THE FUNCTION OF DEATH IN THE ECONOMY OF NATURE.
Your dear one is gone – a sense of loneliness comes upon you. You see Death before you. You find it all a chaos. You are lost in the gloom of pain. Heart-piercing agony rushes through you, dim and fast. The world smells a tomb. Death is deaf and loud. The sense of parting, of loss, of desolation, submerges you in its ebb and flow. Through darkness and despair, death thunders for its victim. You resign your dear one, and beat your breast and tear your hair. You have yielded one of the richest of your heart. World becomes dull; business a pain. The knife of pain is deep in your heart. Your love is made infinitely sweet by the thought of an irrevocable loss. Where Love is gone – where heart weeps tears of blood – there life bespeaks a grave of dead, dark despair. Love breaks away: lips tremble with broken sighs: and heart is riven with sorest pangs. But know you not that sweet meeting succeeds sad parting? Who can quench the words of an afflicted heart? And who can blow out into vapid air the sparks of truth? Where is your beloved one, - a seraph-winged soul? Know you not that soul sweeps through all eternities? From the storm of sense a life departs. You weep and bleed for being left behind. The beauty and the light, the characteristics and the deeds, of your beloved one, pass from a seeming chaos of death into the holiest of dreams. The splendors of your dear one rise and spread. Through the thunder and darkness of death, you fall to understand the light and music of your loved one. Gloom fill you – but light fills your love. Discordant is the note of your heart – but music is the life of your dear one. Sweet is the music of an ever advancing soul. Life is a pyre, the possibilities a music. No subtle devise this to beguile sorrow but a melodious and a marvelous truth. Life is full of possibilities and forever. Why are you heavy with sorrow, so selfish? And why not seek the joy divine?
Death is the law of nature and the duty of life. To discharge an obligation is to be at peace with a fact of nature. Death is inevitable. As sure as there is a beginning, as sure there is an ending. As sure as there is becoming there is dissolution. Death does not put the extinguisher upon hope. Every fiber of the human heart thrills with the anticipation of a life of a better type. From the depth and void of death the light of hope peeps forth through a dark and gloomy future. In her providence Nature has made Death necessary. And in his prudence, man should make a choice of the necessity. A cheerful compliance with necessity is wisdom. A reasoned consonance with the Inevitable is an enduring peace.
Be and do what you will, your elements will be scattered. Live when, where and how you will, death will mark you down. It may be now, or a century hence: it may be here, or sometimes else; it may be in this way or any other manner: but what is that to you? The fact of death is there. What should I stay for? To do good? Where is doing good without being good? Can you not become good and thus do good by paying your tribute to nature? It is blind talk to say that we do good to another. If we but refrain from doing an injury to another, it is doing good. There is no such thing as doing good, positive. The negation of evil is what you call good.
Who can escape death? The loudest orators, the deepest philosophers, the bravest heroes, the most widely-read scholars, the most knowing ones, the best and loveliest of our race, have all dropped into oblivion, Men who were enormously swollen with conceit; men who merrily passed through every selfish crime, men who claimed and reserved to themselves all honor; men who have withered the heart and hushed the voice of their fellowmen – have all been dissipated into nothing. Men who with a heartless jealousy and with a miser’s greed, grudged any the least due to others, and coveted and sought to possess every good thing of the world, they are all gone. Their place knows them not. The most shining ones, the most beautiful ones, have all passed away. Even those conceited asses which played many a silly prank, which arrogated to themselves all wisdom, have all been kicked down. Such is the frailty of life. And such is the ridiculous foolery of an idle conceit.
A molecule grows and dies; a continent grows and dies. Look at the rise and fall of nations. This is the law of nature. And who can break it? Nature begins, ends and renews the world. If the world lives and dies, and gives place to a new, then how can you, an infinitesimal part thereof, refuse obedience to the Government of Nature. We live to die: and we die to live. This is the fact of existence. Every atom, every being, is connected with every other in mutual harmony. Through an infinite succession of change, every part of every component being, lives and dies, to make something else in the universe.
