The DISCIPLE: You once said that your life is not your own.
The TEACHER: Yes, that is what I have said.
D: And you also said another time that the the defining characteristic of hell is belonging to oneself entirely, or owning oneself.
T: I am my own is the final cry, the last tear-choked sentence, of the rebel.
D: Are you and I doomed to hellfire if we call anything our own?
T: Well, now that you put it this way, there might be one thing that we still call “our own” while being sure of a safe death.
D: A safe death—what a phrase! But go on, what is the one thing we may own safely, without making death unsafe?
T: It seems to me that we may say—rightly, and without rebellion or despair—that our death is our own.
D: And once we die?
T: Well, we die without lying, unlike all others.
D: But when we die, would we still “own” our death?
T: Consider this. If we are not our own and all we own is our death, then in dying we have proven that we do indeed own this one thing. But if we claim to be our own and then die, then we have lied in that claim, and lying about that is lying about everything.
D: So if I am my own and then die, I lose myself. But if my death is all that belongs to me and then I die, I do not lose anything?
T: In the second case, there is nothing to lose, except death itself.
D: How could I lose that?
T: Well, when you are dead, obviously the only way to lose anything is if someone takes it from you. And suppose God takes death from you! When you rise, either you will say, “I am my own,” or you will remain silent in fear and trembling, with nothing to call your own.—But the one who says he is his own is raised as a liar, and the one who is fearfully silent and fearfully empty-handed is raised in the truth.
D: This is a strange teaching.
T: Stranger still is the application. Imagine the kind of person who might say that his death is his only possession. He might say other ludicrous things. “I deny myself daily.” “I die everyday.” Imagine how he would live who speaks these words in truth.
D: Would you even call it a life!
T: O child, yes. It is the life.