Step 4

Honor Your Own Mortality and the Mortality of All

The avoidance of death is worse than death itself.

All around us in nature, there is as much death as there is life—for life feeds on death. And we are a part of that same cycle. We will all of us, one day, die and feed other forms of life.

We instinctively turn away from this truth.  And we engage in myriad strategies, both individually and collectively, to distract ourselves from this reality. Conspicuous consumption is one of the many examples of what Ernest Becker calls “immortality projects,” the ways in which we rage against the dying of the light. Ironically, this consumption only hastens our deaths—both individually and collectively.

We must confront our death while we are alive—not just our individual deaths, but also the inevitable death of our civilization and the death of the human species, among countless more species. Facing the truth that our world will end one day can cause us love the world even more, just as remembering that our friends and family won’t live forever can cause us us to love them even more. And what do we do for the people we love? We try to lessen their suffering. We try to deepen our connections with them in the time we have left. And we mourn them when they are gone.

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