Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How I Die

This sounds morbid, but it really takes me to the dead end.

I have been contemplating for a while whether to get here or not. Now, I think it is necessary.

The grammar looks a bit wrong, but it is not. I don't think that the process of dying is in the future, although death is, for now.

But to die is a process that starts, to my mind, at the age of 40 years - the first indication being the loss of the elasticity of the muscle in the eye and I cannot quite see the subtitles on TV as I suffer from long sightedness - which the experts say is a sign of old age.

It takes a while for me to accept that I have started to die, although conceptually and philosophically it does make one feel heroic thinking and talking about dying.

The Tibetian Book of Living and Dying starts by saying: "To know how to live, one must know how to die."

It is a profound statement and puts life and death as two sides of a coin.

In mathematical economics, one is the prime and the other is the dual - as in: if the prime is profit maximisation, the dual is cost minimisation.

In simple English, it is: To live is to die.

This is all theory. The reality and the practical aspects of life makes things a bit hard.

How does one choose to die? How do I choose to die?

All things considered, the best way is the natural way - which translates into biology means the failure of the most vital organ, the heart.

Heart failure is very different from heart attack. Heart attack is a sudden and unexpected (in terms of timing) contraction of the heart muscle (akin to cramps) which jeopardises the circulation of the blood.

Heart failure is the failure of the heart as a muscle as a result of wear and tear over the years, just like the muscles in the eyes which gives long-sightedness; in this case, the increasing failure of the heart to pump and hence the slowing down of the circulation of the blood. Eventually, the decline of the blood circulation affects the whole body system and it shuts down. This is the natural way to die - and, in ordinary language, it is called "to die of old age."

I know a healthy old man who exercised everyday to keep his heart strong. He had a stroke of the throat, and couldn't eat properly and couldn't exercise. He sat on the wheelchair, and died three years after. Now, I know, it takes three years for a good heart to die. That is the down-side of having a strong heart - it just takes too long for the system to shut down.

The heart attack is a much more self-inflicted way of dying. One can have a heart attack by maintaining a nasty temper at every moment every day, eat plenty of fatty meat, drinks well, don't exercise (such as by having a big nice comfortable car), and be involved with tons of projects all at the same time as a sign of great busy-ness in life and a sign of doing well. Well, to live well is to die well. At the appropriate moment that one chooses, one can just fly into a temper and that's it. End of the line.

Not a bad way to go considering the alternatives. Internal organ failure is quite a nasty way to go - the liver, the kidneys, the pancreas, the prostate, the breast, the cervix. These are problematic because of the heart. If the heart fails first, nothing else matters.

Physical handicaps are tough because one has to contend with the disdain of others in society which as a result can really make an otherwise ordinary life quite uncomfortable by disqualifying the handicaps from the mainstream of society. One just can't get into the game, and therefore cannot participate in whatever everybody considers to be the good life.

Unless one is born with the physical handicap, one can become one by doing gangs that think that the way to live is to dismember each other's limbs as a normal form of everyday activity. Sometimes, they over-estimate their ability to maim and as a result kill which then gets them into trouble with the law which gives them life imprisonment which is really a slow death sentence with a full stop.

The conventional wisdom is that we die by the heart as a result of sedentary way of life and eating "good" food, by having a good degree and getting a good job that puts us in a nice air-conditioned room to sit down for eight good hours a day, except the weekend when we sit in the un-air conditioned room in our own house watching TV. Education therefore gives us an early death of younger than 80 (if 40 is the peak of bodily deterioration).

So those who are considered "poor" and "toil the land in the hot sun" gets to exercise as part of living, eat minimal, and stay slim and tough and hopefully not unhappy - unless badly advised by ambitious politicians whose only strategy to get votes and stay in power and become rich and taking from others is to convince these poor people who are doing well one their own that the grass is greener on the other side when in fact the other side is dying from obesity and internal organ failure of all sorts.

Well, of course, everybody dies and it is just a question of the style of leaving. We think we have a choice, but in the end it is Hobson's choice.

In the end, the only way to die is to die happy - by embracing whatever comes, and smile when the time for us to exit is here.

For those who are into this philosophy and thinking and the only moment is now, it means that now is the moment of life and now is only the moment of death. It's a fifty-fifty chance or, I prefer, a zero or one probability.

There is really much that we can think or do about death. Having realised it, to live. That's all. Death is a default, a fallback.


dianna said...

How quaint that this topic should

I couldn't contribute to the previous one on 'how i live' for one specific reason - if i had reflected my exact situation, everyone reading in would probably have said, "you better go, you good-fer-nuthin' 'parasite' of society, bane of equanimity, shame of generations, ignoble residue of mankind, et cetera".

And there is a fifty one percent chance i know the karmic causes of this situation.

