I’ve been thinking about death lately.
Death is generally reserved a stop on the Unpleasant Things list of things to be thought of – it’s there, sharing shelf-space with things like War, Famine, Poverty; just there with all those things we’d rather not think about, either because we can afford to (while you and I can ignore it, for the impoverished, naturally, debilitating hunger is nothing to turn a nonchalant eye to), or because we don’t want to.
Death is a prominent member, perhaps the most prominent, of an elite league of things whose banishment is, perhaps selfishly, brought about by comfort, and whose broaching is brought about by the daring, the intrepid, and the unshakably passionate and dedicated.
Death. I don’t think I’d mind it.
I don’t think I’d mind dying. It’s natural, it’s inevitable: I am mortal. It’s going to happen someday – that much I know. Death is everywhere, and where it isn’t (very few places at any given time), the idea of it is sure to be present; for some, baring fangs that merit untold dread, and for others inconspicuously smiling, reassuringly, like a friend of long years would. Everything is relative. My compassion is your weakness; my absurdity is your ardent belief, and so on.
All the same, death is all around.
Yes, the idea of death is all-present today, just as it always has been. Perhaps its universality is what makes us want to avoid; like claustrophobia, but with death as the suffocating, intrusive spaces. The idea of dying young sporadically dominates my every thought. I don’t know why. I could just be romaticising what I don’t have – that is to say, something beyond repetitive, tedious life. I don’t think I’d mind it if I was diagnosed with a tumor or a fatal disease. I imagine I’d just accept it. I’ve thought about it so much, I’ve even arrived at possible scenarios of how it would happen.
I’d hug everyone I care about for no less than an hour each.
Then, an onslaught of nostalgia. I’d love it if we’d all, in turn, recount things about our life together. The small things will have the most impact – the details, the shards of existence that, collectively and with connections that are difficult to discern, make up life. I’d laugh with them till our eyes water and sides hurt. Then, if I’m lucky enough, I’d cry with them. There’s a beautiful vulnerability to crying, and to its main constituent: tears. There’s beauty in seeing the edifice of our collected and composed selves give way, break, crack, and rupture, like a archaic fortress falling under enemy siege. There’s beauty in seeing a person degenerate into a less guarded being. It’s unpretentious. It’s purer. It’s honest. It’s real.
I’d also write a long note, a manifesto of sorts, and leave it behind after I’m gone. I’d make it –as mentioned- long and detailed, mentioning things that probably would only be significant to me – and there’s a reason for that: writing it would be cathartic. Its purpose would not be to have people mourn me (although I imagine I’d write a section of it for everyone I know, speaking to them directly); still less would its purpose be to glorify my death. It’s ultimately trivial –though probably a human need- to vie for attention, imponderably more so to do it in death.
Then there’s suicide. The only reason I’d take my own life is if I rationalize it, placate and efface every inclination of self-preservation, every inclination of willing away self-harm, with a philosophical notion that shifts my perspective sufficiently in favour of the deed. Perhaps I’d be making a statement – but it would probably have to be something other than the ones frequently made (I hate my job, I hate my family, I hate my life), I think I’d shy away from doing it for any of those reasons, simply for fear of cliché, and probably out of a selfish want to be original. But perhaps it shouldn’t matter why you do it. But I think, for me, a worthy statement would be necessary.
One such statement, I imagine, would be to commit suicide for the sake of committing suicide, just to upend society’s vial of fear and abhor of the act, to do it and challenge the taboo around it, to become uninhibited, to embody what they dread, to laugh to their faces. To challenge the living with that which they would much prefer to cast away from mind and thought than discuss, or embrace. Or perhaps to show that death is peaceful, a genial entity that has forcefully, by way of our own faulty thinking (or perhaps confused emotional capacity) and through no fault of its own, been masqueraded as the greatest evil. One speculates, because one can only speculate.
