Being Towards Death
文、 译/ 林巍1
 When people are young they rarely relate their daily lives to death. But later experiences tell them the angel of death can actually knock on the door at any moment of any age.
 Previously, we may have thought “death” is a taboo subject in which there is little point in discussing. But again, what happens repeatedly shows us its necessity as part of our lives. Just think about this: of the numerous uncertainties in our lives, the only sure thing is death. From the very moment of our conception we move towards this ultimate termination. Such an issue of priority in our lives is worth everyone’s contemplation and shouldn’t be left merely to philosophy or religion.
 I have recently read a book entitled Sperm War, which provides a theoretical insight into what life is about: everyone had a few millionths chance of becoming their current “self” but has one hundred percent certainty of death. Death actually completes a perfect lifecycle, which few people want to reject.
 In the Chinese language, the two characters si wang (death) denote two meanings: wang means instant decease and si is the process of death. In this sense, we are all in the process of “being towards death”. Based on an average lifespan, a person exists in this world for around thirty thousand days. The clock is ticking for us, but we busy ourselves with our daily concerns and often ignore that, until at a certain time we pause in the sudden realization of how many days have gone by. Pitifully, everything in the past is but the twinkling of an eye when recollected, be one ten, fifty or a hundred years old.
 “Being towards death” is nothing but an attitude of life’s wisdom. No one can experience and survive one’s own death (so he or she would be senseless to attempt that) but only experience the deaths of others – from an opposite end to examining life and indirectly enriching experiences of one’s own.
 It may be a good idea to visit cemeteries frequently. Confronted with so many “completed lives” – those of elders, contemporaries, younger folk of all walks of life, celebrities and unknowns – one cannot but reconsider one’s values concerning fame, wealth, status, success, failure, anxiety, agony, regret, hatred and so on, since nothing is more real than the scene described by two lines of verse in A Dream of Red Mansions: “For a thousand years you may have an iron threshold to live nobly / But the end must be a mound of earth indiscriminately”.
 Some may sigh and say, “I would prefer to have been born later if possible, to enjoy a better life with more advanced technology”. However, every rose has its thorns, and it is pointless to admire other generations, since the best choice for a contemporary is the present.
 One may also long for longevity, which may be desirable but not necessarily enjoyable: as the wellknown century-old writer Ba Jin said in his dying words, “longevity is shameful”, as he hoped to reduce that painful period. Life is after all measured not only by its length but even more by its quality.
 Be fully aware that the negative side of life should not lead us to a passive way of living, in the knowledge that everything will eventually perish. As mentioned above, since every life is uniquely precious with the potential worthy of being fully developed, everyone ought to have a positive attitude towards life and take it seriously if we don’t want to live in vain.
 Confucius said, “How can we understand death before understanding life?” In my view, the question should be asked the other way around: “How can we understand life before understanding death?” since it really makes a difference whether or not one has contemplated death in terms of what and how to do things more sensibly during life’s limited journey.
2. 此处不妨用委婉语，如还有 to join the majority、pay the debt of nature、to go to one’s own place、return to dust 等。
3. 不仅仅是 it’s very necessary，因该篇探讨的是生死问题，故不妨展开为its necessity as part of our lives 等。
5. 不是life clock is moving, 而通常的英文表述为 the clock is ticking。
6. 不一定是 In fact，而根据其语境可为 Pitifully 等。
7. 不一定是the attitude and wisdom of life, 而可根据语境变通为 an attitude of life’s wisdom。
10. 此句的顺序调整到了最后译出。英文里还有一种说法：It is not how long but how well we live.
11. 此句也是前面“看到了”（意识到了）的结果，故用了“in the knowledge that…”。
12. 此句有多种译法，如：Till you know about the living, how are you to know about the dead? / One can’t understand death before he understands life.
13. 这里不妨整合在一句里，以what and how to do things more sensibly方式译出。