It's the forty nine percent which complicates matters. Too big for minority conscience, too small to sway decisions.

For instance, if i take up the suggestion whose combined decibel is now understandably reaching a crescendo, how am i to finish 'Keynes: Return Of The Master'?


Back to this topic. The most important thing the MOF can do right now is to put reclining chairs outside all ICUs in each hospital.

There, in the waiting areas, loved ones and relatives would huddle together trying to rest while waiting and praying for their ones inside who are under intensive care.

If we want a humanity manifest, just look into their eyes. Hope, resignation, fear, tiredness, innocence about life and death. It's all there. It's a watch. In most cases, prelude to a wake.

It's one of the four doors that had opened to show the real world to the prince who gave up all to walk barefooted in asceticism towards an unknown ultimate truth.

Most of the people on such a watch are simple folks. Sophisticates leave it to science and technology. our heart of hearts, our vote goes to the simple folks - for it is simplicity and innocence when showing the full force of devotion which take the full brunt of life's transient turnings. But for the tragedy of man, it's their finest hour.


Many years ago i attended a high-powered business meeting. There everyone had to brainstorm a new business before the meeting ended. As the session was ending in a swirl of grand ideas, all eyes turned to me. "IFMS", i said laconically. Asked to explain, i replied: 'integrated funeral management system'. It's a captive market, i added.

To go efficiently and comprehensively these days requires a sum of thirty grand, adjusted for inflation and discount. It's a turnkey business. And there is a fairly wide selection. Like a restaurant menu. The market intelligence is very efficient, the processes as smooth and coordinated as a military operation, the service exemplary, and the ambience better than a five-star hotel.

One is almost tempted to suggest that governments can take a leaf on efficiency from funeral service providers.

The only question left to ask is whether the spot is leasehold or freehold.


If one has never really lived, how can one have really died?



This blog reminds me of Gauss' famous quote:

'few but ripe'.

As a compliment, i suggest a minor amendment:

'too few but all ripe'.

Awaiting the next insight.

dianna said...

...and even the time log in cantonese is ominous....

Anonymous said...

Just to share a like sentiment about "To know how to live, one must know how to die."

Lately, much time has been spent fighting invisible bureaucratic fires, due to the award of the Nobel peace prize to an political activist!

Not that I'm there for political evangelism. I'm there just to setup shop for a business venture.

Never mind about the numbers of local the company has employed & the direct & indirect benefits (social & economical) that we have generated so far. Rather, through the implicit link with the Norwegian HQ, my business operations r been impaired, directly & indirectly, there & then.

So, what's that got to do with 'live & let die' as spell out by the bloggers?

I suppose, my simple answer is to leave a legacy. This legacy doesn't has to be significant in anyway. All it matters is to the eyes of the beholders, & most importantly to the decedent.

So through dying with a legacy, generated via the way one lives, one has truly live!

Loa tze's: 道可道,非常道。名可名,非常名。无名天地之始。有名万物之母。故常无欲

Summed it perfectly.


dianna said...

For an excuse to post this link:

i write some comments on anomie's post.

one, they value the principles, and the relationships generated from the principles, above all else, including material progress and social benefits identified by others; both can be made another time another place but if the principles of mutual recognition and extended relationships are not established correctly in the beginning, everything that emanates later from even such a simple thing as a business venture can flounder; in looking at outsiders, they look for a common compass that both sides can use as a unifying guide going forward when circumstances and situations may later change. One also notes that this device was presumably invented there. But it was first used for harmonization and only later for navigation. Likewise.

two, they have observed the outside world for at least one hundred and fifty years; theirs is a state founded on social experimentation at localized scale but guided by multiple layers of flexible adjustments held together by unified themes.

three, their entire objective to-date is reclaiming past position, not competing for future supremacy; that others have chosen to see only the latter and not the former has been the cause of much unnecessary misunderstanding; it also gives cause for their concern about the intentions of certain others. You know, 'go' originated there, not japan.

four, theirs is about sovereignty not just of geography but also of history and identity; having a civilization at least five thousand years old, they can hardly be faulted for expecting others who want to change them - using methods discovered in just a relatively short time - to change themselves first - if only to see what will remain behind that can stand the test of reality on their home ground and in their social ecosystem. After all, with their diverse ethnicity and diversified national experiences if not geographic variety, they are a veritable united nations on their own score so that one and many are indistinguishable;

five, if they want to give you, it's yours; if they don't want to give you, it won't be yours. Whatever the business event drama.

Seen in the above light, their reaction to the nobel party can be rationally understood.

Going in, make no assumptions and leave all baggage outside. Start with a fresh mind.

And yes, good legacies are all that make distinctive a simple existence that is the final lot of all.

dianna said...


dianna said...