I am dying.
Every day with every breath I draw, I am closer to the end of my life. For we are born with a finite number of breaths, and each one I take edges the sunlight that is my life toward the inevitable dusk.
It is a difficult thing to remember, especially while we are in the health and strength of our youth, and yet, I have come to know that it is an important thing to keep in mind - not to complain or to make melancholy, but simply because only with the honest knowledge that one day I will die can I ever truly begin to live. Certainly I do not dwell on the reality of my own mortality, but I believe that a person cannot help but dwell, at least subconciously, on that most imposing specter until he has come to understand, to truly understand and appreciate, that he will one day die. That he will one day be gone from this place, this life, this conciousness and existence, to whatever it is that awaits. For only when a person completely and honestly accepts the inevitability of death is he free of the fear of it.
So many people, it seems, stick themselves into the same routines, going through each day's rituals with almost religious precision. They become creatures of simple habit. Part of that is the comfort afforded by familiarity, but there is another aspect to it, a deep-rooted belief that as long as they keep everything the same, everything will remain the same. Such rituals are a way to control the world about them, but in truth, they cannot. For even if they follow the exact routine day after day after day, death will surely find them.
I have seen other people paralyze their entire existence around that greatest of mysteries, shaping their every movement, their every word, in a desperate attempt to find the answers to that unanswerable. They fool themselves, either through their interpretations of ancient texts or through some obscure sign from a natural event, into believing that they have found the ultimate truth, that they will surely be rewarded in the afterlife. This must be the greatest manifestation of that fear of death, the errant belief that we can somehow shape and decorate eternity itself, that we can curtain it's windows and place it's furniture in accordance with our own desperate desires. Along the road that led me to Icewind Dale, I came upon a group of followers of Ilmater, the god of suffering, who were so fanatical in their beliefs that they would beat each other senseless, and welcomed torment, even death itself, in some foolish belief that by doing so they would pay the highest tribute to their god.
I believe them to be wrong, though in truth, I cannot know anything for certain concerning what mystery lies beyond this mortal coil. And so I, too, am but a creature of faith and hope. I hope that Zaknafein has found eternal peace and joy, and pray with all my heart that when I cross over the threshold into the next existence, I will see him again.
Perhaps the greatest evil I see in this existence is when supposedly holy men prey upon the basic fears of death of the common folk to take from them. "Give to the church!" they cry. "Only then will you find salvation!" Even more subtle are the many religions that do not directly ask for a person's money, but insist that anyone of goodly and godly heart who is destined for their particular description of heaven, would willingly give that money over.
And of course, Toril is ripe with "doomsdayers", people who claim that the end of the world is at hand, and cry for repentance and for almost slavish dedication.
I can only look at it all and sigh, for as death is the greatest mystery, so it is the most personal of revelations. We will not know, none of us, until the moment it is upon us, and we cannot truly and in good conscience convince another of our beliefs.
It is a road we travel alone, but a road that I no longer fear, for in accepting the inevitable, I have freed myself from it. In coming to recognize my mortality, I have found the secret to enjoying those centuries, years, months, or even hours, that I have left to draw breath. This is the existence I can control, and to throw away the precious hours over fear of the inevitable is a foolish thing indeed. And to subconciously think ourselves immortal, and thus not appreciate those precious few hours that we all have, is equally foolish.
I cannot control the truth of death, whatever my desperation. I can only make certain that those moments of my life I have remaining are as rich as they can be.
------ Drizzt Do'Urden.
| This is an excerpt from "The Icewind Trilogy" by R.A. Salvatore. All Rights owned by their respective authors.|