Over the decades, we have been perennial recipients of a College Bulletin from our Alma Mater. As a general rule, upon receipt, we would quickly flip through the pages of the shiny lithography, quickly noting the contemporary photos of the Campus, and briefly scanning the notices of recent alumni achievements in the arts and the business world; and then, within a total of approximately ten minutes, discard the publication.
The other day, we received our current copy of the annual publication, and, consistent with our past protocol, we flipped quickly through the pages, viewed the photographs and briefly noted the laudatory articles. But then, suddenly, and remarkably, as if motivated by some kind of mandated subliminal suggestion, and for the very first time, we chose to examine the extensive listing of deceased alumni, arranged by years of graduation, which we had always ignored.
Generally speaking, we have never been complete strangers, to the inevitable fact of universal human mortality; albeit, admittedly, we have expended very little time in its contemplation. Indeed, it is somewhat conceivable that, confessing in retrospect, we may have been intentionally and defensively avoiding the anticipated discomfort and fear, associated with the subject.
Returning to the subject of our described experience, we are totally unaware of the etiology of that sudden impulse, (viz.,) to visit (for the first time) the annually published (extensive) list of deceased alumni, ordinarily by-passed by us. In so doing (perhaps, as feared) we, unhappily, discovered, among said list, the familiar names of two deceased alumni. We experienced an internal “check,” or should we say, “shock,” at such recognition. For an instant, we were sadly and wistfully, caused to, imagine vague, snapshot-like images of the remembered personalities.
But, then, suddenly and unexplainably, during the course of this melancholy recollection, a sudden eclat-like epiphany of alien thought, somehow, amazingly and energetically arrived, dispelling our sad ruminations, and leading to the foregoing realizations; offering, to us, the choice of an alternate, and perhaps, a more mature and less painful perspective.
We came to the realization that mankind was fortunately awarded a full cornucopia of valuable gifts from a generous evolution; among which is the ability to walk erect, to perform required tasks, by reason of an opposable thumb, to employ, as desired, the broad array of human senses, and to experience a body whose systemic function is no short of a marvel; but far above all that evolution thus generously gave to man, was the advanced brain. It is this brain potential which enabled homo sapiens to enter upon a course of development, becoming the marvel of the natural world. We recognized that sentient mankind has, for eons, been manifestly progressing along a path of advancement and enhancement, so that, to date, it has accomplished a great many miraculous feats, including the understanding of himself, the curing of many serious diseases, traveling to the moon, and soon, perhaps, further out in space.
We now came, at last, to finally appreciate and recognize, that such advanced brain has, however, an eternal, but arguably fair, price namely, the capacity of man to be aware of its own mortality. We came to understood that those, who utilize the marvelous franchise of life, in the advancement of their knowledge and perspective, and successfully attain the precious goal of self-fulfillment, will also have developed the wisdom of gratitude for the opportunity. We also realized, after all this time, that wisdom would, emphatically, prescribe a grateful emphasis on lifetime self- fulfillment, and not useless and desolate, preoccupation with mortality.
After some more thought and further rumination, we earnestly resolved, to read next year’s College Bulletin, inclusive of the” In Memoriam” section, slowly, deliberately, and with new and better perspective.