Embracing Mortality: Montaigne's Wisdom on Learning to Die
While diving into the book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche, we came across a good a quote from the famous philosopher Montaigne, and it made us dive deeper.
In the realm of philosophical thought, Michel de Montaigne, a 16th-century French Renaissance philosopher and essayist, stands out as a pioneer of the essay form and a profound thinker on the human condition. One of his most thought-provoking essays, "That to Study Philosophy Is to Learn to Die," delves into the timeless contemplation of mortality and the profound impact it can have on the way we live our lives.
There are times in our life we struggle with death, this gloom of doom of our fragile lives overwhelms us and it seems like we obsess over it or completely ignore it. Trying to distract, disperse and forget its reality from our everyday lives, thus choosing insanity. Although is there a better way?
The quote that got us thinking, "
“To begin depriving death of its greatest advantage over us, let us adopt a way clean contrary to that common one; let us deprive death of its strangeness, let us frequent it, let us get used to it; let us have nothing more often in mind than death... We do not know where death awaits us: so let us wait for it everywhere."
"To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.”
Embracing Mortality: A Radical Perspective
Montaigne challenges us to confront death, not as an abstract fear but as an integral part of the human experience. His words echo with a radical proposition: to frequent death, to get used to it, and to make it a companion in our thoughts. The idea is not to dwell on morbidity, but rather to strip death of its strangeness, allowing us to live with greater authenticity and freedom. Can we become comfortable with the reality of death, and free us from its prison or hold it has on us?
The Practice of Freedom through Mortality:
"To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave." Montaigne's philosophy suggests that by becoming familiar with our mortality, we liberate ourselves from the shackles of fear. This practice of freedom involves letting go of the anxieties associated with the unknown and embracing life with a newfound sense of courage.
Living in the Present:
Montaigne's wisdom encourages us to live in the present moment. By acknowledging the impermanence of life, we are prompted to savor each experience, cherish relationships, and find meaning in the now. This mindfulness transforms the way we approach our journey, fostering a more intentional and fulfilling existence.
Coping with Grief:
While Montaigne primarily focuses on preparing for one's own death, his philosophy also offers insights into coping with the death of others. By accepting death as an intrinsic part of life, individuals may navigate the grieving process with a deeper understanding and a sense of peace.
Montaigne's philosophy prompts existential reflection. It encourages us to contemplate the nature of existence and the purpose of life. By embracing the transient nature of human experiences, we gain a unique perspective on the richness of our journey.
In a world often dominated by the fear of the unknown, Montaigne's words offer a refreshing perspective on the human experience. Learning to die, in his view, is not a morbid preoccupation but a pathway to a more authentic and liberated life. By embracing mortality, we may find the courage to live fully, love deeply, and appreciate the profound beauty of our existence.
As we navigate the complexities of modern life, Montaigne's timeless wisdom serves as a beacon, inviting us to confront our mortality, unshackle ourselves from fear, and embrace the freedom that comes with learning to die.
Rest in Peace to those around us who are facing death and to those who have already passed and confronted death.
Whatever you choose to face and think about, choose well, choose good, choose peace, because the alternative doesn't seem to be the way.
- Cue The Humans