This whole universe will live and die, and change into some other universe. Nothing can ever be completely lost. This is the law of universe. When such is the fact, where is the reason in the grief for the dead? I will allow a tender tear for the memory of the dearly beloved one, but I will put down excessive grief and undue wailing to morbid sentimentalism. Nor do I see humanity in a heart dried of all emotion. Man is not all intellect, but he is largely emotional. Where intellect and emotion blend into one harmonious music, there is the blessing of a high, rational being. What though my prattling child sinks at last into a mass of pulseless? What though my charmer falls down thoughtless, speechless and motionless? I saw my charmers in my child and wife. But I see them no more. But what was the condition of my relationship with them? Was I not under the charms of my mortals? Did I make friends with the immortals? And why grieve, then, when they have flown away from my horizon? Talk not of a short life. A life of virtue is long enough even for a mortal’s time. Talk not of falling into annihilation. Nothing can produce nothing. Something must have come out of something.
“Our deeds follow us from afar. And what we have been makes us what we are.” And after death we shall be what we have now been. We don’t know what life is. Science has not yet wrested from nature the secret of life. But this we know that life has not come out of nothing and will not go down into nothing. No force – no energy – shall be lost – is the decree of nature. Matter and force have all along been evolving improvements through many and various conditions. And yet the conservancy of energy is maintained. And yet matter remains just the same in the sum total. Such is the Providence of Nature. After all matter and force may not at all be different in kind but different shades of one and the same substance in varying conditions. Well, let this stand here. In the beneficence of Nature, something dies to put forth a new life. Death does not stop progress but leads mortals to new glories and fresh possibilities. Death lays aside the old form of a life and clothes it with a fresh and starts it on new lines with new conditions. Such is the Function of Death in the Economy of Nature. Why mark the presence of death with all that is hideous and gloomy? Drunk with sorrow, we miscall our bright and generous Mother a dark devil. Death – a Mother? Yes, I am born of something dead. Something else will be born of my dead self. It is death which had produced me and it is death which shall produce some new being out of the present me. If there is mystery in the birth of my I, there is mystery in the death of my I.
Through a series of changes my I is born and if it comes to face death it is not that it has dissipated into nothing as it seems. How can it? What has come from afar will go far, far away the seeming close of its career today. Death charms us into a sleep, and life means our weary restless hours. And what is this I? A group of form, sensation, perception, discrimination and consciousness, touched by a peculiar tone of characteristics, which reveal themselves as an individual in a fleeting personality. And when this individual bound down by laws as certain and uttering at those which govern the whole cosmos, dies or rather pauses a while to begin his career fresh with the experiences that he or she gained, it is not that he or she is done up, but passes on from height to height, Matter or energy never dies but changes from one condition to another. Life never dies but changes and passes into a new life. Our past experiences reveal themselves in us as conscience. And our present ones will be the memory of the future. Death sums up the Past in the Present, and brings up the sum of good and evil tendencies (which is the soul) of the present to the fresh possibilities of the Future. So we see Death performing a noble function in the evolution of all that is.
The whole universe stands decreed to the conditions of birth, growth, decline and death. In the death of one lies the birth of another. The “loss” here is a “gain” somewhere. In the death of an error lies the birth of a truth.
Death is a powerful educationist. Death warns us against our cleaving to transitory things, breaks our morbid attachment to fleeting relations, educates us out of our silly conceit, of our stupid arrogance, and of our foolish pranks and selfish crimes. Death presents life in its true colors. Death stands above all human power, all human learning, all human beauty and all human glory. In the light of Death, life, however beauty and all human glory. In the light of Death, life, however pretentious, looks poor and pitiable. What though you cover a continent with your title-deeds – or an ocean with your commerce? What though you make a mint of money, or command the world’s market, or live in all the circumstances of a mighty potentate? Death will take you away. And who can obstruct it in its duty? You grow conceited and look down upon struggling ones, because you have made a set speech in the council, because you have read a lesson to the senate, because you have written a learned judgment from on the Bench, because you are a successful this or that. But death laughs at you all the while for all your petty pranks and shows you at last how small you have been though so pretentions.
