At birth, through no fault of our own and much against our will, we are muscled out of our personal universe, forced into an alien world full of much larger beings with expectations and hopes and intentions unfathomable to us. Food must be swallowed. Warmth is not a given, as it once was. Every action becomes more challenging in every way.
The familiar voices that were previously muddled by placental fluid change and become harsh to our recently exiled ears. The shadowy fingers that once caressed the wall of our abandoned fortress become tactile rather than visual, solidly interactive and comprehensive. As our perspectives shift, as our optic nerves translate light for us in a wholly unfamiliar fashion, we are forced to reckon with a new species, a new universe, in a shocking and traumatic way.
We are, for all intents and purposes, ejected from life as we know it, and never allowed to return.
And so, our welcome to earth, while it may be a joyful and celebratory occasion for those who brought us through, is not actually very pleasant for us at all. For us, it is, in fact, a kind of death as much as it is a birth. We say good-bye, permanently, to everything we relied upon and loved. We say good-bye to a way of life. We breathe differently, hear differently, sleep differently, feel differently. We die to what we once knew.
This is not all bad. There is love and care and hope. There is a new home to be made, a new life in this death. Birth is a beautiful gift. But, no matter how true this may be, the fact remains that birth is a kind of death just the same.
As this life becomes more familiar, we learn to fear the next muscular ejection, the next departure from all we know, the next death. We know it's coming, this non-negotiable aspect of life, and we dread the transformation. We dread the next realm both because it is completely unknown and because some small part of us remembers how it felt to come into this one. Will the shadowy hand that rests on the wall of our being find a way to touch us and physically engage with us, at last, in ways we can only imagine now, deep in the Pineal Gland? Will that cosmic voice, that creator, that caregiver, that unknowable one who sustains us, join us for the next long haul, in person? Will our calls be answered, there?
Perhaps most frightening of all, will there be nothing? Will we lose consciousness completely? Will the lights go off?
We cannot know, of course. This makes us all the more fearful of our mortality, all the more reticent to embrace its reality. We cling to this body, knowing how fragile it is. We cling to this way of life, believing it to be the only way of life.
However, if we examine the experience of leaving the womb, and explore the inevitable voracity with which we sought to return to it, can we not also consider this life to be a kind of womb as well? At birth, we wanted nothing more than to return to the uterus, the placental sac, the singularity of life as we once knew it. And now, in this life, most of us want nothing more than to stay here. Most of us do not want to die.
And yet we must. And in so doing, we will adjust. We always, unfailingly, adjust to transformation. We came of age in this foreign place, to such an extent that now we don’t want to leave. Perhaps the next stage of being will bring with it similar challenges, but with those challenges, perhaps we will find a universe that is beyond anything we can imagine now. Perhaps, upon entry, we will forget this one. Perhaps this gorgeous life that we so appreciate is the precursor to the next, another rung on a ladder that carries us upward.
Or perhaps not. Regardless, if birth is a kind of death, it stands to reason that death is a kind of birth. And that birth might be something to rejoice in, rather than dread. It might be the very thing we seek.