No Death, No Life: A Doctor’s Search for the Meaning of Death and the Joy of Life

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9781943625376: No Death, No Life: A Doctor’s Search for the Meaning of Death and the Joy of Life
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No Death, No Life begins with my experience as a doctor, first in medical school and later in a career that spans forty years of general medical practice. I have also spent considerable time studying both western and eastern philosophies, including meditation and Zen. But, this book is not an autobiography. While the book draws on vignettes from my life, it ultimately seeks to summarize useful tools I have discovered along the way that anyone can use to live life happily in the present moment, whether or not they believe they will experience a life after death. Initially focusing the book on my medical career provides a foundation for my observations about death, while the narrative chapters on Zen Buddhism describe how I learned surprising new ways to get along better with other people and attain true happiness.

It was the practice of meditation that enabled me to eventually see the connection between the meaning of death and the joy of life. One day I was meditating when “out of the blue” I had an a-ha moment, a stroke of insight, when I suddenly realized the wisdom of “no death, no life”. This nonreligious secular insight allows us to accept, with peace and equanimity, the death of a loved one as well as our own inevitable death—and not be consumed with anger, fear, and despair.

The book includes an extensive review of what modern-day Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh teaches about how to best get along with other people, transform negative emotions, and achieve true and lasting happiness.

Another section examines the teachings of the Greek philosopher Epicurus and the Dutch philosopher Spinoza, comparing them to teachings of the ancient Indian sage known as Buddha. There are some important similarities between the worldviews of Epicurus, Spinoza, and Buddha: All three believed in the benefits of focusing our awareness on what is happening in the present moment rather than being concerned about what happens in an afterlife.

There is also a long discussion about the role, if any, for spirituality and soul in our lives. The conclusions reveal a powerful purpose for a type of secular spiritualism that informs and enhances our being.

No Death, No Life is written in a narrative style that allows these difficult concepts to be developed in a way that is compelling, understandable, and readable. It includes some elements of poetry, for poetry is often the most succinct and impactful way to express ideas of the heart. And, poetry often contains a degree of mystery that leaves room for individuals to interpret these ideas in a personal way.

This book presents the ups, downs, and obstacles along my path—the path of a doctor. No Death, No Life explains how the meaning of death is found in the joy of life, and finds a lot of room for optimism and happiness along the way.

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Gabriel Weiss MD
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Weiss MD, Gabriel
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