The poet Dylan Thomas once famously implored that we, as individuals, should not go quietly into death. Our anger at being denied the opportunity to enjoy the splendors of conscious living should fuel us in our battle with the reaper’s scythe. Every pocket of darkness or step forth from what we know at the moment may yet be filled with villainous potential. It is therefore not so hard to understand why those who claim to have momentarily touched the other side speak of bathing in brilliant light so illuminating and so warm. For it is the ultimate indication of our eternal victory over the blackness of dissolution.
This idea of battle, of never-ending conquest over the forces that wish to destroy us, is so much a part of what makes us a human race. In extreme cases, it causes us to become angels of death, destroying for the sake of saving what we believe is right. Yet, it may also the creator, as art, literature, science and religion has blossomed so that we might try to protect ourselves from it through shared knowledge. History has worked as the slipcase by which we try to preserve how this battle has been waged and the names of those most instrumental in its formation. All of these have become so vital in the act of establishing survival.
It is no surprise then how bitter it tastes when we watch others have to drop or lay their burdens down upon hard ground. We are so rudely confronted with defeat at the twisted hands of cruel monsters who seem to cackle in the midst of our lamentations. It is even more unfair if death chooses to not ring the doorbell prior to entering. As well, the fact that time continues and the earth keeps spinning on its axis only further cements their insufferable indifference.
However, maybe there is something to the idea of going gentler into the fading embers of the fire that always consumes its sustaining fuel. Perhaps winning is not about the defeat of what pursues us. For we are inevitably going to be overcome by fatigue and overtaken before we can lift a medal in victory. Admitting that one day we will have to shake death’s hand in the receiving line does not mean that we simply give up. We simply stop looking at darkness as just a paint that obscures and more a layer that provides complexity. For as we awake to light, so too must we interact with the dark. That does not mean that we need to become the friend that invites it to dwell incessantly within our homes. Rather, we should allow it to at least be able to have shelter on the front porch from the blazing sun. Death is as much a part of what makes us human as birth gives us the ability to become one. So rage not at dying light but at missed opportunities to shape its reach, even if it’s only temporary.