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About departures and death

I feel like I’ve spent the entire week doing little else than saying good bye to people I love in various senses of that word. In less than a week, I’m leaving Taiwan, the country that has been my home for almost two years. I feel that life is like water, the more I try to grasp it and keep it close, the quicker it runs through my hands and is gone. Even if I return to Taiwan in the future, the time I have spent here is gone forever and will remain only as memories.

The above paragraph is a good summary of how I feel right now, even though I can easily break that kind of attitude down and show why it’s flawed, at least to myself. I also know that this is a transitory state of mind and that it’s far from how I usually regard life. Because leaving a country is just one aspect of a deeper problem, only the tip of the iceberg. Life in general is very much like this, but does that mean that a negative outlook described above is the only reasonable one?

Absolutely not!

Alan Watts once said that being born is like being thrown over a precipice and we all know that we are going to die at the end of that fall when we hit the ground, and that’s it. Therefore, the point of living is not to accumulate something that has a semblance of permanence, because whatever it is, that will also come to an end when we die.

So, what is the point, then? It is to live and experience things as we fall to our deaths. Since death is an integral part of life, as much as birth is, it should not be feared or have too much influence on the way we live. The point is what we choose to do with the time we have, not what we manage to accumulate during that time. Check the clip below to hear Alan Watt’s describe this by using music as an analogy (the animation is rather silly and of course added by someone else):

Apart from this principle of simply spending time in a way I think is worthwhile, I also try to avoid things that will stop me from doing that in the future. Borrowing huge sums of money to do what you want to do now might make you unable to continue doing things you want to do later, but studying something you enjoy might even earn you some money and make sure you can keep doing things you want to do. Living in Taiwan has mostly been something I do because I enjoy it, but it might also be useful in various ways.

Leaving Taiwan is probably the biggest emotional change in my life and probably the most difficult one as well. The change is a lot bigger than moving to Taiwan in the first place, because I only left Sweden with the intention of coming back again to pick up things where I left them. Sure, I leave Taiwan with the intention of coming back some time in the future for some unknown purpose and duration, but thaẗ́̈́’s only an idea, a concept, not a plan. I know that most of the people I say good-bye to I will never meet again. That indeed is something that has provoked much thought.

Do I regret coming here then, because it now comes to an end? Is it worth falling in love with something or someone, even though you know that you’re rushing towards the ground with every heartbeat and that you are inevitably going to crash?

Of course it is worth it!

I have done very few things in my life that I regret and going to Taiwan is certainly not one of them. I would make that decision a hundred times over without the slightest regret. If I had the choice, I would fall in love with the same people again and I would part with them again, even though it would be painful. The point is what we do with our time, not the inevitable crash at the end, because whatever we do, there will be a final collision of some kind.

I will miss Taiwan a lot, but I will miss some people here more than words can possibly express. I’m not going to write anything about specific people, I think those involved know that without my explaining it here. But precisely as death is a necessity of life, departure is also a necessity of arrival. Life goes on and there is no real reason to feel sad about leaving Taiwan, although I might be difficult for a short time, it’s simply a change among many. The change is neither good or bad, it simply is. Every choice opens some doors and closes others.

Furthermore, the digital society we live has shrunk space a lot, which means that there are no final departures any more. Fifty years ago, you would not be able to read what I think about this so conveniently. Likewise, I would not be able to keep in touch with you, regardless of where we are located on the globe.

I still have time left here in Taiwan, though, even if it’s only a few days, and it’s time to leave the computer to meet yet a few people for what might be the last time. This will make me feel a bit sad, but on the whole, I will feel happy to meet them again rather than sad about that it might be the last time. Death and departures are scary concepts when we encounter them without forewarning or reflection, but after a closer look, they are both natural parts of life and nothing to fear.

We might be falling to our deaths, but with the right attitude, the tingling sensation in our stomachs can be interpreted as exhilaration rather than fear.

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  1. Chris’s avatar

    Nicely written and thanks for that Alan Watts clip, the final line was wonderfully poignant.

    Good Luck with everything Olle, I’m sure you’ll make a fine teacher in the future!


  2. Michael Cannon’s avatar

    Olle, safe travels and happy memories to you on the future. Thank you for all of your writing these past couple of years.


  3. Anonymous’s avatar

    Varje möte är början till ett avsked..
    Väldigt fint Olle.


  4. Eddie’s avatar

    Grymt inlägg! Det summerar känslan jag själv hade när jag lämnade Taiwan första gången. Den känslan jag får varje gång jag lämnar Taiwan. Men den avtar för varje gång och livet går vidare. Det är bara att kämpa på.