Arun Kumar
4 min readNov 25, 2023

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Internalizing Mortality

Mortality is very different when you’re 20 to when you’re 50 — Keanu Reeves

Arun Kumar

Northern hemisphere and it is the month of October.

In the place where I live at about 30o N, October is the month of transition from summer to winter. There is chill in the air and even if there were no calendars to look at, there are enough signs all around that changes are happening. Buddhist followers would say not to be surprised because impermanence is a fundamental tenet in the universe. And for a good measure they would have also added that clinging to things and wishing them not to change is an invitation to suffering.

But philosophy aside, October and autumn are wonderful times of year when the soul wants to transition into a few months of introspection. And of course, there will be no more yard work to do — cut the grass, weed the flower bed, protect the tomatoes vines from cutworms.

When October arrives, the Sun no longer stays so high in the sky and leaves are changing color. By 7 pm it is dark outside, but inside, it feels like we are inside of a cocoon feeling safe and warm.

October is a lovely time of transition that connects summer and winter. Going through the transition of the season there are gentle tides of emotions within that feel elevting and at the same time nostalgic.

One nostalgia is about my childhood days growing up India. October would have been the time to bring out the quilts for their storage and put them under the sun to get the smell of mustiness slowly evaporate in the air. I can see myself burying my face in the warmth of those quilts to take in musty aroma and feel the vague nostalgia of the passage of time.

Then I did not know what those emotions meant but they felt like there is a place somewhere in which days pass slowly under a crisp blue sky and winds bring the sounds of someone playing flute at a distance.

The fact is that going from summer to winter is a time for and remembrance of transitions.

With the perception of transition, I am reminded of two modes of living I have been through. What separated them was the awareness and internalization of mortality.

Before that transition mortality was just a passing thought, a meh that happened to others and was none of my concern.

In life after the internalization of mortality there is now an awareness that I share the same fate as everything around me; my time, my days are also numbered.

The internalization of mortality brought changes in perspective on how I view the world, what I strive for and why, what does the passage of time means.

The internalization of mortality is like looking at the world through different glasses. It is like going to an optometrist and a new prescription glass gets fitted, and when you walk out of the front door, the world holds a crispness that you did not existed.

The footprints of a change in perspective were evident during my recent visit to Milan.

While there, I did desire to rush and strive and to visit every Duomo or Piazza that were listed in the travel guide. There was a sense of realization that within the city there are so many monuments, nooks, and crannies that have an equally long history but there will never be enough time to see them all.

Heck, in the place I have been living for the past 30 years we have not yet visited places that tourists come to see.

Instead, it was much more pleasurable to go around at a leisurely pace seeing what one can, and then take a break to have a nice long lunch or dinner, or a cup of coffee with a fluffy buttery croissant.

That golden croissant relished would be remembered for a long time. What would not be remembered is flashes of camera and ending up with five hundred pictures that I would not ever have time to look through again.

The internalization of mortality, paradoxically, lets the pace of life slow down. The realization that time is finite does not result in a mad rush to try to do everything or checking every box from the bucket list. Instead, it urges to be mindful of the quality time spent while checking of a few boxes that one can.

The internalization of mortality should be the motto for the slow life movement. It is the proverbial suggestion to slow down and appreciate life.

Now I also have an urge to also type slowly and be thoughtful before the tips of my fingers hit the keyboard.

Soon it will be winter. A time for introspection. However, by the end of January I would be dreaming about going to some tropical island. I would be dreaming about spring and summer and freedom of stepping out on the back porch again. If I keep my patience, winter will slowly roll over into summer.

But not so with the transition that the internalization of mortality has brought. It is a one-way journey. Once the internalization of mortality sets in there is no going back. I don’t even want that to happen.

Life afterwards is more mindful, humble, and spaces around more expansive.

Ciao.

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