Death as Rest
Did you ever read Vathek? asked the Baronet, "rather a good horror—the fire, you know—ah, ha !—that's a fire every fellow has a spark of in him; I know I have. I've had everything almost a fellow wants; but this I know, If I were sure that death was only rest and darkness, there's hardly a day I live I would not choose it."
I can't do it! I said, throwing down the knife. "It's cruel!"
"So wo shall starve to death!" she said triumphantly, as if the prospect pleased her.
I tried to argue with her. "I don't understand. I thought the dorans loved the creatures of the world and wanted to care for them."
"What could show more love for an animal than eating it?" replied Euny.
"But you are taking its life away from it. All it has."
"For it to become part of the life in you. You are being false. What you will discover—if you ever stop being interested in yourself for long enough to notice the world around you—is that all life feeds off other life."
I Live. An hundred generations have I seen come and go, and another hundred. What is time? The sun rises and sets, and another day has passed into oblivion. Men watch the sun and set their lives by it. They league themselves on every hand with time. They count the minutes that race into eternity. Man outlived the centuries ere he began to reckon time. Time is manmade. Eternity is the work of the gods.
Who knows? asked the wizard obliquely. "Time and space exist not. There was no past, and there shall be no future. NOW is all. All things that ever were, are, or ever will be, transpire now. Man is forever at the center of what we call time and space. I have gone into yesterday and tomorrow and both were as real as today — which is like the dreams of ghosts!"
How shall a man escape death if not by ceasing to wait and hope?
The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.
They grow and flourish and then return to the source.
Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature . . .
Being at one with the Tao is eternal.
And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away.
He who stays where he is endures.
To die but not to perish is to be eternally present.
If by eternity is understood not infinite temporal duration but non-temporality, then it can be said that a man lives eternally if he lives in the present.
Longing for Faith
Now that he was to turn over an entirely new leaf, he would fain have forced himself to possess faith, to seize it and clothe himself with it, to fasten it with clamps in his soul, to put it beyond the reach of all the reasonings which shake it and uproot it. But the more he desired it and the less the emptiness of his mind was filled, the more the visitation of the Savior delayed its coming. Just in proportion, indeed, as his religious faith increased, as he craved with all his strength, as a ransom for the future and a help in the new life he was to lead, this faith that showed itself in glimpses, though the distance still dividing him from it appalled him, did doubts rise crowding his ever excited brain, upsetting his ill-poised will, repudiating on grounds of common sense, of mathematical demonstrations, the mysteries and dogmas of the Church.
He realized, at last, that the arguments of pessimism were powerless to comfort him; that the impossible belief in a future life could be the only calmant.
Ah; but my courage fails me, and my heart is sick within me! —Lord, take pity on the Christian who doubts, on the sceptic who would fain believe, on the galley-slave of life who puts to sea alone, in the darkness of night, beneath a firmament illumined no longer by the consoling beacon-fires of the ancient hope.
As if a door had opened, I suddenly thought of something else. Only the other night, on my flying trip, as I had walked up the great stone avenue, I had felt part of everything, part of animal and bird, tree and stone. If I was part of everything, then I was also part of bridge and stream, of the sharp rocks beneath the water and the tumbling, rushing waters. Even if I fell into the waters, and even if I was swallowed up by them, I would still be a part of it all. In such a world, such a universe, nothing terrible could happen to me.
The ultimate aim of life is victory over death. The purpose of life is to generate something that continues beyond our lives... The victory over death is to make a contribution to this world, to make it a better place because of our having been here, to pay respect to the elderly for giving us the capacity to attain to this realization, and to nurture the young so that they have the same or similar capacities, the opportunity to continue living in this tradition.
The Angels of Hell
You ever read Meister Eckhardt? . . . Eckhardt saw hell, too. You know what he said? He said the only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life. Your memories, your attachments. They burn 'em all away. But they're not punishing you, he said. They're freeing your soul. . . . So the way he see's it, if you're frightened of dying and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth. It's just a matter of how you look at it, that's all. So don't worry, OK? OK? [Laughs.] Relax. Relax.
Time and Self
Time and self are outworn husks, which consciousness will one day discard, just as a butterfly abandons its chrysalis, to fly toward the sun.
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