"A strange thing happened as I accepted that I was about to die: I stopped being afraid." He then decided to "give my life to a cause greater than myself."
This, as a concept, fascinates me. I've met some truly great people in my life, and one thing they've had in common is that fear of death has no power over them. In particular, Chat Bowen, Buchenwald Survivor stands out.
Chat tells an amazing tale of being put in front of an SS firing squad that shouted and threatened him with the intent of scaring him into revealing information. Chat was an American Airman and had no business being in the Camp in the first place.
While this was happening, Chat says, a deep calm fell upon him, as though he'd flatlined. In that moment he realized that his end was already determined. He began to laugh at the guards, laugh at the camp, at the whole situation.
Scared the buh-jeebies out of the SS, apparently. He lived to tell his tale and still lives to this day in a Zen-like calm.
I've come close to death a number of times in my life, mostly silly ones - at the tip of a bull's horn, in the belly of a dormant volcano, on the edges of cliffs, so on and so forth. A couple times I came by entirely by circumstance - most vividly when I contracted e coli in Ecuador.
What these experiences have taught me is that we are all mortal; like Chat, I recognize what the end is and have no delusion that I can somehow escape it. Should death find me tomorrow, I'd be disappointed not to have more time as me, but wouldn't be afraid. I know what to expect.
There's something both empowering and infuriating in this way of thinking. The idea of time pressures takes on a whole different meaning; the fate of the world isn't determined in the space of one lifetime, much less four years, but has been determined since before time began.
That's the great secret.
We are drops in the ocean of space and time. Recognizing this, we need not fear what we have to lose, be it time or resources, but can focus on what we are part of.
That's the Undiscovered Country - not something that lies beyond, but something we have it in ourselves to become conscious of.