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Five Meditations on Death

In Other Words . . . On Life

Translated by Jody Gladding

Philosophical discussions on the ways that death makes life meaningful and sacred

• Reveals how being conscious of death gives our fate its full meaning, inviting the reader to contemplate life in the light of their own death

• Examines the author’s experience of ancestor worship in his native China and the beliefs that underlie it

• Explains how death is a transition in a longer living process not visible from the modern “black and white” view of life and death

• Translated by award-winning translator Jody Gladding

Born from intimate discussions with friends, these five meditations on death from poet-philosopher François Cheng examine the multiple ways the prospect of death significantly shapes life and is, in fact, what makes life meaningful and sacred.

Written at the age of 84, in the twilight of life, these meditations each approach the human understanding of death from different yet intertwined perspectives, effortlessly returning to certain themes and ideas, questioning them again more deeply with each passing. The author shows that death is a transition in a longer living process not visible from the modern “black and white” view of life and death. He examines his experience of ancestor worship in his native China and the beliefs that underlies it: Our ancestors are alive in another form, that what is living can never die and what is dead has never lived. Cheng looks at the consequences of a world that has abandoned the sacred and avoids the mention of death, a world now blindly staggering through the chaos it has created, yet which can return to balance if we once again embrace the essential sacredness of life as well as death.

Throughout these five heart-baring meditations, Cheng invites us to contemplate life in the light of our own death. He reveals that to be conscious of death gives our fate its full meaning. Our death is an integral part of our great adventure in becoming. For if birth is a seed, then death is the fruit--the final sacred product of a life well lived.

François Cheng was born in 1929 in Shangdong Province, China. He moved to France in 1949 and was elected to the Académie Française in 2002. He is a translator, calligrapher, and essayist, best known for his essays on Chinese art and poetry, as well as a renowned poet. He is the author of several novels and The Way of Beauty, a companion volume to Five Meditations on Death.

“No doubt I’d rather not think about death, yet I can see how it does bring us to some important questions. As I read Cheng’s meditations, I’m surprised at just how meaningful are the thoughts and ideas he’s putting forth. I found it profound how he took a pair of opposites--beauty and evil--and used them to show us how important death is to the overall Good. Each reader will gain something from this book that will make life more meaningful and the travails easier to bear. ”

– Intuitive Connections, Henry Reed, June 2016

“Make no mistake, this is not a morbid text requiring that we face the inevitable. It is rather a testament to life and an exploration of what gives life meaning.”

– Anna Jedrziewski, Spirit Connection, July 2016