In Alchemy, this state of darkness or blackness is called Nigredo. It is a stage of development which symbolizes the dark night of the soul, the shadow, all of our fears and failures. But Nigredo also symbolizes the fecundity of the earth, the black soil's potential for growth and rebirth, and opportunity waiting to be seized. Going through the darkness, we become more conscious of ourselves and the world around us.
Negative experiences contain tremendous potential for growth. They shake us out of our comfort zone, forcing us to confront out deepest fears so that we can emerge stronger and re-energized and face our future with more awareness and gratitude. Here is what surviving coronavirus has taught me about life and death:
Such grief proves that what came before, that what we experienced, was meaningful and cherished. Nothing lasts, but nothing is lost if we grew from it, if it taught us something.
Life is short. In our youth we can never quite bring ourselves to believe it. But approaching middle age, we are forced to dispense with the heroic thinking that characterizes young adulthood as we understand that we may not yet realize every one of our dreams. There just isn't time to do it all. Our time and attention is priceless, and we must be mindful of where and how we spend it. We must prioritize what is most important.
When we prioritize what is most important, we are invited to turn within and work on ourselves, and to stop expecting so much of the world. After all, the world is out of our control. But we can change ourselves, we can grow into the fullness of what we are meant to be - the best version of ourselves - doing good by ourselves and by others.
Illness makes us reflect on our own aging process, our mortality. We are confronted with a grim awareness of time and finality. But being mindful of our eventual death, or Memento Mori, is the greatest motivator for us to do our best today and not put things off for the future. You never know what could happen. That future could never come.
Facing death forces us to reflect on our past conduct and imagine how we can improve ourselves in the time that is left to us. Doing out best means being as virtuous as we can be today. So long as we live, we still have time to work on ourselves, to improve our character, which will eventually be our legacy.
So, as Scruton says, be grateful. Be grateful for today. Be grateful for peace. For knowledge. For love. For all the little things that make for a lifetime of growth and fulfillment.
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