DEATH here was period in my mid twenties when enjoying the simple pleasures of life seemed to be an unattainable dream. Like many young adults I was going through my own personally crafted identity crisis, one brought on by a perceived and profound sense of existential isolation exacerbated by relentless angst typical for that age group. I felt flawed and separated from myself and from others. I had come to the foreboding conclusion that every action that I had tried in the past year in an attempt to extract myself out of my chronic rut of negativism had not succeeded. I didn't know what else to try. I feared my fate was spiraling into oblivion, the result of no longer caring that I didn't care. Considering how apathetic I actually felt at the time I had probably already obtained that goal. It was classic depression. From my point of view, life had failed me, or perhaps I had failed life. One day, in the midst of this personal fugue-like state I was driving my silver gray Honda Civic northbound on Midvale Boulevard towards the cross section of University Avenue. It was a mundane driving action I had performed countless times in the past. This time however, as I rolled my car to a stop, mindlessly obeying the red light, something unexpected happened. Without a struggle and with no forethought, I surrendered. I slipped into darkness and ceased to exist. I died. Then, as if jolted back to life by a cosmic deliberator I was slammed back into the driver's seat. Disoriented, I looked around. I quickly scanned the interior of my car. I looked out all the windows and listened to the sounds of bustling traffic. It was daylight... the intense daylight! It was as if someone had within a nanosecond spun the volume and lighting controls up to maximum. I realized that over the past year I must have been gradually turning the controls down millimeter by millimeter, week after week, month after month. I must have reduced my external senses to a point where my surroundings felt no more tangible than a muffled gray whisper. I felt bewildered but also excited. What had just happened to me! All I knew was that someone, some distant stranger that had been inhabiting this body had just died. But here "I" was, back in the driver's seat, with full possession of the prior dead person's memories fully intact. I confronted an unexpected revelation. It no longer mattered what prior tribulations this prior individual who had inhabited my body must have endured. What mattered was that a new "me" had been reborn out of the ashes of a prior discarded life. I noticed the traffic light had turned green. What do I do next? I hadn't a clue. I put my car in gear, stepped on the accelerator and drove through the crossroad. LIFE It would have been tempting to have concluded the telling of my transformation at the stoplight juncture - as if life had wrapped itself up into a neat little package. To have done so, however, would have been a misleading account of what happened. While I knew I had been reborn in every literal sense of the experience, I had also been brought back with all the memories and feelings of my prior past-life self fully intact. I did not fully comprehend the ramifications of being in full possession of all those past- life memories assigned to a no longer living stranger. As time marched on, and much to my dismay, I realized that I seemed to be once again reassembling all my prior faults and foibles. I was becoming moody, apathetic, even suicidal. The reborn "me" was slowly devolving back to my discarded past-life. In hindsight I did not realize it at the time, an awareness which has taken decades to slowly unravel, that my memories, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings were nothing more than just that: my memories, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings. When I had been "reborn" I did not fully comprehend the profound ramifications, the gift of having just experienced the "death" of my entire accumulated perceived sense of "self". I had not prepared myself to consider what I might want to do with all of my past and future expectations essentially assigned to a discarded stranger. How could I inculcate this precious gift of death, followed by resurrection? What new opportunities awaited me? Time marched on. Decades later I have come to realize that I have lived through a series of transformative passages, some better experienced than others. I also began to realize that some of those passages had occurred prior to my dramatic "death" and "rebirth" experiences. In  hindsight, they were all equally educational. It would seem that I have gradually come to realize a simplicity that all my passages have been patiently trying to teach me. It is a distillation of something effortless, an awareness that only in my later years it would seem I may have finally allowed myself to once again surrender into more consciously. It has been my experience that "reality" is best perceived when not taken too literally, or seriously. Perhaps it won't take you as long as it took me to realize that when one is "On The Path" searching to find one's True Self or the ultimate Meaning-Of-Life, the Universe, and Everything, it's a journey where the goal can never be reached, the paradox being: One can never find that which was never lost. - Steven Vincent Johnson
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Death and Life
Steven Vincent Johnson
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