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Tony Grist

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Dr Johnson Was Wrong [May. 11th, 2012|11:08 am]
Tony Grist
It happens with some people who have lived a long time that they just stop bothering. My granny Vi, for instance- a lively, worldly, fun-loving woman who- at around 75- plonked herself down in her armchair, with her ciggies, her gin and her Daily Express, and slowly, very slowly, faded away. We- her family- thought it was a pity. She wasn't ill or in pain, just tired. Just bored. Towards the end she turned bitter- and the unending sarcastic badinage she and my grandfather kept up made them difficult to be around.  

She has become my model of how not to do it. By "it" I mean dying. I wish she'd tried a little harder. Some people do. My other grandmother kept going- and interacting and being there for others- until she was all but transparent with old age. Then she dropped. But perhaps Granny Vi couldn't help herself. This is what worries me most: that death will take me by the scruff and hurry me along and I'll lose control of all my hard-won philosophy and go out in some abject fashion, whining and complaining and being a nuisance. That's what Dr Johnson was worried about too when he said, "It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives". He was getting his excuses in early. But that separation of death and life is a verbal quibble. Next door to a falsehood. Dying isn't something apart from life; it's a part of life, the last bit of living that we do. You can't section it off and pretend it doesn't matter. Living and dying are part of a continuum and- unless you die suddenly and unexpectedly- it's impossible to say where one ends and the other begins.  Our manner of dying will be the latest and most vivid memory we leave to our posterity. It matters enormously. 

Life is precious. We mustn't give up on it prematurely. We need to make the most of every last crumb. 

[User Picture]From: veronikos
2012-05-11 05:59 pm (UTC)
I add this only because you have previously indicated interest in my alchemical writings.

You mostly set up a false dichotomy here between life and death, living and dying, although you move slightly away from that when you more correctly say that dying is the last bit of living that we do. The truth of the matter (and this is a fundamental of alchemical philosophy) is that Life and Death are not opposites -- Birth and Death are. Those two are the opposite side of the coin we call "Life." Those wise ones in the past who have successfully prolonged the length of their lives have told us that the secret is a kind of Equilibrium in which they balance the forces of destruction (getting rid of wastes, toxins, etc. in the body) with the forces of construction (constructing new cells, building new tissue, etc.). Or, as I have said recently -- the secret is to be always departing in the midst of arriving.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-05-12 08:25 am (UTC)
That dichotomy between life and death is built into the culture and hard to evade. The way I see it Life is actually all there is. We are spirit. We live eternally. Birth and Death are simply the processes (the portals) by which we dip in and out of incarnation.

I think we're more or less in agreement about that.

What I've been wanting to ask you, but haven't because I don't want to seem either stupid or insulting is "Why alchemy?" Why, given that life is in endless supply, would one want to prolong a particular incarnation? Is it that a extended life allows one more scope to gather and consolidate wisdom?
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