Death reveals the hollowness of self-seeking. Death shows self a fleeting phantom, and counts its seeking’s a mistake. We want money, but we would not allow another have any part of it. Nay, we would grow rich and powerful with the blood of others. We want to make a name; but we will not allow another to make one for himself. We could do all to kill him in his reputation. So on with all the coveted things of the world. No learning is a guarantee against self-seeking of a most savage type. Such is the strength and mischief of self-seeking. Cannibalism we protest against. But there is yet cannibalism amongst us in a different form, but worse and more subtle. Cannibalism you can see face to face in the race for wealth and woman, for food and drink, for shelter and conveyance, for name and fame, for power and glory. But even savage self-seeking comes at last within the reach and grasp of Death. The rich grow vain and heartless the poor mean and insolent the “learned” swell with conceit; intolerance, prejudice and barbaric selfishness. But life is fleeting. Death blanches the arrogance of power and the conceit of learning, into a puff of smoke or into a handful of dust.
Even those Jugglers who live a devil and talk and write a bible, who to secure and further their own selfish ends, seek to hush even the voice of an angel, who in the name of a God of whose praise they are loud, would crucify that very God if he should appear just now in flesh and blood, - even these Jugglers who are having a good time of it by throwing dust into the eyes of the multitude, - even these Jugglers of so many forms and types, … even these cannot outwit death. No hypocrisy however subtle, no rascality however keen and successful, can evade death. Death masters everything in nature from the countless sands to the starry hosts. Why, even the loudest fame dwindles at last into a solemn silence of a oblivion; even the most extensive wealth spends itself into vapid air; even the most resplendent glory sinks at last into a void of gloom. Death stands at the end of each and all. We covet this, and hate that. We grow our pretensions; we stunt our sympathies. We seek a fleeting pleasure and spill blood from the heart of another. But when death knocks at our door, where is our boasted learning? Where is our vaunted power? Where is the strength of woman villainy? Where is that lovely form of flesh and muscle we have adored? No gold can bribe, no honor can charm Death into silence. But then. Because death is so stubborn death is not to be feared as an enemy. We must rise and go forward to bid Death welcome. Death, even when threatening, is extremely kind. Death robs us of all fear. The very thought of death transports me with joy. Standing by the side of Death I count every dreaded object a sham and every coveted one a trash. I care not for what the world gives me and what it takes away from me. I see in me no craven fear, no selfish sorrow. It is all joy where the thought of death is.
Death is confounded with pain. But nothing can be farther from truth. Where death is not, pain is. Where pain is, death is not. This is the truth of it. Death is no sensation – but a suspension of sensation. Where unconsciousness sets in, pain beats a hasty retreat. Ignorant of nature’s laws, we are broken to pieces and ground to dust. Knowing them, we win an empire of joyous peace.
Death is a joy! Why, you see before you a trouble, and you look to death for comfort. And death comforts you and gives you peace. Well, death tells you that even this large seeming trouble shall pass away. And then. You come to rate yourself very high by reason of some accidental advantage which you happen to possess over others. Then death comes to you and tells that this advantage or privilege of which you have grown unreasonably proud and by which you have grown foolishly contemptuous towards others, is not to endure forever, that this also shall pass away, and that you shall soon be the feast of worms. Death gives us enlightenment, if we only know how to learn lesson from it. Death tells us that we are all one, in as much as we are all bound to it. Thus death breaks our senses of separateness. The death of separateness heralds the birth of joy. Where there is no separateness, there is no ignorance and where there is no ignorance, there is no attachment, where there is no attachment, there is no hate and where there is no hate, there is joy. Death breaks our narrow separateness, - only to give us a larger vision of the united whole.
All flesh is grass. No chancellor, no statesman, no millionaire, but is flesh. From a prince to a pauper, from a fool to a wise man, everyone passes away before our very eyes like a vanishing ghost. Death wraps our sense up in sweet oblivion of all our mortal concerns.
