Life and Death

It’s been over a week since James Zant died, and I’ve been meaning to write about it, but haven’t been able to make decent time for it. It’s probably better anyway that I had time to reflect on it more.

Mr. Zant was definitely one of the better teachers at Rosemead High School and one of the few who I feel made an impact on me. It wasn’t really what he taught that lives with me now, but the effect of his character. He had a great sense of humor, was very witty and sarcastic. He wouldn’t speak to us like we were fellow bar patrons, but he did gently introduce us to the type of language we’d encounter in what was to become the real world. And like everyone else I do remember how he like to keep his room cold no matter the temperature outside. I suppose most of all, I liked him because he actually seem to care and wanted to be there. It’s easy to find people who will show up, but hard to find those who will be there. I’m pretty sure teaching brats like us isn’t easy, so I hope Mr. Zant is getting his rest now.

This death, which most would say is premature, like others of it kind, seems to bring up the reaction in most people (who aren’t directly related to the deceased) that has them say something like, “reminds you how short life is,” and “makes you think, huh.” This kind of reaction bothers me. It makes me wonder: does it really take someone dying for the living to reevaluate their lives?

I see too many people just living their lives with little aim, just going with the flow and rarely stop to think about whether they’re really happy or not, or if they’re living their lives to the fullest. Until of course something like this happens. And even if it does, the effect wears off quickly and people start to forget and sink back into their ways. Perhaps that’s what really bothers me, and not really the initial reaction. First, it makes me think that the reaction is disingenuous and people merely offer it was a polite way to add something, anything, to the conversation. Then I wonder if that’s just part of our nature as humans and that we’re supposed to detach and continue as we were.

As a casual philosopher, I think about life and death all the time. So I’m not going to be one to say “oh, it makes you think doesn’t it?” because I’ve already done the thinking, or rather I’m already and still thinking. I’ve already started examining my life and asking myself if what I’m doing is worthwhile and if I’ll be content with dying at any time. I don’t need someone to die to get me to think about it. I suppose I can’t expect everyone to think so deeply about their existence all the time, but it might be refreshing if people did it more often and be prompted simply by an internal desire to do so.

I see too many people that just live their lives just working their 9-to-5’s, saving in their 401Ks so they can retire quietly and die. These people have little ambition and just a little sense about what they want to accomplish in life. They don’t want to die, but it seems like they don’t live much as it is either. Some of these people get a rude awakening in what people call a mid-life crisis, and I feel sorry for those people since they’ve lost so much time. I’m sure things weren’t like this for these people all of their lives and maybe just at some point they gave in and settled for less than their dreams. This kind of settling is unsettling to me.

I hope Mr. Zant felt comfortable enough about his life that he felt content about it at death. I can say that I at least try to live everyday in an attempt to make my dreams happen and I take every chance to live life to it’s fullest, and if I were to die at any moment, I wouldn’t have any regret for that. That is how I give respect to the dead. What say you? Are you living life to its fullest?

This post is dedicated to Mr. James Zant, Ebenezer Atiase (a RHS track star, who I got the opportunity to interview for the school newspaper and accidentally drowned during Cross Country camp), and Damon Zhao, my CS61A grader at Berkeley, who drowned during a canoeing outing . RIP y’all

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