The misery of life

The chief “cause” of the misery in life, is the refusal to face death, with equanimity.

Now, everyone knows that death must be faced, sooner or later; and a surprisingly large minority remain happy, even during their periods of trial and pain. I am not inclined to doubt those people, for I have met several whom I found quite “real.” In other cases, such as, unfortunately, in mine, equanimity in the face of death is a pose, merely.

I worry: that this pose may slip, when it is put to the test. And if (God help me), I should live through the test, my panic and shrieking and hysteria would prove most embarrassing. Better to face death than to have to face that.

Death is fearsome, to some and perhaps to any in a moment of disequilibrium; but it is also exciting. My father, for instance, told me several times, at long intervals, that he looked forward to death. All his “reading” (of books, and being) had confirmed the existence of an afterlife, and he wondered about what went on there. He did not speculate, but heard speculations; he was not religious, but by nature not irreligious either. He was simply open to a new experience, and instinctively welcoming. I have found this quality to be rare.

For papa was a happy man, who never expressed regrets, even in prospect for the apparent loss of his past, that might accompany biological retirement. He was not given to nostalgia, and did not collect things, except as he found them useful. In fact this healthy attitude seems to have flourished in his family, for his brothers and sisters are (or were) also quite cheerful in the face of death. Much in their lives we would generally account as miserable, but it did not touch them.

Papa went to his death benignly smiling, his curiosity about events around him undiminished by dysfunctions of his brain, and whatever drugs the doctors were putting into him during his concluding pneumonia. He had a remarkable mind, but had trained himself to do without anything that was taken away.

Except, he had an explosive temper, and his way of restoring happiness and contentment was to let it erupt. (His contemporaries did not realize that he could not hold a grudge; this is how he launched grudges into interstellar space.)

As he explained: misery is a choice.