The reality of death versus the meaning of life

“Life, a series of increasing sufferings, flies ever faster towards its end, the most terrible suffering.”

We live our lives as if we were immortal. Either that or we’re completely ignorant of the oblivious reality of death.

We get into our daily routine and, week by week, time passes by until we get to a point in life when we ask ourselves were did all the years go? Are we living our lives the way we should be? Is there a right way to live life? Should we wait until we are forced to face our own death to find out the answer?

Reading “The death of Ivan Ilyich” by Tolstoy made me think about one of my terrifying fears: of wasting my life away. Maybe it isn’t death I fear the most, but wasting my time on things that don’t serve my purpose.

Throughout his life, Ivan’s only interest was climbing the social ladder. He lived his life by society’s rules, adopting the beliefs of others rather than choosing his own path. He believed that, by imitating the aristocratic life he will have a meaningful life. He worked his way into getting a good position in his job, married beautiful woman, had kids and built a luxurious house for his family. By society’s standards he was a fulfilled man living an abundant life, but the reality was different: things took a wrong turn and he found himself trapped in a failed marriage and buried himself in work.

Aren’t we doing the same thing? When we’re unhappy with our personal life we try to hide away from it and fill that void inside of us with something else instead of solving the problem. Why are we running away from ourselves?

While decorating the house, Ivan gets injured on his left side. At first he doesn’t give any importance to it, but as the pain worsens he becomes scared for his life.

His entire existence is shaken by the fear of death while doctors can’t neither find the source of the pain nor a cure for it. He becomes so ill that he’s bedridden. Ivan continuously rejects his own mortality and believes that he doesn’t deserve all the pain he’s going through because he lived his life righteously. But during his last living days, he examines his life over and over again, retracing his steps and decision, questioning his very existence, he realizes that the values he lived by were all wrong.

He begins to find offensive everyone’s health and vitality, except for Gerasim’s, the butler. Ivan finds the most comfort in him because Gerasim’s the only one that doesn’t hide from him the reality that he’s a dying man.

While thinking about the source where all began, he goes into the room he got injured, “the room which he gave his life to furnish”. He realizes that life has been senseless, but he can’t understand why does he have to die in agony. Everything around him tells him the same thing: “Everything you lived by, and still do, is a lie, a deception that hides life and death away from you”.

Ivan sees death as an enemy and the pain as a punishment he unfairly received, but by the end he comes to terms with his mortality and once he accepts it, death turns into light. This reveals that death is not separated from life, but a continuation of it.

“He was looking for his earlier, accustomed fear of death, but he couldn’t find it. Where was death? What death? There was no fear whatsoever, because there was no death. Instead of death there was light.”

Death is not happening to us now, but it will. Are you at peace with it? Are you living your life the way you should? And even if we lived our lives meaningfully, would our end feel differently? Doesn’t dying mean that every meaning we gave to our lives gets erased? Wouldn’t it also be painful to leave behind a meaningful life which we abruptly stop being a part of it?

In “The denying of death”, Ernest Becker writes:

“This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression and with all this yet to die.”

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Amorina Rose says:

    This was a wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. moonraven44 says:

      Thank you very much.


  2. Your post inspired me to read the book. Great read. I still don’t want to die anytime soon though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. moonraven44 says:

      Thank you. It is a short book, but very intense. It made me question everything in my life and my decisions.


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