P D Dawson
The Novel, as an Analogy for Life & Death
As far as we know, no one asks to be born into this world, and yet there is little understanding of that if one attempts to leave it behind. I'm not saying that I am planning my death, but I certainly also cannot say that I've never thought about the end of my life. In fact, thinking about the end can in some ways be a most liberating thing indeed. But thinking about the end of one's life may seem to some, a very dark way of spending time. But that is more to do with society's attitude towards death and less to do with the actual act of thinking about it.
Thinking about our lives as a perpetual and never-ending cycle of joy and pain, now that's where the real depression comes in. If all pleasures are to be dampened by our eventual sadness, and death is an unfortunate thing indeed, then I believe it is fair that we ask ourselves, what then, is the point of it all? If our lives are nothing but a struggle to reach the finishing line, and there is no party waiting on the other side of that line, or no ongoing conscience in which we can look back on our past achievements, then my word, what a sad ending we all must have.
Imagine if you will, that all books ever written, ended with such a bitter, dark and unrewarding ending. Well, I think you'd all agree, it'd make reading a very unenviable task, and most authors would lose the inspiration to write anything through the knowledge that their words do not soar people's hearts and minds, but rather dampen and diminish all their hopes and dreams. Why then, do so many of us choose to live? I believe that is because we all have a happy ending in our minds. Maybe that ending is the product of naivety or extreme denial, but it keeps us going. For who would choose to finish a book if they knew it had a bleak ending. Better to dally in the book's core, sat between a beginning and an end, than to speed ahead to the finale where all things turn irretrievably dark.
So if life were a book, and you're halfway through it, you might start to think about the ending more than you did at the start of it. It's true that in the beginning, we are just finding our feet, and learning the rules of the world. At first, we may not know the immoral characters from the good, but as the pages fly by, we soon learn which characters negatively affect people, and which, positively. And just as we age in life, the further we read on through a story, the more significant our pleasure becomes. Once the preliminaries are out of the way, we can feel more ingrained in the story and feel more comfortable in the company of its good characters.
And so I started this by saying that thinking about one's end is a good thing. Well, I feel I must expand on that here. Yes, it's true that it has long been believed that thinking about one's death is a fast track towards depression, but what if not thinking about it is what brings on the sorrow? If one suppresses one's belief and knowledge about an ending, then that in itself is a depressive act. Instead, to think about the end of one's life as a momentous and rewarding occasion, like finishing a good book, then one can live a better life. To enjoy a good book, one must envisage an ending using the constant cycle of knowledge gained from its pages, and that ending may be one of continuous change, but that is what's so remarkable about it. As we imagine and envisage our end, we are creating a destination, rather than a directionless embodiment of a book that has no end or shape.
The book that has no end would be a tome of infinite and strange proportions, and one that would feel alien to us. And so my advice is this: if we are to enjoy our lives, then we must continuously envisage and reimagine our end as we go forward. Today that end may feel stark and void of hope, but tomorrow it may feel light and free. Just remember, the more you think about it, both good and bad, the more comfortable it will become. For all voyages must be undertaken with a sense of direction and destination; otherwise, it becomes an endless trip, and the idea of infinity is too big for anyone to comprehend, let alone come to terms with.