One reads in many mystical traditions that every person dies at exactly the right time and knows in advance when that time is. But I would like to examine more deeply the concept of dying every day.
To die every day is a choice everyone overlooks. I want to see myself as the same person from day to day in order to preserve my sense of identity. I want to see myself as inhabiting the same body every day because it is disturbing to think that my body is constantly deserting me.
Yet it must, if I am not to be a living mummy. Following the complex timetable of apoptosis, I am given a new body via the mechanism of death. This process happens subtly enough that it passes without notice. No-one sees a two-year-old turning in her body for a new one at age three.
Every day she has the same body, and yet she doesn’t. Only the constant process of renewal – a gift of death – enables her to keep pace with each stage of development. The wonder is that one feels like the same person in the midst of such endless shape-shifting.
Unlike with cell death, I can observe my ideas being born and dying. To support the passage from childish thought to adult thought, the mind has to die every day. My cherished ideas die and never reappear; my most intense experiences are consumed by their own passions; my answer to the question “Who am I?” totally changes from age two to three, three to four, and so on throughout life.
We understand death when we drop the illusion that life must be continuous. All of nature obeys one rhythm – the universe is dying at the speed of light yet it still manages along the way to create this planet and the life forms inhabiting it.
Our bodies are dying at many different speeds at once, beginning with the photons, ascending through chemical dissolution, cell death, tissue regeneration, and finally the death of the whole organism. What are we so afraid of?
Adapted from The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2004).