We all change. That part is certain. Do we grow, or do we decay? Lao Tse says that most people live either in fear of death, fear of life, or fear of change. Only the one who is released from all these fears is really alive. When we embrace our own death we begin to live. When we begin to live, we encounter change. When we accept change we can become who we really are.
Do we just consider an idea, and say, “yep?” If we’re not doing the change, we’re not making the change, are we? In some places a novice monk will spend a few weeks in the crypt, with only the bones of monks long dead for company. This helps him take it to heart that his own bones will one day join them. Having passed his time there he can join the living, with the liberating reminder, “brother, we are going to die.”
Not all of us have this option. We can, though, take slow walks through graveyards and consider the brief “biographies” on the stones. “Beloved wife, 1887 – 1924.” Only thirty-seven years. Where there no children? How did she die? How did she live? Another one lived a long life, and has a tall, marble monument where the others are limestone. Yet now, who, even, was he?
We can visit people in nursing homes. Many have had rich lives, now live as prisoners. Some have raised children who now show up on the odd Thanksgiving, or maybe a birthday. Where – and how – will our own lives end?
This kind of exercise hurts. If it doesn’t, then we’re not doing it right, are we? When we embrace death we find that is not only cold, but prickly. We all tend to be too full of ourselves until we’ve been properly wounded. But then, the choice is ours, to grow, or not. Either way, we change.