Delicate Balances

There are moments in life, brief instants, when the concept of human mortality is thrust to the forefront of our minds. These moments stem, a philosopher might conjecture, from an intractable fear of death and what it represents—the unknown and the unknowable.

What must the skier think, when hurtling down Black Diamond slopes? What must the tightrope walker think, when peering over the abyss? What must the safari wanderer think, when stared at coolly by a lethal serpent? The lightest tremble of a muscle, the slightest misstep, divides the world of dreams from the world of ghosts.

How startling it is, to realize that the visions and aspirations meticulously erected over a lifetime can be so wantonly forsaken. To realize that hunger can carry you to the Styx in a few weeks, thirst in a few days, asphyxiation in a few minutes. To realize that the apoptosis of even a few crucial cells can trigger the collapse of an entire citadel, can spark the mass suicide of trillions of otherwise healthy citizens.

We are delicate, delicate balances. Tipped too far, we tumble.

I am not the first, nor the last—and definitely not the most eloquent—to consider this topic. But it is such a pity that society places so negative a stigma upon the discussion of death. It is not morbid to study life. Why, then, its counterpart? With a healthy appreciation of its power and its fickle nature, we are all drawn: to ponder, to wonder, to blunder along and surrender to whatever truly lies yonder.

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