Earlier this week, an AirAsia flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur had to urgently return to Perth mid-flight after an engine ruptured, which caused the plane to shake violently. After being notified by the captain of a serious problem with the aircraft (so serious that he suggested the passengers say a prayer), a priority of many of these terrified passengers, in what could have been their final moments, was to try and make phone contact with their loved ones. A natural response in these types of circumstances that is yet not really understood, this piece will seek to elucidate why these passengers acted as they did when faced with the imminent prospect of death.
In a society where its members abhor the thought of dying, it is unsettling to have to contemplate a scenario like the one above. We have a tendency to act like we are going to live forever, and although we comprehend with the mind that we could die at any moment, we frequently deny that reality by taking for granted that we will live to see the day out. Every day, people die unexpectedly and what is left behind are unexpressed emotions and unfulfilled plans. The father dies without his son having heard how truly proud his dad was of the man that he had become. A best friend dies in an accident, leaving future occasions bereft of her company.
It is true that life is fragile, and as we embrace this truth, so can we infuse every breath with a love that yearns to perpetually express itself. Born in love, it is only natural that the deepest part of who we are would want to leave the physical world immersed in this same eternal love that is never born and never dies. Having its foundation in the metaphysical dimension, it is eternal love that is characteristic of our spiritual nature. Calling for love’s unhindered expression, this becomes effortless when we align with our true nature, and do not allow our ego to resist its flow.
To resist death is to restrain the flow of love that is characteristic of life. Being life’s counterpart, it is the shadow of death that has much to teach as it follows us. Teaching us that this moment is all that we truly have, it is this day that it would not have us waste with egoic concerns and trivial pursuits. Many of us live our lives with the nagging feeling that we are missing the essence of life. Consumed with getting ahead, we forget that the true essence of life is only to be found in the here and now. Remembering this as we put ourselves in the position of these airplane passengers, a new perspective emerges that gives us the permission to be free. No longer do we have to settle for an artificial and unfulfilling existence, for with every choice to love comes new life that the realm of form cannot take away.
With moments to live, it would be the things that matter least which would fade like the clouds on a summer’s day. Wanting only to bring contentment to our heart, we would not think to call the office to wind up our business, or call our financial advisor for a final assessment of our net worth. Who we would call are the ones who mean the most to us. These are our spouses/partners, parents, children, or our closest friends. What we would say are the words that each of us yearns to hear from the ones who we care the most about, ‘I love you’. With these words would come others that express the same sentiment. Love speaks most eloquently, and with this clarity it is beyond reproach. Being what we cannot deny because of its identity in spirit, this eternal love is what heals the heart and cleanses the mind of the misperceptions that in the ego’s company, we take to be reality.
In the moments before his death at the hands of a gunman, Gandhi showed us the way to an inspired life. Mouthing the words, “Krishna, Krishna”, it was love that he chose to be his final message. Knowing love to be the only way, it is what he could not withhold as he returned to oneness. In the company of spirit he walked, and by his example, we can learn to do the same. The choice to love need not be reserved for our final moments on the physical plane, for being abundant in its presence, it is what we can embody here and now, in the holy instant that always lives and never dies.