Life and Death Matters

by Christopher Lovejoy on January 26, 2022

My recent post on death stakes inspired me to take a closer look at matters of life and death.

In that post, I waxed poetic about how death is best construed and conveyed as contrast, as a shadow of life, in partnership with life, one that evolves the beauty and wonder of love, light, and the lust for life.

I enjoy the confidence to poeticize these matters for a number of reasons, reasons that would take me beyond the scope of this post, and so I will simply say that, in this post, my intent is to introduce a new series to my oeuvre, one that would elaborate on the poetic musing given above.

Death Stakes : Another Look

The question “what have I got to lose?” is a good question, but a better question, where staking a life is concerned (or anything else of value) is “what am I ready, willing, and able to lose now to ‘win the objective’?” Perhaps more than I know? Or maybe more than I care to know?

I presently find myself in a place where I can choose my own stakes, with a dawning realization that I’ve been living my life up to now in ways that would have me come to this place of choice. Having said this, I understand all too well that, for many, stakes are rarely if ever chosen.

Rather, the stakes choose each of us individually.

In light of this preamble, I updated my list of death stakes to include a religious death stake (number 3 on my list, as you will soon see). Now, please understand, when I use the term religious, I’m not drawing on the experience and wisdom of any one organized religious concern.

I’m far too interdependent for that.

Which is not to say that organized religious concerns are anything to be shunned, necessarily. As a respectful, respectable outsider, I’ve studied a variety of religious doctrines and practices, even as I continue to ingest and digest, absorbing some of them into my best thinking about life.

I should also mention that the items on my previous list of death stakes seem overly broad in retrospect, and so I’ve refined this list with a view toward making them more usable. I’m toying with the idea of writing a post for each item on this list to produce a series, one that would contain this introduction, seven subsequent posts for the seven items, and a summary statement.

A Fresh List of Death Stakes

Before I share my new list, I would like to give you my basic formula for tapping into the potential of a death stake. I would use this formula as a guide for any series of posts that I would write to clarify and elaborate on matters of life and death vis à vis each category of death stake.

Here’s the formula (with an example):

formula

I feel ready to stake my ___ (insert value) on ___ (insert intention) to ___ (insert objective)

example

I feel ready to stake my { reputation } on { writing this story } to { broach (bust?) this taboo }

This formula, I feel, has broad applicability, not only to authors working with characters to write stories, not only to people who find themselves in a place and a position where they can choose their own stakes in life, but to anyone who feels ready, willing, and able to stake such a claim.

And now, without further adieu, here is my new list of death stakes:

  1. existential death stake : at risk of losing the meaning of life? what is the meaning of life?
  2. physical death stake : at risk of losing this one vital life I live? what is this vital life I live?
  3. religious death stake : at risk of losing a reverence for life? what is this reverence for life?
  4. psychological death stake : at risk of losing clarity of mind? what is this clarity of mind?
  5. ethical death stake : at risk of losing concern for others? what is this concern for others?
  6. spiritual death stake : at risk of losing the vitality of spirit? what is this vitality of spirit?
  7. reputational death stake : at risk of losing a good reputation? what is a good reputation?

I provide a prompt and a question to guide the exploration and examination of each death stake. The questions posed in this list were meant to pique my interest, and to pique the interest of readers to explore and examine for themselves their own relationships with each death stake.

The order in which I placed these death stakes was guided mostly by intuition, based on my extensive study of personal fulfillment over the past twelve years or so. Still, I reserve the right to change the order as I proceed, though I very much doubt that I would in fact change this order.

I also haven’t decided where I would begin to elaborate on these items as I published each post to my series. Would I start at the beginning, with the existential death stake, and move downwards? Or would I start at the end, with the reputational death stake, and work my way upwards?

My spidey senses tell me that moving from item 7 to item 1 would have me chart a course of devolution in meaning, with a spotlight on death in relation to life, whereas moving from 1 to 7 would have me chart a course of evolution in meaning, with a spotlight on life in relation to death.

Fulfillment of Desire, More or Less

In closing, let me share this: desire is given a bad rap, perhaps for good reason, having been associated with addiction, compulsion, distraction, and obsession. In view of this tiny index, I must confess that I am on the side of those who would advocate for the fulfillment of pure desire.

Still, I do remain mindful of those who would advocate thus:

the more I desire, and the more I must do to fulfill my desire,
the less I experience and enjoy my life, and the less free I feel

Addiction. Compulsion. Distraction. Obsession. In view of these apparent justifications for putting desire in its place, I nevertheless have an inkling, as far as I can see, that my exploration and examination of death stakes would likely involve addressing these sticky conditions.

And now, I think it only fair that I leave the most intrigued readers with a daily exercise that I myself would commit to doing if I were to take a journey through the many death stakes on offer:

exercise

meditate on your behavior and conduct in the past 24 hours

how did I steer away from tranquility, equanimity, serenity?
and what did I do that was unfriendly, asocial, or uncaring?

A hat tip to the ancient Stoics for this one, who did much to clear the way to focus on what they believed counted in contemplating matters of life and death. Not that I agree with everything they said ~ only that what they had to say did much to bring these matters to enlightened consciousness.

/

stop whatever you’re doing, for just a moment, and ask yourself:
am I afraid of death because I won’t be able to do this anymore?

~ Marcus Aurelius

Previous post:

Next post: