Death as the invention of life

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By LEONARDO BOFF*

The meaning we give to death also represents the meaning we give to life.

In life we ​​take many turns. In the last of it, we find death. She is the only unassailable certainty. Because we are, by essence, mortal beings. We are dying slowly, every second a little bit, in installments, until we finish dying.

The meaning we give to death also represents the meaning we give to life. Each people with its culture interprets death in its own way. I want to mention some views that deserve my consideration. As a Christian I start with myself, how I understand death.

I do not consider death as the end of life. To die is to finish being born. Life goes beyond death. That is why my book on the subject is not entitled: “Life after death”, but “Life beyond death”. Life is structured along two lines:

In one, life begins to be born and is born over time, learning to walk, to speak, to think, to communicate and to self-construct until it ends up being born. It is the moment of death. In the other, life begins to die, at the very moment it is born, because the vital capital is slowly consumed over the years until it ends up dying.

At the intersection of the two lines – just being born and just dying – there is a passage to another level of life that Christians call “resurrection”: it is life that arrives, in death, at the full realization of its potentialities and breaks out into inside God. But not anyway, because we are imperfect and sinners. We will pass through God's clinic in which we purge ourselves and mature until we reach our fullness. It is the purifying judgment. Others call it purgatory, the antechamber of heaven and not hell.

In any case, we don't live to die, as the existentialists used to say. We die to rise again as Christians say.

There is an inspiring phrase from the great Cuban figure, José Marti, writer, poet, philosopher and fighter in the liberation of his country from the domination of a tyrant. For Marti “dying is closing your eyes to see better”.

When we want to concentrate and go deep in thought, we naturally close our eyes. When dying, we close our eyes to better see the heart of the universe, our place within it, and the Ultimate Reality that makes everything exist and persist.

I have a friend from Uganda who works on Vatican radio, Filomeno Lopes, who described to me the most prevalent conception of death among Africans: “In Africa, when an elderly person dies, they do not cry, but celebrate the triumph of life over death, because life followed its normal path and we were able to collect the inheritance before our parents' death. That's why we say that "our dead never left". They just cease to be with us in the immanence of our daily lives, to “be, dwell in us”. In this way, that profound communion is established between us and them, which is sometimes stronger than when they were physically among us. This allows us to call them in prayer and ask them to intercede for us in our daily vital circumstances, as we are the only reason why they are still present, as alive, on this face of the earth. Human life, in fact, is not born with you, but is always reborn with you. In this sense, life itself is “philosophy”, insofar as it never starts just once, but always restarts at any moment, in any space, time or historical circumstance”.

For most of our original peoples, death is just passing to the other side of life. Those who have crossed over, especially the sages and elders, visit them in their dreams and advise them. Accompany those who are still on this side. They are only invisible but never absent.

The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, told me that he is indigenous and lives the culture of his people: when he feels pressured by political problems, at night or at dawn, he withdraws into a corner and with his face to the ground, consults the wise men and elders of their ethnicity. He enters into deep communion with them. Times later, he gets up with the inspirations received. His mind cleared.

I want to honor Sandra Mara Herzer who, being a girl, felt like a boy. He dressed like a boy. He took on the name Anderson Herzer. He suffered a lot at Febem. He had extreme sensitivity wanting to help all the sufferers he encountered. With few letters, he wrote a moving book, promoted by Eduardo Suplicy Matarazzo, The fall to the top. He talks about his entire life and the suffering his situation caused. At the end of the book she published some poems. One is impressive with the title “I found what I wanted”. In this short poem he talks about death: “I wanted the fire to cremate me / to be the ashes of those who are born today. I wanted to die now, at that moment,/ alone to be an embryo again, and be born;/ I just wanted to be born again, to teach myself how to live”. This beauty and this generosity need no comment.

Finally, the testimony of one of the greatest human beings born in the West and of whom we can be proud: Francis of Assisi. He established an affectionate bond with all beings, calling them with the sweet name of brother and sister. In his canticle to all creatures he says: "Praised be you, my Lord, through our sister bodily death, from which no living human being can escape!" Death is not a “witch” that comes to take our lives. It is the dear sister who opens the door to happy eternity for us.

Death is not the last barrier. She is a bridge that takes us from passing space and time to endless eternity. Death is an invention of life to take a leap and continue to live longer and better.

*Leonardo Boff He is a theologian, writer and philosopher. Author, among other books, of Our resurrection in death (Voices).

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