What is a “good” death? What is a “good” life?

Yes, the world is a revolving door of sorts for souls.  (We noted this in one of our earliest posts several years back.)  Every second of every day there are people coming into the world, and others departing this life.

A “good” death we would think is the completion of a “good” life, or a life well lived.  This, of course, is highly subjective.  For some folks, leaving behind a large financial estate to their heirs is the measure of having lived a “good” life.  But, this is only one measure, and perhaps not the most important measure.  For others, a “good” death would be one that the world takes note of.  Thus, fame is the measure of value sought for by these individuals.

But, what if a good life is measured by the contributions one makes to the benefit of others?  (The benefit here does not have to be physical or tangible, and easily quantifiable.  You can feed the hungry, yes.  But, you can also instruct those suffering in spiritual darkness, and comfort the marginalized and abandoned.)  What if a good life is one in which the individual makes spiritual progress to being a more enlightened and loving soul?  For Christians, we think that the measure of the good life is (or should be) how well a person lived according to the 2 commandments of Christ in the New Testament.  (We note here that for some folks a good, Christian life will be when a person avoids as much as possible sins of commission.  But, bear in mind in humility, that sins of omission can be very weighty as well.)

Readers, I cannot answer the questions posed in the title above for you.  But, I can encourage you to think on these questions for yourselves.

Let us not assume that someone who has failed to achieve much worldly success is without value as a human being, or is, somehow, a bad person.  Similarly, those who have attained much worldly success, have more worldly achievements are not necessarily “good” or decent people.  Many such “successful” people (certainly not all, let us beware of sweeping generalizations) are vainglorious or egocentric and filled with pride.  The point here is to consider the person, his/her values, attitudes, and actions, rather than focusing too heavily on his/her worldly achievements, or lack thereof.

It is of value to take a step back, now and again, to consider and reflect upon our personal values, and how we are living our lives.  Time is the scarcest (and, hence, most precious) resource for humans as it cannot be replaced.  Once today is past, it is gone for ever.  Let us not waste our time in this world on frivolous pursuits.  In other words, we all have a life sentence in this world.  But, what is important is how we choose to act while we endure the sentence, which ends for each of us when we experience bodily death.

meandering thoughts

In the United States, even the vast majority of those who self-identify as religious (including Americans who claim to be Buddhists) are living their lives at the bodily level of consciousness.  At least, that is how it appears when one observes how they live their lives on a daily basis.  For the hedonists among us, the good life is keeping the “party” (of thrills, novelties, excitement, and sense gratification) going at every opportunity.  (“Let’s party.”)  Granted, attaining to the spiritual level of consciousness takes some effort and some time.  But, so few individuals seem to have any serious inclination to start upon the spiritual path.

As well, we seem to be quite narrow in our focus at times, and lack a broader, more mature perspective.  For many Americans, it is the psychological equivalent of death for them if their preferred candidate for public office loses in an election.

Fear of death, which is actually quite unnatural (we are not referring here to an understandable fear of “dying before one’s time” so to speak, when marital and familial responsibilities are still in active play), is so strong in the minds of some Americans that they are embracing so-called transhumanism.  Wow.  Downloading or uploading your memories into some type of cybernetic or android body – is this what some people want and/or think would be life?  Cloning one’s self for organ replacement for the purpose of life extension in this world?  Cryogenic storage of one’s body for possible revivification in a distant future time?  This kind of thinking is only possible for those who reject, or are woefully ignorant of, the spiritual understanding of man.

My thoughts on transhumanism can be summed up in just a few words.  We are not meant to be gods.  So, we ought not play at being gods.

Here is an interesting, recent article about transhumanism by Wesley J. Smith:

Transhumanism: A Religion for Postmodern Times

returning to main theme

Many persons, so many persons die penniless and in obscurity.  But, lacking in worldly fame and riches does not mean that their lives were wasted (as in having made no contribution to the greater good, or having failed to make any spiritual progress), or of no value.  Let us be careful as concerns judging others by worldly values or shallow worldly measures of success.

And, what about the permanently insane among us, or kept from view in mental institutions?  What would a “good” death be for them?  Because of their illness, their potential development has been arrested, so to speak.  These individuals still possess an eternal soul.  The same can be pondered about the poor victims of severe brain injury and birth defects (such as severe cerebral palsy or Down’s Syndrome).

Our feature image was taken in May, 2013, at a crematorium-columbarium-mausoleum complex in Oakland, CA.  Remember the dead, and strive now to live a constructive, loving life.

 

end of transmission

copyright 2019 – larrysmusings.com

3 comments

  1. A thoroughly enjoyable, and important, and appreciated, read. Thank you.

    At this near-ending point of life for me, I have no concept of assessing whether I’ve led a “good” life: I must leave that judgment to those who survive me, and to God. As for a “good” death, I want only a “death with dignity” finale — i.e., as quietly, quickly, and “non-messily” to others as possible…I guess my optimal “good death” would be to drop while on my exercise route and die instantly of a massive heart attack (I carry a card stating “No-resuscitative-measures directive on file at HMO”). And I have provided my two daughters with instructions that I intend to assist them toward the simplest and most efficient of immediate-aftermath procedures. But, a couple of years ago as I attended an end-of-life seminar, I mentioned to the moderator my desire for “death with dignity”; she smiled wryly and observed “Well, ‘dignity’ has different meanings to different people.” … Diff’rent strokes [or heart attacks] for diff’rent folks?

    1. Thank you Robert for your thoughtful comment.

      As to a death with dignity, that does mean different things to different people. For many, it means avoiding or eliminating suffering at the end when there is no hope of recovery and/or a person is of old age. For some others, individuals achieve their greatest human dignity through or in suffering*. Thus, taking steps for an assisted suicide to avoid great physical pain and suffering is wrong because of 2 reasons: it is not a truly dignified way to end one’s life, and suicide in any form is wrong as it is an affront to God, our Creator.

      *It seems with the fixation on suffering and the glorifying of suffering that many Catholics adhere to, that this describes them. However, Hindus might also assert that a person ought not take their own life to avoid some last minute suffering as that would mean the karma (which is causing the suffering) would not be expiated, and would follow the individual into his or her next life.

  2. Praise the Lord that our fellow creatures here are not responsible for judging whether or not we have lived a good life!!
    We must be born again, as Jesus commands, and live in righteousness by the power of the Holy Ghost from that moment onwards; that is a good life, according to the scriptures. And one we CAN live, if we are truly born again, praise God again! There are many folks who hate us for this message and this witness, and think our life is bad; but as I said before, they are not the judges.
    And for me, I think the very best death would be a martyr’s end, as that gives God the most glory, and according to the word of God, gives the saint a great reward, and the right to partake of the first resurrection.

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