A Veil So Thin…

Death is a mystery. That death is a mystery brings life into the realm of the unknown because life and death are inextricably linked. The word mystery comes from mystes, ‘one who has been initiated,’ which comes from the form myein, ‘to shut the eyes’ as in, only the initiated are allowed to witness secret rites. Why are our eyes closed to the ultimate end? There are many things we can discover in a lifetime, and over the millennia humans have revealed much about their own existence, but no one can supply a definitive about death, except to say that it’s inevitable.


Most, including myself, have a fear of death.  When faced with the possibility of it while climbing I think one must have some kind of personal philosophy about it. I’ve met other climbers that aren’t concerned in the least about dying. They are not careless, but carefree. I wonder if this is denial, or recognition of death.

Any religious person will give to you what they consider the correct answer to the question of death. For Christians, it is a simple matter of accepting Jesus Christ as your savior; after death comes everlasting life in heaven. The problem is, heaven is not a tangible thing, or you can’t go there on holiday and come back with a tan. One can think about heaven, pray about it, talk about it, believe devoutly in it but until you go, there’s just no way to know. Tibetan Buddhists believe that after 59 days of travelling through many levels of reality the soul is safely delivered to the afterlife where the spirit finds another physical form to inhabit. Spiritual adepts will tell you that they are intimately acquainted with these worlds. Once again, we, the living, stand on the other side of the blackened veil that does not allow us to see to the other side.

Examples are many and varied, but ultimately one must have faith in a religion, or another spiritual discipline to say they ‘know’ what awaits them in the other world. Who knows? Annie Dilliard, “trying to know anything is like trying to get a coffee ground out of a cup of water, you just end up pushing it around.” I don’t, and don’t pretend to know. Sometimes just thinking about being hundreds of feet in the air on a rock face with nothing but an inch or less to stand on or hold makes my palms sweaty. Thinking about climbing a rock face is not the actual doing. While climbing, I find my concentration so intense that there can be nothing else to think about except for what I’m doing in the exact moment. I would make the argument that we are all just like a climber on a rock face – though we may feel secure and sure that we know what is over the next peak, we really don’t know.

A famous climber dies in a car crash after being hit by a drunk driver. In Sweden a climber packs his bicycle with all he will need to ride to Nepal, and then carries all of his gear(solo), including his bike, to the Everest base camp, completes two solo summits on Mt. Everest (without oxygen) and rides back to Sweden. A short time later our Swedish climber is climbing in Vantage, Washington while on holiday, on a very easy climb, and falls to his death. No matter how skilled we think we are in living and avoiding our demise, death takes us on what would seem a whim.

[1]The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, ed. Robert K. Barnhart, HarperResource,1995



About onepercussive

I'm 48 haven't stopped moving since 2. Born in New Orleans, but have traveled the world. Please look for my upcoming work Coalfire Diaries. View all posts by onepercussive

5 responses to “A Veil So Thin…

  • William Speakes

    I have a respect for death more than a fear. I know it is inevitable and I believe I know what happens when I die, but I don’t want to die. I don’t want this grand adventure to end. I’m not interested in thte next adventure, I’m still enjoying this one. Like a climber, you have to look at the entire face, but focus on the nextr hand-hold first, I believe that those that say they have no fear of death or dying are really just saying they respect it or believe they understand it. They have looked over the entirety of their lives and seen where they believe it will end and they are happy with it; they can move on. Or there are those of us theat believe we know how it is going to end, but not how we are going to get there so we are always more anxious than fearful of death or dying. If I died in the next few hours, toorrow, next week, next month, newxt year, whatever, I will not have died a happy man. I want more out of life because I expect so little of death. Therefore those that are calm and “fearless” about the whole situations believe they know that death holds more to them, maybe even more than life. I applaud them and wish I could be like that, but I just can’t and your fear or appprehension of death comes from either little to no knowledge or a knowledge that death is not some grand adventure, but the end of a life. Personally I believe that those who are “carefree” about the subject were misguided fools, but thats just me. I’ve said a lot so I think I’ll just hit the “post comment” button now …

    • onepercussive

      What we fear most are usually the things we understand the least. Really, my point is about that line in the ether which prevents us from really knowing the truth of what comes after the last breath.

  • cavalrytales

    Nice post.
    I’d like to believe in God, I really would: because death is a chemical reaction failing but life is…something you can’t duplicate in a lab. So there’s something untenable there, which has to exist for the latter and must continue after the former. That, I can believe.
    Sudden death? For every event there are an infinite number of possible outcomes. Chaos, basically. Fate. You can’t do anything about it if you want any sort of life, so why worry?
    Good Lord – fancy me, telling a complete stranger my innermost thoughts!

    • onepercussive

      It is my goal to get a response from those that read my work; I really don’t see the point otherwise. I don’t mean that I want everyone to respond here, although that would be nice, but really I’m happy to know that a chord has been struck, strummed or broken.

  • Sharon Jones

    Aha! In order to subscribe to this site, I had to click on comments first, and then the little thing popped up below that said, “subscribe by email” (sneaky I must say!) I don’t know why wordpress doesn’t make it easier to follow these blogs) But, now I will be following you Greg!
    See you on the Writer’s circle!
    Sharon 🙂
    PS. I know, I know, this has nothing at all to do with death. (sorry)

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