By Lynn Seiser
Today is a good day to die
“Today is a good day to die.” The old chief has lived by this saying his whole life. It has made him a fierce warrior with unconquerable courage. Today was his day to die. He knew it. He was prepared. He slowly climbed the ladder to lie down on his funeral pyre. He would close his eyes and join his ancestors. As he lies there waiting his time to die, he listens to the chanting and the drums. The sky becomes dark with clouds and it begins to rain. The raindrops fall on the old chief’s eyes. Finally he looks around, wondering if he was now in the land of his ancestors. He sees only his son. With a slight smile he says, “Sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m hungry, let’s get something to eat.” The old chief would continue to live as if each day were “a good day to die”, but that wasn’t going to be today.
This is actually one of my favorite scenes from the old movie “Little Big Man”. It is the story of one man’s journey between two worlds. One world is his world of birth, his white supposedly civilized world. The other is the world in which he was raised, the world of the Native Americans he called “human beings”. The scene above from that movie reflects the way of the warrior, the way of magic, and the way of the everyday world.
The way of the warrior is to accept death as a natural part of life. Birth and death are opposites. We make the natural transition from our mother’s womb into the world at birth. Death is another natural transition. Death is inescapable. If we are born, we will all die someday. Since it is a natural process it needs to be allowed to take its course and not hurried. The process of living can be severely hampered by the fear of death. It was once said that “everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die”. If we truly believed we were going to a better place, would we be afraid?
Warriors believe that an “honorable” death will assure them a better place, so they live without fear. Warriors know that dying is easy, it is living that is hard. I often ask my clients if today were the last day of their life, what would they want to do and with whom? I also have people go into the future to their last day and discover where they want to end up. They bring that knowledge back with them into today. “Today is a good day to die” is balanced by “Today is a good day to live”.
The way of magic is the acceptance of unseen energies. At times magic is simply standing in awe at a beautiful sunrise, sunset, a child’s laughter, or your lover’s smile. Simply because we cannot find the rational intellectual words to describe this unseen magic doesn’t make it any less real. The old ways of magic were not to conjure up these energies to do our bidding. That type of magic was more of myth and media. Real magic doesn’t need to conjure up energy; it is accepted as already there. We do not direct the flow of real magic; it directs us. Real magic is very humbling.
The Hopi Indians had a saying, “Don’t push the river, it flows by itself.” We often try to push our lives in directions it does not want to go. Many people spend their lives swimming upstream instead of enjoying the natural currents of the water. The old chief understood this. On some days he was in tune with the natural flow of life and the magic worked. On other days, he may have been too much into his own ideas, totally missed the messages, was out of the flow of energy, and on those days the magic just didn’t work.
The everyday world is what is. After realizing that today was not his day to die the old chief was hungry. If it was not his day to die, then it was his day to live. He went about living it. The magic of dying had not happened. It was time for the magic of living another day. Recovery programs suggest we learn to take life one day at a time.
That does not mean to disconnect from our past. The past holds many stories to tell by the fire or at the kitchen table. It does not mean to disconnect from the future. The future holds our direction and our dreams. It simply means that on that same lifeline, our life journey, today is the only day in which we are present. Tomorrow’s stories of honor and magic, or pain and regrets, are the direct product of the actions you choose today and everyday. Choose wisely.
There are many times in anyone’s life when they thought this would be a good time to die, only to live another day. There are many times we thought we had it all figured out, but the universe did not turn out as we had anticipated. Many things are far beyond our personal magic. That is as it is and as it should be. As long as today is not our day to die, let us accept the magic that is naturally available to us if we walk every day with honor.
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of services, and for sharing the everyday magic of the journey.
Lynn Seiser, Ph.D., is an internationally respected psychotherapist in Seal Beach, CA with more than twenty years of direct clinical experience in recovery counseling for offenders and victims of violence, trauma and abuse. He is known for his work in “holistic” recovery from addictions with an emphasis on “healthy relationships. Lynn is a consultant, speaker and writer and may be contacted at (562) 799-1371. Check out his website at www.members.aol.com/SeiserL/index.html .
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