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Tuesday, August 5, 2014





While thinking about the letter D, I happen to recall John Donne’s famous sonnet “DEATH BE NOT PROUD.”  It was in our syllabus at graduate level. Later I explored its thematic conundrum with different batches of college students year after year, during my teaching career.  However, that is history.

Yet the choice of the word ‘death’ activated the fading memories of those days lurking in some forgotten layers of the subconscious.  The mental connect to the past brought the concept of death to the forefront, initiating some serious discussion. Hence this post.

I don’t remember how did I perceive this ultimate reality of life at the time. I guess I might not have given it a second thought at that young age. Today's youth is different. The information technology revolution has transformed our lives. Young people are so smart and knowledgeable that they think about everything under the sun including death. I’m sure they would be holding interesting views about death as well.

“Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,”           John Donne

Well let’s see what this great poet professed about death in his well-known sonnet.  Donne addresses death as if it is an animate being. He mocks at death for feeling proud and mighty. He considers death as an extension of peace and repose, which we go through every night in our daily sleep cycle. Actually, death he says is like falling in eternal sleep. For the poet it is a pleasurable state pertaining to peace of mind and body after our painstaking journey of life. He negates the power of death and ridicules it by making it a friend of fate, disease, sickness and ruthless kings who would kill at will. Donne adds. ‘Oh death, you accompany wars, and are in league with desperadoes who destroy life’.

For him, death’s hubris is misplaced as even charms and poppies make us achieve rest and repose. He in a way busts the myth of death as a formidable entity.

So much for Donne’s plea of flouting the dread of death. Nonetheless, the inevitability of death raises its ugly head occasionally in every human chest. No denying
that the cycle of birth and death is such a smart construct of nature for ensuring the process of continuity.

Since ages, the enigma of death has weighed upon the minds of philosophers, theologians, saints, seers and intellectuals. It has been dissected threadbare but still nobody knows per se how it feels to die because nobody can experience death while living. Others die.

People do get flustered at the thought of their own death. Admittedly, it is so chilling to imagine that one will die without savoring fully the drama of this fascinating life ( so they feel). That things will go on without you is obviously disturbing.

There are exceptions too. After a certain age, some people do start preparing for their last day. My dear mother was one such person. A sense of fulfillment in the life lived takes away the fear of death.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
Mark Twain

German philosopher Martin Heidegger remarks that the realization of death is actually, a wake up call of exhortation to do some good acts. For, the final marching orders for  the other world are  unpredictable.

The Existentialists on the other hand maintain that only after the last breath is breathed, someone’s life can be profiled. Since, a person is in the act of becoming until the last moment. For them death is cessation of all actions. Nothing more. The choices one make in the present is of paramount importance to them.

Science no doubt has illuminated the biological aspect of death but the subjectivity of its romance and mystery will never die down.

Friends, leave your thoughts on the subject.


  1. Death .. a living enigma! on the premises of Donne's lines,you have explained its various aspects beautifully...I feel agreement with Donne,Twain and Heidegger -all ... as death is inevitable, is an eternal sleep, brings peace and definitely it nips to see that when we are not here.. life goes on... Here Twain's line comes for rescue ...Nice post Uppal ji..

  2. or, as The DOORS once sang, "No one here gets out alive."\

  3. Interesting and thought provoking theories about death, which I found strangely comforting,

    Best Wishes,

  4. Hari OM
    In Advaita Vedanta we explore the fact that there is, in truth, no life nor death. All this is projection, as dream is a projection. The difference in this 'waking dream' is that we can make choices. The level and quality of choices informs how we deal with the concept of 'death'... which is intimated by the quotes you have given. The bottom line? A life lived well may leave one ready for departure.

    Thank you for this wonderful post! YAM xx

    1. Thanks Yamini! I agree. I've dealt with these ideas here and also believe in them.

  5. Beautiful imagery with wonderful insights.Loved quotes.

  6. Well thought out post...And my Christian faith holds forth that I am a mere sojourner here with my full potential just the other side of death's glorious that it cannot be described♪