ago and a stroke 2 weeks ago. The MI felt like 1000-lbs of compressed air was shot into my lungs. When I had the stroke I was typing a report at my desk around 7 pm. My wife was still at work. My right arm went completely numb and the right side of my face felt partially numb. I was rushed to the ER at a local hospital outside Boston. No major long-term effects. In both cases (MI and stroke) I was a bit freaked out because I was conscious and knew that what was happening was grave. In both cases my overwhelming thought (fear) was that I was about to enter eternity and I wondered if I had lead a good enough life to avoid eternal isolation from God. During the stroke they were ready to use a very aggressive treatment called TPA, which, the ER doctor told me, could result in bleeding in the brain and fatality. I was frightened of death for the first time in my life. Because it was real. I asked my wife if we might need to call a priest. She said I would be ok. The decision to not go forward with TPA was made by a brother and sister-in-law (one a Harvard Med cardiologist and the other a professor of medicine) who talked with the ER doctor by phone as this was going down (I'm sure a first for him).

Anyway, crazy stuff. I will be changing my lifestyle in many ways-- body, mind, and spirt. I'm practicing my faith more diligently and plan to go to confession at least once per month and say the rosary daily. A view these events as a wake up call for my health and a severe mercy for my eternal soul.

TonyL

Thanks Richard for a beautiful and thought provoking essay, as always.

Bill H

I was undergoing some sort of medical test and the technician noticed I was reading a book, one of the Patrick O'Brian series which includes Master and Commander which was such a good movie. I told him I was reading the series for what I thought was the sixth time and he was stunned. He could not believe that anyone would read a book twice, let alone a series of twenty books six times. I think Richard Sale understands why I'm reading it yet again.

raven

I think my guru has it

"To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But, then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer, to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love, to be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy, therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness - I hope you're getting this down."

Eric Newhill

Nice article, Richard.

I volunteer at a hospice home in my community. It's a nice place and people in the community can spend their final days there, for free, well taken care of, with their families and friends, in a clean, peaceful, respectful environment. The goal of the home is provide as much dignity in death as possible. I've seem a lot of people go through the dying process and have been there at the final moment for some of them.

You'd be surprised at how many residents pass their last week and day and even moment with some banal game show blaring away on the television. You might be surprised at how few conversations there are about spiritual matters, how few reflections on what was learned during life, how few conversations regarding great adventures, joys, loves, sorrows.

For most, death comes painlessly. There is a sigh and, perhaps, a brief rattle and then the resident is gone. Quite uneventful. Quite mundane.

Most people (68%) have an IQ that is within 1 standard deviation of average. These people are mediocre; functional, but mediocre. Of the remaining 32% we have 16% on the far left side of the bell curve. These people are truly stupid. That leaves only 16% (16 out of every hundred people you meet) that have some spark of intelligence above mediocrity. Of those, only 2% are truly bright.

This, I think, is the root of the problems you discuss. Most people simply do not have the ability to do more than absorb and rote repeat the shallow informational garbage that is tossed at them. Their stunted intellectual capacities don't permit them to gain satisfaction from deep meditations. Rather, they prefer the gross pleasures of food, drink, slapstick and gossip.

gaikokumaniakku

"Are these things really interesting? If we buckle down and concentrate on them, what will be the reward? To me, the rewards are always meager. There is a lot of competition when it comes to current affairs. If we fall behind, we suffer a pang of regret – some neighbor knows more about current affairs than I do. But so what? I want to ponder things that are unique to my own temper and mental capacity."

Dear sir, thank you for your essay. You are very right in your principles. One should meditate and think deeply. One should not be distracted by passing fads and foolish fancies. I am a foolish fellow. I fritter my time away on distractions. I know that I should say "no" to exciting projects and focus on just one useful enterprise, but in general I fail.

One thing that I do focus on is putting together aggregated news of police misconduct, government corruption, and conspiracy theories. Up through 2016, I thought it was just another foolish habit. I had perhaps two dozen readers every day - I got no money for keeping them abreast of the headlines.

And then, in 2016, John Podesta was accused of human trafficking. If the allegations - known as Pizzagate - are even close to true, then the entire USA government will be shaken when the truth comes out. I reported on Pizzagate when it was news, just like I report on every other report of government misconduct. And instead of two dozen visitors, I got thousands. For just one day, or just one month, there were thousands of people who wanted to read the allegations, and I played a very small role in delivering the truth that had been exposed by much braver and abler men. I hope the corruption will be exposed, and then everyone will wake up, and my blogging efforts will be obsolete. I would very much like to feel that I can ignore the news in good conscience.

David E. Solomon

Sorry Eric but I don't buy your assumptions at all.

I think if you were to look carefully and without bias, you will find that the mediocrity you have perceived is almost entirely the result of a very poor national (at least in the USA) public education system.

Oilman2

I think much of what is "modern life" is soul stifling. There are many ways to sidestep or repudiate the crassness and incivility of the world today, but for me, it has been to exit the metropolitan life. Going to my farm, where there is no cell service, no big highways and people still ride their horses down the roadways - I feel a palpable release and relief just driving into the area.

