What Is Life: Meditations on Pain and Death

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

By Viduni de Silva | Sri Lanka

As I type this, the anxiety of life’s unpredictability fills my mind with ‘what if’s’ I’d rather not answer. Both the scientific world and the world I perceive every day in its macroscopic form refuse to combine and form one, multi-dimensional reality.

This makes me uncomfortable, for I want to understand the world in its perceived nature along with its scientifically broken-down parts. It’s like how I feel about my body, for example. It’s a biological machine and its inner workings are mostly hidden from being understood by our consciousness, so instead, we identify ourselves through our body as if it is who we are – but the reality is far from it.

The body is a fragile, complex biological machine that is more ‘real’ than it seems. We have mostly no control over its functioning but can use it when it is functioning. It is not like our consciousness, floating in a mysterious, untouchable reality where boundaries exist where we allow them to be, and where the outside world can affect us only if we allow it. In our heads, we can harm ourselves and damage others without consequences, and we can grow from our mistakes and change the way we think if we like. We have full control of everything that goes on inside our mind– even if we are terrible at realizing and exercising that control.

Our bodies are not like that.

In the physical world, someone can hurt our body and it can’t be undone with optimism and logical breakdown. We can’t figure out what to do on our own – we require knowledge and understanding of our bodies and the world around us; knowledge that previous generations have collected and refined over years of research and experimentation. We must consider the biochemistry of our bodies and stick to scientifically validated methods of treatment. We can’t fix it on our own – we need help.

We are at the mercy of the physical world and the people around us whose judgment isn’t clouded by the physical pain we experience. We are defenseless and can only help ourselves if we’re mentally fit enough to think above the noise in our head caused by the pain and if we are smart enough to figure out a physical solution.

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But then again, there is a relatively comforting thought – the pain of our physical situation can be dealt with by controlling our perceptions of the physical reality. Agony can be translated into endurance and pain into gratitude – gratitude that death has yet to arrive and there is hope for survival as long as you feel.

Then,  the only remaining problem is the fear of death and not the pain of being alive. This also is a mental situation we can overcome by realizing that death is inevitable, and that when and how it arrives is nothing to worry about if the end is the same for everyone. What matters are the moments leading up to death and whether they are lived as fully as one can manage, for our life is only so important to us because it is still there.

What is life, in the end?

Finally, when we are dead, we don’t care about how we lived, how exceptionally short or difficult life seemed relative to someone else’s, or how and when we died.

At last, life is entirely in our heads, and our experiences are based solely on our perception, not on our physical situation. Any dilemma is solvable, even death, if we change how we look at it.

Psychology Today has a similar view if you still wonder about life and purpose.


The views and opinions expressed in this entry are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Zeitgeist. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s). The Zeitgeist does not verify the accuracy of any of the information contained in the entry. The Zeitgeist is not to be held responsible for misuse, reuse, recycled and cited and/or uncited copies of content within this entry.



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