I have stage 4 breast cancer, spread to my bones (spine, rib, hips, pelvis), my liver, and now they, think, my brain. My doctor told me that this is probably the last summer I'll live. Have you been through something like this? How can I be happy when the Spectre of Death is constantly chasing me, day after day, week after week, doctor after doctor visit, all with bad news?
Thank you for your e-mail and please excuse my delayed response as there has been some illness at this end too and the Inbox was not accessed until today. I am sorry to hear about your misfortune which I am sure is very traumatic.
The question 'How can I be happy?' is a very interesting one, and one which comes up again and again. The only answer that ever seems to satisfy is: 'I can't'. I can only be pleased or displeased. Happiness, as we often discuss it, is not personal, cannot be personal, and is not the same thing as pleasure or that nice feeling that accompanies 'good news'. A personal life is inevitably full of ups and downs, pleasure and pain. Ultimately, the 'long wave' of a human lifespan ends in decay and death. This is inevitable. This happens every time. There is no escape from this inevitability for a human body.
But when the question is looked into more deeply, one begins to ponder who or what this 'I' or 'me' character really is. Where is it? Is it the human body that is decaying? Is it the mind that feels anguish about the body decaying? Or is it something else? Is it really anything at all?
These are the questions that the 'Spectre of Death' forces the thought factory to face up to, and the result of it finally facing up to them can be very surprising, even immensely liberating.
I am not going to suggest any answers to the question 'Who or what is this I or me?' I am just going to leave you with the question. It does its job every time.
On a personal level there is no comfort one can give. I could give you a false comfort as a priest does, the promise of some blissful after life or something similar. But that would be a lie and an insult to the dignity of a unique human existence. The human body will decay and disperse. Its molecules will take on some other form and life or the universe will continue ever unfolding.
It may just turn out that body does not contain 'you' and never has done. We shall see.
You may find this story relevant to your situation.
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