My recommendation is simply to limit your drinking. Nobody gets drunk every day except alcoholics, who have a sickness. My sense of things on the internet and in smartfone-land is similar - it's like a drunk who needs to drink. If you have a little, it is fine, although you don't always need it. If you have a lot, then you are like a drunk - because knowing things does not mean you can affect them, and worrying over things you cannot affect is a recipe for many ills.

The craziness of the world will recede in the future - so much of what is considered 'normal' now is not so, when viewed from the lens of history. Things go in cycles, and the current world is the most technologically complex one in known history - and thus it has more innate vulnerabilities than any other previous human existence. Simplification will come, and is likely on its way in our children's or grandchildren's times here on Earth.

Concurrently, my focus has been on building the farm so that my children and possibly their own, have a place to go that is not the city, that is simpler, that is closer to the Earth and provides them with things impalpable. This has and is a great source of happiness in this life for me.

I haven't subscribed to the Judeo-Christian faith since I was originally indoctrinated in my early teens via catechism. I never grokked a God that delivers binary choice - this world would be anathema to that type of being. I believe reliving the wheel of life a far more likely and positive possibility for souls. Polishing ones soul in repeated attempts has an appeal much greater than burning in hell eternally or playing a harp among identically blissful angels - the binaries offered by many religions are not reflective of what humanity is, IMHO. I guess in the next years I will discover what the truth of things is, and take comfort in my offspring moving through time beyond my own.

The key to things, as has been taught throughout time, is to do things in moderation - and the internet and smartphones are no exception. However, the addictive appeal of instant everything is apparent to us here commenting, and is to be understood and moderated. In that vein, I want to thank the Colonel for giving us the opportunity to enjoy this little nook of cyberspace - thank you!

And for this essay - thank you. I surely needed to be written, as it is something we all should acknowledge. Death is something natural, normal and inevitable. Easing the burden of loss to your loved ones is an important responsibility as we pass through the veil.

Babak Makkinejad

Richard Sale:

The Rich people, evidently, die in a different manner than the poor people, please see:

https://www.amazon.com/Broken-Ladder-Inequality-Affects-Think/dp/0525429816/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504632776&sr=8-1&keywords=The+broken+ladder+%3A+how+inequality+affects+the+way+we+think%2C+live%2C+and+die

The Twisted Genius

Richard Sale,

Thanks for another great piece and thanks to all for some terrific responses. As for the question of death and how to face it, I offer the example of my father. He still lives up in Freyeburg, Maine at the ripe old age of 86. He lost his youngest daughter at 20 and his wife at 60 just as he retired from Pratt & Whitney Aircraft as a tool and die maker. He didn't finish high school choosing to lie about his age and join the Marines, although he later took engineering courses at Yale on the company's dime. He found love again and just lost her. Her ashes sit on the bookcase awaiting his before they are both scattered at his favorite fishing spot.

My youngest brother visited this Summer and we talked about his resiliency and his unbelievably optimistic outlook on life. He always finds something to enjoy and laugh at. He damned near killed himself taking care of his last love before she passed. He didn't eat right, lost a lot of weight and injured his back. He's getting his health back now still doing his gardening and lawn work. A decade ago he came down with some kind of blood cancer. I'm convinced his attitude allowed him to beat this cancer. He was upbeat, never stopped and never displayed the slightest fear of death. He always told us he had a great life up to this point. Anything after this is just gravy.

He's a Lithuanian Catholic, but not particularly devout. He maintains vestiges of the faith of our ancestors. He believes in the spirits of our familial ancestors and the spirits who share this world with us. He knows he will join them and remain among us, his living family. On the continuum from the Bishop of Rome and the spirits of the forest, I'm closer to the Bishop than my father. However, I'm still on that continuum and can see and feel those spirits around me. I think the closeness and familiarity of those spirits offers us comfort and strength to face the trials of life and death.

Eric Newhill

TTG,
The spirits are real.

Death is merely a transition and the first phase of that transition is hardly noticeably different than the life we are living now. No bonds of love (or, unfortunately, of hate) are broken by death. Great enlightenment is possible, but it comes on slowly and only for those who are ready to accept it. Cultivating one's mind in this dimension is the key to being ready to advance in the next.

I have solid evidence of this and am willing to take any lie detector test that anyone wants to administer.

ked

You have a long way yet to go Mr. Sale, and I hope for many more observations to share. And I'll be sharing this one with friends... close friends who will give me a bit of grief for its seriousness... and thank me later for its depth and meaning. I thank you now.

richard sale

thank you so much.

Richard

richard sale

I am.

I don't think that love means you have o suffer, In any love there In any passion or love, there are incertainties and imcompatabilities but love helps us gain insight into those, and helps us overcome then and the result to create harmony and not only about your lover, but about yourself.

I agree but the greatest curse is to have a love that is incapable of loving.

Thank you,

richard

Thank you,

Richard

richard sale

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

Richard

richard sale

Many die knowing nothing worth knowing. their wealth and comfort blinds them. They are vastly careless people.

Richard

richard sale

thank you.

Richard

richard sale

This a thoughtful, superbly written piece, and I will treasure

It took work to write. I thank you for it.

Richard

richard sale

I am deeply honored. Thank you

Richard

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