But death is made to look ugly. It’s given a wretched face, fangs and a steely, untiring hand that robs us of what we hold dearest. But it shouldn’t be. Death is peaceful. If one were to live and be happy about it, then one must die and be happy about it. To both we are passive receivers of orders (we are made alive, and equally, we are made dead), so one must accept the reality and inevitability of, well, the inevitable, instead of fruitlessly fearing it (you won’t live longer by fearing death, so we might as well stop the pointless and useless practice). Death mustn’t be feared, only embraced. But it isn’t.
Death is hated and, I think, undeservedly. But it’s in us to hate death. It’s not often that the emotional overlaps with the logical, and here is an example of that. We’ve been born to hate death. We form attachments with others of our kind, again, because it is within us to. It’s human. We live to bond and love and laugh and, eventually, mourn. It’s always been like this – the most ancient of humans did it: growling hunters traversing wilderness in groups, and a group of friends enjoying a cup of hot whatever-in-a-mug, aren’t worlds apart, behavior-wise. It is innate subtext that has braved centuries of human development, ceaselessly evolving and engraining itself further into human psyche, all while preserving its essence so it may never suffer the attrition of our other attributes; it is the underlying code, and a part of it is to the effect of “form relationship, yes, you must, it’s necessary; it will make life easier.”
In any case, however I die, I’d like to die knowing that I sufficiently explored the world of men, and more importantly, my own world – my mind. I’d want to leave this collective existence with the knowledge that there wasn’t something I was fooled or threatened into believing, either by society, or worse, by myself and my stupidity, rashness, prejudice, ignorance, or cowardice. I would want to simply pass out of existence, without having caused any lasting unwanted effects. And perhaps above all, I would want to not be mourned. Not because sadness and tears are bad ( like I said, I actually think crying is beautiful), but because it simply is no use to mourn. It achieves nothing, and wrongly neglects what I hold to be true: As much as we might matter to those we love, objectively, we do not matter. No one does. To an unyielding and monstrously large behemoth of a universe, another cessation of an organism’s biological activity registers little, so little it almost registers none. We are small. We are insignificant. We are specks of dust in a space infinitely greater. But the illusion of importance is perhaps yet another of our mind’s instances of placing emotion over logic, and said incalculable importance is often attributed to those who’ve lived in close proximity, for extended periods.
But I could be wrong to say that. If an existence is an existence and nothing more, and if we will all die, then what difference does it make which of logic and emotion trumps the other? A worthy question, and one that I cannot answer. That’s often the case. But the point isn’t to find answers, that carries a distasteful and tragic finality: it ends things. But a continuous journey is more fulfilling: continually asking questions is imponderably more enjoyable, and lasts forever.
Soon, I will die.
And I would simply die, like the hordes of ancient armies, the rich and the poor and the intelligent and the dimwitted, and like the oppressed and war-stricken. Like everyone, I would die. Soon my name would only be called in readings of epitaphs, in uttering the name of my offspring, if any, or perhaps, if I prove worthy, in the conversation of those who knew me, perhaps while flipping through an album of photos, or after seeing something wholly unrelated to me, but that brings the thought of me to their mind. I would only be in whispers and thoughts, be they affectionate and fond or otherwise (although I’d much prefer the former).
But this is only what I hope, and reality could, and in all likelihood will, be entirely different. The unexpected is always what happens, because the expected is polluted with our hopes. Of course, I might not die in the -obviously romanticised- way I’ve detailed, with the lead-in time, the crescendo and emotional build-up; I might die so quickly that I register little more than the pain of a pinprick, and it would be foolish to attempt to list the multitude of ways I could die. In any case, what will happen will soon rear its face. Hopes and expectations have a way of detaching themselves from truth and actual occurrence. They separate like oil and water. All that remains after the illusions of what we think (or hope) will happen have been eradicated and deconstructed to fragments of dysfunctional worthlessness, all that is left after that purging, is reality. And that is, interestingly, another name for death: reality.