When one thinks of life and death, two colors come to mind: white and black. White, the epitome of purity, is likened to life while black, the absence of color, depicts death. Life is often thought of as the first start and a new beginning. A young child is like a mere bud in bloom. Just as the color white is pure and unmarked, so is life. In stark contrast to this is the concept of death, which is essentially the end of a chapter and the ceasing of existence. Black, the lack of color and the exact opposite of life, characterizes all that is dark and impure. The two concepts presented by the colors white and black form a dichotomy much like that which is exhibited by the notions of life and death. This, however, is only one perspective. Like life, death can be thought of as a new beginning and the start of another chapter in one’s existence. Life cannot have an opposite, really, because what could one compare to life? In regards to the colors white and black, one could argue that both are merely the absence of color in general, and not in direct opposition to each other. Rather, they are more similar to each other than to other shades and tones due to the fact that they are almost unidentifiable as a color, which is defined as “the quality of an object or substance with respect to life reflected by the object, usually determined visually by hue, saturation, and brightness of the reflected light” (dictionary.com). Louise Glück’s collection of poetry, The Wild Iris, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for its excellence in raising such questions as these. Throughout the work, it adeptly explores the concepts of life and death, and offers both comparisons and contrasts between the two. Like life, death can be considered something new. Though one cannot compare the similarities or contrast the differences between life and death without having been in both situations, Glück manages to offer both viewpoints. From the biological standpoint, life is the only state of being that has the ability of reproduction. Under normal circumstances, one has the ability to create their own offspring. This is in stark contrast to that which is death. In The White Lilies, Glück seemingly comments on this topic when she writes, “As a man and woman make a garden between them like a bed of stars, here they linger in the summer evening….” Within one’s life, the ability to move, eat, drink, breathe and love, among an infinite amount of others, is given. These are abilities that one may perhaps take for granted and are not able or given in death. As far as we know, it is simply impossible. For us, as people roaming the earth, there is nothing outside of life. In life there is everything, in death, we have nothing. When one is alive, s/he has the benefit of the five senses and is able to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. One’s body is the machine operated by and supporting one’s mind. Once the machine is worn out, the support for the mind is gone. The mind then ceases to exist. Essentially, the difference between life and death is everything - they have no commonality. As long as one’s life exists, there is still a source of hope, as well as people, places, activities, etc. to look forward to; a chance to make a chance. Once one has ceased to exist, nothing exists anymore, certainly not in the same way it had before, and all hopes and chances are gone. This is one of the most significant differences between life and death – the opportunity for more time to hope and dream and do. If one spends his/her time thinking and worrying about the possibility of an imminent, or perhaps not so imminent death, then s/he is certainly not living his/her life to the fullest. Obsessing over any thing or topic disallows one from truly living. Glück offers her observation on this matter, stating in The White Lilies “Hush, beloved. It doesn’t matter to me how many summers I live to return: this one summer we have entered eternity” (Glück). In this passage, it is clear that Glück comments on the fact that one should live his/her life in a manner that permits him/her to enjoy the time given to live. Focusing on one thing to an irrational degree makes one forget about a myriad of other matters that may perhaps need attention. Can we live life to the fullest even though we know that we are going to die? Can we live our lives to the fullest even though we know we only have a short time to live? My answer to this question is of course. One’s life should not revolve around the fact that we are all going to die; it is about how we choose to handle the fact. This is the way in which we can live life to its fullest. If we had all the time in the world, we would be too lazy and unrushed to do all the things that we are doing now! Take the example of an unemployed person and someone who is working. Scientists designed a test: They gave a postcard to a housewife and a business woman to send. The housewife sent it after two weeks while the businesswoman sent it that same afternoon. This exemplifies the point that when one’s time is limited, it is managed and arranged better, and one can be more organized and more creative. Though life and death pose a striking dichotomy, this is not the only aspect of their relationship. Where there is life, there is death too. As we were born unto this life, we will leave it unto death. It is unavoidable and irreversible as in the existentialist philosophy. And a question that I ask myself is: if I fear death, then I must be living a happy and contented life and if I fear life, then I must be living in a cave, a dungeon, an unreal digitized virtual world.” But what is a happy and contented life, it is one simple feeling and it is what we call love.” I think life can only be lived to the fullest when we come to grips with death and accept that it is a journey that all of us must take, and that death is in fact a step that is integral to life. It is those who live in constant fear of death that do not live full lives. They are constantly looking around the next corner, afraid to take risks or do what their hearts tell them because their fear of death prevents them from doing so. Or even worse, their fear of what comes AFTER death. In my perspective, one must give up the notion that they will burn in hell or be punished forever or that they should not live a certain way. Some hold the belief that these notions are a concoction of religion in order to control the masses through fear, and that it is not a reality. Coming to grips with death and what comes after is an integral aspect of living a full life. It could make all the difference between living a life of peace and serenity or constant fear and anxiety. Life can be lived to its fullest when one understands that this life is temporary and that whatever situation one finds himself/herself in, it will one day be over. In The Gold Lily, Glück seemingly comments on this topic of life in dire straits, but in relation to the existence and belief of God, writing, “How can they know you see us unless you save us?” She appears to be questioning God, almost challenging Him to save those who live in situations that are less than desirable in order to prove His existence. Life and death pose a dichotomy that is strikingly different and similar as the colors white and black. One may believe that living is creating and death is destroying, and that life is the beginning and death is the end, supposing that life and death oppose each other. But the viewpoint that life and death are alike is often overlooked. We all have these two things in common. Life and death may be considered two sides of the same coin. We are both living and dying each moment through our thoughts, sensations, cells, etc., which exist for a moment before dying away. A breath is born and then dies with the out breath. Death is inevitable and living moments are immortal. The lines between life and death, and white and black are blurred throughout The Wild Iris. Everything is both living and dying, or as Glück writes in Heaven and Earth, “Where one finishes, the other begins” (Glück).
“Do you fear death more than you fear life?”
Answer to your questions
I hope that there is no more need of answering your questions separately. I tried to answer to all of them within the paper so that with reading this paper reader will found out the reason of choosing this book. It was a very inspiring book for me since we lost everything that belonged to us 5 years ago. We moved to USA in 2005 and had to begin our life from nothing. This book inspired me and my husband to go back to school again and gave us the vigor to take care of our small family, work fulltime and at the same time be a full time student in persistence of building our life and bring it to the same level as before. As I mentioned trough out my paper “coming to grips with death and what comes after is an integral aspect of living a full life and life can be lived to its fullest when one understands that this life is temporary.”
Dictionary.com. "color." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 20 May 2007. . Glück, Louise. The Wild Iris. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1992. Mythography. “Greek Mythology.” Mythography. May 2007. 20 May 2007. . Wikipedia. “Louise Gluck.” Wikipedia. April 2007. 20 May 2007. .