For many years, I have signed my emails with the word "love" in the final line where "sincerely" often goes. This was originally a conscious experiment, and it has provoked the occasional upset (and in one instance downright hostile) comment from someone who felt that love was a somewhat limited commodity that should only be used sparingly lest we use it up and don't have any left for when it really matters.
What I discovered was perhaps unsurprising -- love is one of those renewable resources, where the more you give the more you have to give, and these days I don't give it a second thought.
Yet when someone signed off on a recent email to me with the words "Rest in peace," I found myself being the one getting upset. Was this a veiled threat? Did they have some insight into my state of health and this was their not so subtle way of letting me know?
It reminded me of one of the first jokes I ever remember hearing:
Late one evening, the chaplain comes to an army captain with a dilemma. He's just returned from town where he saw the young wife of Private Jenkins kissing and cuddling with another man. He doesn't want to be the one to break the news, but he doesn't feel he can keep it himself either.
The captain tells him not to worry and that he'll take care of it. The next morning at muster, while everyone is standing at attention, the captain orders all the happily married men in the unit to take one step forward. As they do, he calls out "Not so fast, Jenkins..."
When my thinking settled, I realized the phrase "rest in peace" reflects a rather beautiful sentiment, and that but for its funereal implications, it's something I would wish for any human being. It also occurred to me that only in an outside-in world, where it appears that our feelings come at the mercy of our circumstances, would it occur to us that we might have to wait until we're dead to "rest in peace."
What if we can rest in peace while being fully alive?
The nature of the human experience is that we live in the feeling of our thinking, not the feeling of the world. And peace is our natural state -- the space we are born into and return to whenever our thinking slows down. So our ability to rest in peace is not a function of how busy our lives are or how challenging our circumstances -- it's simply a matter of how often we are willing to take a pause in the midst of a busy mind and return to the beauty of this present moment.
Better still, peace isn't just a beautiful feeling -- it's the space in which miracles happen. It's a gateway to our inner wisdom and the mysteries of the universe. When we rest in peace, our body's recharge, our thoughts refresh, and our personal mind synchronizes with something larger and more universal.
Perhaps that's why "rest in peace" is such a common phrase when someone dies -- we intuitively recognize that the separate self has returned to the universal whole from which it came.
Of course, I don't know what really happens when we die, though I've read some fascinating accounts from people who've done it and lived to tell the tale. But I do know that it's not only possible to rest in peace while being fully alive, it's one of the most rewarding and ultimately practical ways to live.
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