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I Don't Want an Eternal Life

Today, I realized that I'm no longer a "young" man.  My favorite music from the '90s is starting to show up on classic rock stations. Despite my best efforts, I'm losing track of new technology.  And I may or may not have told a group of kids to, "get off my lawn," over the weekend.

There were a number of questions that arose with this realization.  I considered the direction of my life and where it's heading.  I thought about my career and if I'm saving enough for retirement.  And I thought about dying.

I considered the fact that while I've technically been dying every day of my life, there will come a point when that fact is more apparent.  My vision will blur, my muscles will grow weak, and I'll start attending the funerals of friends and family.

In short, I'm approaching an age where life will stop giving me things, and it will start taking them away.

 These are sobering facts, but they're inescapable.  So much so that Buddha listed aging, sickness, and death as three of the eight forms of suffering that all living things must endure.  I mentioned this to a friend who is of a similar age, and they said their religion offers the promise of an eternal afterlife.  They offered to lead me down a path, which would grant me access to that afterlife.

I thanked them for the offer, and then I said, "No, thank you."  In order for something to be eternal, it needs to be separate from everything else.  For example, the Mona Lisa still exists because it's kept far away from the general public. No one can touch it, smell it, or get a close look at its brush strokes.

It survives because it's kept apart from the rest of the world; hanging on a wall, surrounded by security, beautiful and alone.  I don't want that.  In life, and in death I want to be plugged in, integrated, part of something larger and more beautiful than myself.

I want to live like a leaf that spends summer on a tree branch before falling to earth.  And building up the soil, which gives birth to new leaves.  I want to die like a wave on the ocean, giving a ride to surfers before crashing into the beach so that new waves can be born.

As I ponder dying, I take comfort in the fact that I'm part of a machine that churns out sunsets, and waterfalls, and a whole world of infinite beauty. Thus, when the time comes for me to pass out of existence.  I'll take my last breaths joyously; secure in the fact that part of me will live in the world that comes after my death; even if I'm not here to experience it.

Namu Amida Butsu

 If you enjoyed this essay, you'll love my book!

I Don't Want an Eternal Life


  1. so many want more then what is given. the promise of an afterlife is one such thing. hard to see whats right in front of us when we are busy looking elsewhere in my opinion. death is a great advisor. so much pettiness can be dropped when we realize there are no continues or saves in life. this is no video game. and all we have is each other.


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