Why break our hearts because we are to die, as though we are to grieve because we were not born ten centuries ago. We appear only to disappear. And we disappear only to re-appear. We rise to fall. And we fall only to rise again. We gain to lose. And we lose only to recover it. Beauty blooms only to wither. And who knows from withered fragments a fresh beauty may not bloom with an increased brilliancy?
Talk and write what you will about “Annihilation.” But there is hope throbbing and pulsating in all. Nature wants a balance. And death works for it. The concerns of life are transient yet we are so restless. Self-conceit takes myriad shapes, bears a thousand names, and does countless mean things. If nothing else, death gives us peace. If life is a constant parting. Death, at worst, takes up to a place where there can be no parting. But death counts life a scaffold, and progress an edifice.
Right or wrong, it is truth to us which is in accord with our hearts. And the hope of a better life is an instinct written deeply in the heart of man. Far down in our hearts we hear the gentle whisper of a beautiful hope that nothing on earth should go to naught.
Behind and before you and me there is Necessity. And Necessity acts in certain sequence. No theory spun of barren words is this! But a fact! Fear Nature? No – Never. Nature shall take me as a mother to her arms, and awake me back with a life-and-death call! Pain of loss, of separation, may howl. But death sheds beauty and deep softness over life. Words are breath. Escape from illusive fancies unto truth. Death is death no more: but rich with the suggestions of beauty, of hope. Come what may I am safe in the hands of Nature. Nature has brought me up. I resign my future unto Her. Her will shall be done. She has given me being and when She through death demands it, I will deliver it up with a resignation that is sweet and with a piety that is true. Let Her set up my I in whatever form, in whatever condition she may choose. To those who trust to Her She vouchsafes joy.
When death, the confidant of nature comes to us, let pain and despair go. Whatever shape death may assume, let us stand straight in her presence and lift her veil, and we will behold higher forms and grander ends.
In the embrace of Hope let the dead sleep. Hope puts a star of thought in the night of grief. Let us swear obedience to the Will of the Inevitable. Let us do the Bidding of the Environment. Only then, and not till then, can you understand the Function of Death in the Economy of Nature. Only then, and not till then, can dark despair cease eating us up. Only then, and not till then, will Hope sing in all silence her hearts’ melody on the air’s soft stream. Away Despair! Thy wild dance maddens me! Let Hope be my stay, my minister. Let naught ruffle my peace!
Think of the eternity of Time! Think of the immensity of Space! Which record will tell our story, aye, the story of even this planet? What fraction of space, what part of time, goes to the formation and duration of a mortal? How many planets could not Time and Space survive! How little and short is man! What shadows we are – and what shadows our relations and concerns are! He who is at peace with Death is a King of Kings, a Lord of Lords. No fear, no want, no pain, can assail such a Soul of Beauty and Joy. With the hopes of Death I count a world’s word an empty sound and a world’s little passing pomps an idle show. Imbued with the dauntlessness of Death I defy every storm of Care, of Pain, of Hate. In the light of Death how small the victories, how tame the terrors of life look! Looking to Death, I am content to live a quiet and peaceful life – content to fashion a beauteous character out of every circumstance – content to let my life remain unknown, unrecognized and untold.
Under the reign of Law, not evil but good shall fall at last – far off – at last, to all. All action all suffering, shall bear at last, their fruit and flower. Hope touches the world with living flame and emits rays of Happiness. Death and Peace shall meet at last. By a series of operation death works out undying peace. Paradox as this may appear, this nevertheless contains large truth. We creep along the labyrinths just to climb the rocks we pass through death to immortality. In truth, our aspirations bear us on so far as to place within our grasp the highest joy that we are capable of enduring. In truth, we laugh at sorrow and mock pain with smiles, when Hope demands from Nature her fairest star.
If you would be a man, speak what you thing today in words as hard as cannon balls, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today.
Carve the face from within, not dress it from without. For whoever would be fairer, illumination must begin in the soul; the face catches the glow only from that side.
It is what you are, not where you are. If a young man has the right stuff in him, he need not fear where he lives or does his business. Many a large man has expanded in a small place.