“Before I Die, I Want to . . . ”
“First of all learn about death, and then about other things.” (“The Importance of the Moment of Death,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 759)
When Candy Chang lost a mother figure, she went through a long bout of depression. In the process of grieving her loss, she began to explore her own thoughts about death and discovered a comfort and clarity she did not expect.
She also realized how much people avoid the discussion of death. In 2011, Ms. Chang decided to start a conversation.
The artist and activist found a crumbling house in her New Orleans neighborhood. With permission from the owner and the community, she covered it with chalkboard paint and stenciled the prompt: “Before I die, I want to __.” The wall beckoned passersby to pick up a piece of chalk and reflect on their lives. Within a day, the wall was filled with personal hopes and dreams:
Tell my mother I love her.
Abandon all insecurities.
Get my wife back.
Straddle the international date line.
Live off the grid.
Be completely myself.
Reading others’ personal aspirations made Ms. Chang alternate between tearing up and laughing out loud. The wall reminded her that she was not alone.
The global art project invites passersby to contemplate their mortality and consider the things that matter most.
Thus, the Before I Die Project was born. The global art project invites passersby to contemplate their mortality and consider the things that matter most. Walls have been erected in over 75 countries and in some 35 languages.
Ms. Chang has since published the book Before I Die, celebrating these public walls and the stories behind them. As she writes in her book’s introduction, “When I think about death, the mundane things that stress me out are reduced to their small and rightful place; the things that matter most to me become big and crisp again.”
Visit beforeidieproject.com to learn more.
Rediscovering Our Eternal Dignity
Life and Death
The following excerpt is from On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, p. 9.
One conclusion from my dialogues with leading thinkers is that the only real solution is for human beings themselves to change, that the sole key lies in human revolution.
It could further be said that without establishing a correct view of life and death, it is impossible to conquer inner darkness and delusion at the most fundamental level. Without the Middle Way view of life and death—a view that rejects the extremes of the doctrine of annihilation and the doctrine of eternity—true and lasting happiness cannot be achieved.
The only way for human beings to change is for them to conquer their inner darkness and rediscover the eternal dignity within their own lives. Cultivating the noble spirit with which all people are originally endowed will directly lead to a change in the destiny of humankind. With that conviction, we of the SGI have been working to build a network of good all around the globe.