The Farthest Shore, Ursula LeGuin, 1972. 3rd in the Earthsea trilogy.
The Earthsea Trilogy and this one in particular I think helped shape my feelings about death. The images of the low stone wall, the slope that goes downwards into darkness in the dry land, and the dead as emotionless shades--all have stayed with me. The Taoist feeling, the emphasis on balance, the importance of being a part of the whole, still feel deeply right to me.
"There is no safety, and there is no end. The word must be heard in silence; there must be darkness to see the stars. The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss."
"That selfhood which is our torment, and our treasure, and our humanity, does not endure. It changes; it is gone, a wave on the sea. Would you have the sea grow still and the tides cease, to save one wave, to save yourself? Would you give up the craft of your hands, and the passion of your heart, and the light of sunrise and sunset, to buy safety for yourself--safety forever?...That is the message that those who know how to hear have heard: By denying life you may deny death and live forever!
Wow, although I had been thinking about how non-Christian this book is (Philip Pullman, eat your heart out!), not until I transcribed it did I specifically notice the reference in "those who know how to hear."