I’ll spare you the overworked cliché regarding death and taxes. It’s only half true anyway.
Anymore, taxes are as uncertain as the weather. The only thing about which you can really be certain is death itself.
You will die. So will I. In fact, we were born to die. It’s bad theology to think physical death was the consequence of the first couple’s sin in the garden. But that’s another story.
Nobody likes the thought of death, and that part in us that doesn’t is the little ego. You yourself, that is, the deeper you – beneath and beyond ego – could never regard dying as repulsive since that’s the one thing it’s living to do, which is – to die.
Ego is terrified at the thought of death. Which is why it will lead you to do almost anything to avoid it or pretend it doesn’t exist: cover it over, hide from it, deny it – even defeat it – which is why many Christians at Easter insist that the resurrection of Jesus was a resuscitation of his body.
It isn’t enough for them that the miracle was not resuscitation of his body. (Doctors and nurses in emergency rooms and critical care units do this all the time.)
The real miracle is that this itinerant preacher from nowhere had his life, his teachings as well as his way of knowing and walking with God so validated in the Easter story that, well, here we are, 2,000 years later, and we’re still talking about him. Now that’s a real miracle. Believable, too.
Which brings me back to the ego. Ego is your social mask. It’s the “you” that you mistakenly think is you – what Albert Einstein called “an optical illusion of consciousness.”
There are many components to this illusory and passing social self. Your body, the labels you wear, the place you live, the car you drive, your accomplishments, place in society as well as the social or religious group wherein you find identity and self-enhancement.
Take any of these things away, however, and who would you be? Or what would be left? You! The real you, which is not these ego-identifications or attachments.
This is one of the most important truths that accompanied my own spiritual awakening.
One Sunday afternoon, I awakened to the realization that I am not my body. Or my career. Or my accomplishments. Or even the name by which I know myself.
These are all just ego attachments, points of self-reference and, too often, self-worth. All will one day disappear with death itself.
Furthermore, I realized something else. As long as I am the ego and so remain identified with my body, or any other ego attachment, I would feel threatened, even terrified, whenever something threatened to remove or destroy even one of them.
The French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin said, “We are not human beings having a temporary spiritual experience; instead, we are spiritual beings having a temporary human experience.”
So, whatever the real me is – soul, spirit, consciousness – you give it a name, since it really cannot be named – everything but that essential me – the real me – will eventually die, disappear and soon be forgotten.
When you know this – really know it – here is what will happen to you (at least, it did to me):
· You’ll find yourself slowing down considerably and learning to live each moment for the precious gift it really is.
· You’ll stop being too bothered about things that really don’t matter.
· You’ll think about death more often. But instead of it being a monster you must avoid, it’ll be a mentor reminding you of what’s important.
· And, you’ll find the fear of death begins to disappear, too. This may be its greatest benefit and one I have yet to fully realize in my own life. Yes, I still regard death as “the last enemy,” as Saint Paul called it (1 Corinthians 15:26). But, what I can happily say is that death is no longer the enemy it once was. Make friends with it because Leonardo da Vinci was right when he said, “Just when I thought I was learning how to live, I realized I’ve really been learning how to die.”
Now, go file a late tax return and have a wonderful Easter.