We’re born dying


This image by Yale Stewart, writer/artist of the Web comic strip JL8, is really fascinating to me. Yes, there’s Superman and Batman standing there as children with their adult shadows behind them. There’s the obvious symbolism of the friendship and bond between Superman and Batman despite their vast personality differences as people and philosophies as heroes. And then there’s the idea; here are the heroes they’ll grow up to be manifest in shadow form.

And it got me to thinking: we’re born dying. The moment we are given life, we are also given death. From the onset, then, there is this large shadow cast behind us of what we can be, who we can become and our maximum potential. With every passing day, as we inch closer to death and every passing day we prolong the act of “living,” the shadow diminishes. The day we die is the day the shadow is gone and there’s no more potential, there’s no more becoming; there is only death, the death that we protracted for as long as we could the moment we were born.

I’m reminded of a Facebook status I shared yesterday. It was a friend quoting a friend of hers who had said, “If your dreams don’t scare you, then they’re not big enough.” My dreams terrify me. The supposed potential I have terrifies me. In other words, my looming shadow of what I can be before I’m dead? It scares the fuck out of me.

Honestly, it’s two-fold. On one hand, the promise of what I can be given the large shadow cast and the life to live possible therein, it’s daunting to approach and embrace. One of my biggest fears is getting to the end of my life regretting that I didn’t do everything possible to become the man I want to be; the man I’ve envisioned myself becoming. I only get one shot at this, there are no redoes and I do not want to fuck it up.

Yet, on the other hand, by equal measure, the shadow itself – the potential – chokes me, halts my momentum because it is so daunting to approach. So, in essence, I’m scared not to do it, but I am also scared to do it.

Some try to outrun their shadow with drugs, alcohol, laziness, violence, dead end jobs, unnecessary marriages, even unnecessary kids; all in an effort to fight back that person they can become. I’m not sure what my vice is; what my obstacle to what lives in my shadow truly is; why am I running?

I think in some sense, you have to embrace the darkness to gasp the lightness. That is, to understand who we are to become, we have to understand ourselves by stripping away everything; all of our insecurities, doubts, regrets, mistakes, misjudgments, wrongs, etc. and by doing so, then, we can fully see ourselves.

When I do so and I haven’t fully done so, but when I do so, I see a man scared of new realities, change, taking too big a leap, putting himself out there and pretty much all the hallmarks of being “reserved.” I have flashes of the opposite; moments where I embrace spontaneity, wildness and just trying something different, but otherwise? I’m clearly not there yet.

Someday, right? There’s always another day. Well, one day the shadow won’t be there. But at least then you won’t be conscious to contemplate its absence.

2 thoughts

  1. A very thoughtful philosophical question.

    A related question you might raise some day is what impact belief, or non-belief in “life after death” has on the choices a person makes in his/her life.

    Christians have often been criticized (sometimes rightly so) for not doing enough in this world because they are holding out for the next. I contend that a proper Biblical faith sees this life as a rehearsal for the next. Believing God created all things good and will one day restore “the heavens and the earth” even better than before, should motivate us to make the most of each moment — not afraid to die, but fully embracing the life we’re given.

    Thanks for stirring up my thoughts.


    1. Thank you for the feedback. Much appreciated.

      And that is an interesting way to look at it and one I could get behind with respect to how Christians ought to view the world.


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