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Coping With Fear

Coping With Fear

The thought of death generally creates fear in human beings and I am not an exception to it. Although death is sure to happen in the life of a person, people generally do not like to speak about it. When we come to know about the death of our near and dear ones we feel shocked, especially at the death of a young person due to accident or cardiac arrest. During the retreats some preachers give a talk on death and tell people how to prepare themselves for death. For some time or for a few days the thought of death may come to us, but the natural tendency in human beings is not to entertain any thought about death.

 I have seen some people dying and I have taken part in many funerals, but I have not given serious thought to my own death. These days, when I look at the internet to know about the status of the spread of Coronavirus, I see the number of people who die every day due to Covid 19 in the world and in India jumping. Even then I do not like to think about my death.

The late Swami Sadanand, who played a crucial role in converting and reconciling the murderer of Blessed Rani Maria with her family members, was a close friend of mine. He was a man who always thought of making others life happy through his presence and service. Whenever he knew somebody was in difficulty he used to reach out to that person even without any request from his/her part. I had many experiences when I was in crisis he appeared as a Good Samaritan to support me. He died of heart attack when he was hundreds of km away from his residence to help a group of sisters. I have kept his cheerful picture on my table. His smiling face amidst pure white beard tells me to live in such a way that I am able to smile always and bring smile on the face of others.

It is my conviction that instead of brooding over death we have to focus on life and make our life meaningful and useful for us as well as for others. Jesus’ words, “ I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn. 10:10), should be the basic principle that guides our life and mission. Look at the nature. Everything in the nature exists for the other. A mango tree doesn’t eat its fruit. Its leaves, its fruits and its trunk and branches are all meant for the use of human beings. In the same way all animals become useful to the human beings in one way or the other. Life becomes joyful and meaningful when a person is able to bring joy and happiness in the lives of others. What Jesus has taught us also is the same. According to the teachings of Jesus, finally we all will be judged on the basis of our relationship with others. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”. (Mt. 25:40).

We can adopt certain policies and practices to make our life useful to others so that death becomes a smooth transition from one form of existence to another form. Through this write up I wish to share with the readers some policies and practices that can make life happy and meaningful to oneself and others. As each individual is unique, each one can evolve his/her own policies and practices. At the same time, we can also learn from each other and enrich each other.

Many people have a tendency to make use of others for their pleasure or to achieve their selfish goals. Hence one has to be vigilant about this weakness so that his/her relationship with others always remain “I-Thou” and not “I-It”. “I-Thou” relationship is a relationship between two subjects, accepting and respecting each other on an equal footing. On the contrary, in “I-It” relationship one is seen as an object instead of subject and the relationship will degenerate into exploitation of the other. In spite of our watchfulness our relationships with others can slip into “I-It”. But if we make a self examination at the end of each day, we will be able to become conscious of our failures in this regard and correct ourselves.  

I have read somewhere that great people speak about ideas, but small people speak about persons. In order to be happy in life one has to avoid speaking ill of others and not to indulge in any gossip. Of course, we may criticize the policies and actions of Individuals especially those who are in leadership positions. In a democracy people have the right and responsibility to be critical of the government. For the good of the community or society sometimes we have to criticize the harmful actions and policies of other persons. But one should be wary of not indulging in character assassination.

Another policy for making life happy for others is to respect the dignity of every person irrespective of religion, caste, status etc. About 20 years ago one day I was waiting at Thrissur Railway station for catching train to go to Ernakulum. A man who did not have both legs came to me crawling and requested me to buy lottery ticket because he was earning his livelihood by selling lottery tickets. I asked him how much commission he got from selling a ticket. He said, “Rs. 3/-”. I took three rupees from my pocket and extended to him. He stared at me with anger for a few seconds and returned in haste. For about a week the picture of the man staring at me was coming to my mind again and again and disturbing me. Then I took policy to respect the dignity everyone and not to treat anyone as a beggar. If anyone comes to me for begging during my travel and tells me that he/she is hungry I buy food and give him/her. I have stopped giving money to beggars not because I do not have compassion for them, but I do not want to make any one a beggar. Another policy we can adopt is not to correct any child in front of others. Any correction to a child is to be given privately.

The most important teaching of Jesus is forgiveness and reconciliation. If we want to make life meaningful to ourselves and others, we should not keep any ill feeling or enmity towards anyone. We have to be in touch with the persons who have not been good to us. It has been my experience that whenever I keep ill feeling against anyone within me I become restless and unhappy. I have realized that to be in peace with myself and with others I have to forgive those who have offended me and I have to get reconciled with them. In the absence of forgiveness life becomes unhappy and disturbing.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what you are doing for others”- Martin Luther King Jr. St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara has said, “Let there be no day in your life in which you did no good to others” .. One of the ‘Five Paths’ for self transformation recommended by Universal Solidarity Movement (USM) is “doing a good deed a day without any selfish motive”. If we start doing one good deed for others without any self interest, we will be motivated to do several good deeds and we will become very sensitive to the feelings and needs of other persons. The natural consequence will be happiness for oneself and for others too.

Being grateful to God and others is an important means to be happy in life. Every day morning we have to thank God for the precious gift of life because many people who go to sleep are not able to wake up on the next day. All our organs are functional and we need not depend on others for doing our normal functions. There are millions of people in the world who have to depend on others for taking bath, for eating food and even for going to the wash room. But many of us are able to do all these functions by ourselves. We are also able to think, read, write and communicate with others. This attitude of gratitude will motivate us to make the best use of time and to contribute something unique to the well-being of humanity.

“Do it now” is another policy which we can follow to make life happy for us and for others. As human beings we may have the tendency to postpone or procrastinate, but we should try to overcome it consciously. If we get a letter or e-mail try to send reply as far as possible on the same day or the next day. Make it mandatory to reply to all personal letters and e-mails. As we are in the age of internet we may get many common mails and articles. Try to read at least some of them and give a short feedback. In order to implement the policy of ‘do it now’ every morning we may have to make a plan for the day and identify the tasks to be accomplished on the day. When we make the plan of action for the day we may give priority to those actions that are meant for helping others.

Writing daily journal before going to sleep is a very good practice that can enhance the quality of our lives. It is an effective means for recollecting the activities of the whole day and for making a review of life. This process helps one to become aware of his/her strengths and weaknesses and achievements and failures. As a result of reviewing life one is able to learn a few lessons for life. One the basis of the review of the day we may make resolutions for improving the quality of our life. Writing daily journal is also an effective means to assess how much we could contribute to make others happy.

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live” said Norman Cousins. There are a few essentials that make us humans. They are the core human and ethical values like forgiveness, compassion, sensitivity, justice, respecting the dignity of a person etc. When a person is driven by self centred ambition these elements may have a natural death. Daily review of life can help a person to keep these precious values alive and flourish.    

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn”, said Mahatma Gandhi. If we are able to make life happy for us and others each day, death need not be something menacing. When we focus on life and are passionate to enhance the quality of life by adopting certain life-giving policies and practices, we can keep the fear of death at bay.

(jacobpt48@gmail.com)

(Published on 13th July 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 29)