No one makes it out alive. We know that death is inevitable. Life is precious. Inherent to the person you are is the reality that life will end. We know time and energy are a limited resource, and it is up to us to choose how to use these resources wisely. In every given present moment, the way we would like to think and feel is up to us. We need to build a sense of self that is oriented to identifying and then choosing what thread feels the friskiest. Death is the final marker on what we’ve prioritized during life. What is it that you want to build? Who is the person you want to be?
Gilles Deleuze (January 18, 1925 – November 4, 1995), a French philosopher, teaches that reality itself in its process of self-making. What this means is that we are a collaboration with the thoughts, ideas and people we choose to interact with. We are building the self through a conglomerate of experiences, values and principles we decide to give our attention to. Without the urgency of death we would not feel compelled to enact what is of most value to us. We are constructing the self through limited time and energy that gives us a window of opportunity for growth and personal progress.
By acknowledging that death will occur and is a natural part of life, we hopefully challenge ourselves to only focus on that which resonates with positivity, compassion and empowerment. The self is not fixed. The law of impermanence shows us that the self is constantly changing and evolving based on age, our environment and the people we surround ourselves with. When we try to define the self as one core thing we miss out on the opportunity to build a self—in every present moment — that resonates with who we want to be.
We continue to choose who we are. It is a process of returning again and again to this question of “who am I?” It is not an assignment that is completed once. It is a feeling we sit with again and again. When hardships show up and the pull towards negativity feels larger than ourselves, it is a practice of identifying the concepts and sensations we want to collaborate with. Death gives us a warning that what we do matters, what we think about makes a difference and how we interact with the world around us is the most valuable thing we can be doing, not just for ourselves but for the whole of humanity.