The Reason for the Season

In much the same way that St. Patrick's Day irritates me because I'm Irish every day, Halloween is irritating to me because I am dark and a bit morbid all the time. I didn't wear a costume to work today - just didn't feel the need. My all-black wardrobe is the topic of much discussion at the office anyway. One of my coworkers said, "Linus doesn't need a costume; he's a vampire everyday." A few weeks ago, the boss asked if I was a goth. A while back, one of my female cubicle mates asked me if my underwear was also black (of course she was suitably horrified by my revelation that I never wear any).

I guess the point of all this is that I don't need a holiday to remind me that we are all going to die. I suppose it's good that there is a time each year when people might spend a moment thinking about their own mortality, but I am inclined to believe that the vast majority of healthy people avoid thinking about death as much as possible.

I, on the other hand, have become a bit obsessed over the last decade or so. Often, when I am in bed waiting for sleep to overtake me, I close my eyes and try to imagine the stillness of death. I imagine fighting off death for as long as possible, then taking what will be my last breath. I think of the dark, satin-covered closeness of a coffin, or sometimes I try to envision the sudden combustion of the crematorium chamber.

(I'm aware that I have issues.)

I fear it, of course, but many Buddhist masters over the centuries have encouraged their students to consider death - their own, and that of others - intimately. Some Buddhist paths still have a tradition of sending monks to the burial grounds to contemplate decomposing corpses. According to some versions of the story, when the Buddha needed new clothes following his enlightenment, he gathered strips of cloth from the decomposed bodies of the poor and washed them, then sewed them into a robe. His very clothing was a reminder of the fleeting nature of life, and how we all must prepare for that abrupt stop at the end.

So, when the little ghouls have finally stopped ringing your doorbell (or when the bartender rings his bell for last call) spend a little time thinking about the reason for all of this costumed madness. Think about the time when you can no longer stop death's arrival, and imagine how you'll face that moment. You may be surprised at yourself.


Sirus Kane said...

Not to try make myself sound anymore weird than I already do, but I do think about death, my own and that of others. I do not think that there is anything to be scared of when it comes to death. A wise man once told me that death is a natural part of life and that ultimately, there is no reason to fear it.

I might be morbid, but in some ways, death brings a comfort that life is over and the next great adventure can begin.

Modig_Bjorn said...

%WTF!? I thought Halloween was about candy and cosutmes? Now I'm depressed!%

Seriously though, although the idea of dying is not as appealing as the idea of having sex, why waste time worrying about what is inevitable and outside our control? I admit that I too contemplate death, but I have gotten to the point now where I don't "worry" about it. I find that much can be missed if one is too focused on the future at the expense of the present. I have a special lady to thank for teaching me that lesson.

'nilla fresh said...

Sex is way better!!!

Levi said...

you hypocrite! i've seen you alive. people like you who act like they're obsessed with death make me want get all stabby on faces.

ps--happy beardoween!

His Sinfulness said...


Ok, I admit that I'm alive - but my soul really IS a withered and blackened thing!


I'm not suggesting that we worry about the inevitable. Rather, I suggest that because it is inevitable, we should prepare for it. I would also argue that while we cannot necessarily control when we die, we can control how we deal with it. Exiting well is my point.

NCM said...

I thought Halloween was about caramel and hot sorority-girl-playboy-bunnies.

La Petite Fleur (AKA Tessa) said...

death is part of a cycle ... birth - life - death - rebirth ... but it can be seriously sucky when the rythmn of a loved one's cycle is different from yours... you miss them a lot, for me that is the part about death that is the hardest...

Modig_Bjorn said...

Well put Tessa. Well put.

Squid said...

Some people ponder what kind of death do Squids dream of?
A silent floating one in darkness with the quiet calm of the pull of the tide below you.

Old Cabbage said...

Fleeting but full. If all you're doing is preparing for the end, you're missing all of the things that happen in between. Life isn't about the end, or even the beginning. It's about all the stuff that happens between them. It's about best friends, road trips, mothers, fathers, lovers, hot summer evenings having a water fight with every kid on the block, cliff diving at your best friend's birthday party, going to your cousin's wedding, loosing your heart to some one who doesn't deserve it, finding the one person who understands you in ways no one else in the world ever could, being woken up in the morning to the news that a loved one has passed away, seeing the sun rise from a cold rock on a morning you knew you shouldn't be out there, getting ridiculously drunk and vomiting all over your friend's drive way, swimming in a sea of someone, running outside to stand in the first snow of the season, realizing a little too late that it is too late, moving to a new city with no friends and discovering new ones, learning something new about yourself every minute of every day. Life is about living, not about dying.
To be scared of death is also strange. It's so natural that every living thing on the planet does it eventually. Life will exist with out you and your place in it will eventually come to an end. We are small in comparison to the whole of the world. Being so scared of death is to assume that something in the world will be different when you are dead and that no one will remember you when you leave. Both are foolish. Life will go on the way it always has after you die. But people will remember you. Every friend you've ever had, every person you've ever kissed, every person you left an impression on will remember you and that impression of you will remain as a testament to your existance. You will be gone, but your evidence will still be here. It is true that eventually no one will remember what that evidence means or who it points to, but that is of little consequence to you or your life. In the end, all that matters is what happens between now and the end.
So, instead of contemplating death and how scared you are of it, live your life. You may find that to be the best remedy for your fear of death.

Dr. Smith said...

Theres nothing wrong with just going about halloween like it were anyother day for those of us who always dress oddly, but why not use it as an opportunity to try and one up yourself?

His Sinfulness said...

Old Cabbage,

A lovely, almost poetic comment - too bad you missed the point of the post. I have always advocated living your life to the fullest, and I'm only suggesting here that preparing for death is part of that process.

A comment of this length is really more suited to a blog post of your own. If you have a blog, you didn't choose to share it with us.

This is reason #236 that I am growing weary of anonymous commenters. There may be a change in the Ministry's comment policy in the near future.

Sirus Kane said...

Very nice post, unfortunatly off topic Old. I do agree that what you said is important, Carpe Diem indeed, and I think that living well should be as important as exiting well, as the Dark Pontiff said.

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