Life, birth and death

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Mentor Alice O. Howell reminds us of a Tibetan teaching that we fall into the trap of thinking of death as the opposite polarity to life. Death and birth are really the portals of consciousness that we enter and exit in the continuity of life’s process. Is this linguistic trick one that increases our fear of our own mortality?

We have just ended our High Holy Day season. Some of the poetry and prose we read from The Gates of Repentance during Yom Kippur are very powerful and give pause for though about birth, life and death:

“Birth is a beginning
and death is a destination
and life is a journey . . .
from childhood to maturity
and youth to age.
from innocence to awareness
and from ignorance to knowing
and foolishness to discretion
and then, perhaps, to wisdom;
from strength to weakness
and often, back again;
from health to sickness
and back, we pray, to health;
from offense to forgiveness,
from loneliness to love,
from joy to gratitude,
from pain to compassion,
and from grief to understanding;
from fear to faith
from defeat to defeat to defeat
until, looking back, or ahead
we see that victory lies
not at some high place
along the way
but in having made the journey
stage by stage
a sacred pilgrimage
to life everlasting. “

Another beautiful passage from the same prayer book:

“If some messenger were to come to us with the offer that death should be overthrown, but with the inseparable condition that birth should also cease; if the existing generation were given the chance to live forever, but on the clear understanding that never again would there be a child, or a youth, or a first love, never again new persons with new hopes, new ideas, new achievements; ourselves for always and never any others— could the answer be in doubt.”