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A few months ago I took my boys – ages 10 and 9 – to the Body Exhibit at our local museum. I thought they would enjoy it, but their stunned faces showed otherwise.
Maybe I should have known that seeing a skinned human would be jarring to those still figuring out what it means to be human. And yet, I don’t regret it.
For starters, it’s undeniably interesting to know what’s inside these extraordinary bodies of ours but – beyond that – I wanted to use the exhibit as an opportunity to remind my kids that we are all much more than just our bodies.
“Did you see a lung?” I asked in the car as we were leaving.
“Yes,” they replied.
“Did you see a brain?”
“Did you see a soul?”
They only have a vague idea what I mean by that question – which is fine. The purpose of the trip was to make the concept of “death” a little less mysterious to them and, hopefully, a little less frightening as a result.
“No one knows what’s good and what’s bad. No one knows what death is. Maybe it’s not a something; maybe it’s not even a nothing.”
These are the words of Byron Katie, who claims she once laughed when a doctor told her she had cancer. Katie’s point is that the overwhelming fear we display when it comes to sickness and the mere prospect of death robs us of the peace that could be experienced through the process.
This is a gift of mindfulness, by the way.
When you stop focusing on what could happen tomorrow, you get back to living right now. And when you overlay a focus on “now” with an understanding of what matters most – love – then you can die without fearing you never truly lived.
I’m certainly in no hurry to see what’s at the end of this life, but since we’ll all be there someday, what I do know is that I’d like to exchange wild panic with what Viktor Frankl called “brave suffering” and greet it – whatever it is – with head held high.
O death, where is thy sting? (1 Corinthians 15:55)
Happy Halloween everyone.