Dead Standing

This week I started reading John Buchan's last novel, Mountain Meadow. The plot is summed up about a successful man, Leithen who learns from his doctor that he may only have one year left to live due to his health. He was not discontented, but was dissatisfied with the idea of dying in a hospital bed surrounded by mournful family and friends. But quickly he is presented with a retrieve and return mission that would entail marching through the wilderness of Canada to find a man he did not even know. Buchan writes of the idea of dying standing up. Dying standing up? Is that even possible? In fiction it is literally possible, but in reality it is conceptually possible.

What is the attempt made of dying standing up as a concept? This is not what separates the men from the women, but more so the noble and honorable from the feeble and helpless. This is not to say that the latter descriptions are at all wrong; just not preferred. Buchan made it clear that Leithen was not scared of death; so we assume he is a futilitarian as he understood the simplest of principles of science and philosophies - what goes up, must come down. Another distinction is to be made here. Leithen was not having thoughts of jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle, because that would be foolhardy, but mostly vainglorious. He did not want people to hear about his death and say, "cool!" He wanted them to say with solemn inflection, "That man was great." or "He was noble."

To what cause would it be to die standing up? Should this desire to die standing up even be on our minds; is it too prideful? I would argue that it is near impossible to take pride in this sentiment purely from its acknowledgment of death. Again, I return to futility as we are all but dust. There are different ways to die though. One: That the coward dies in the fetal position. Two: The clowns that dies spread eagle so that they are hard to fit into the coffin. You may see my point that these are inferior to dying standing up.

This is not a call to men that they should seek out all possible dangers so that they can die amidst it. Again, I say it lacks nobility and honor to do so. There is the soldier who just wants to shoot and kill, and then there is the soldier who loves his country. In other words, the person who has found enjoyment in his toil and would like to die doing it. Ending his life on a good note. To die doing what we love is such lovely thought that it waltzes into our brains and we don't even realize we hold it as preferable.

We must admit to ourselves that there are greater and lesser ways to die standing up. There is the farmer who may die while working in the field, and then there is Beowolf at the end of The Thirteenth Warrior who actually died physically sitting on his throne but conceptually died standing up. And how could we not honor such nobility.

In summation, we are not creating a bucket list of fun things to do, but sacrificing the very last minutes of your life to be a benefit to others.

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