Me? I hope to go out singing, defiantly. Like DeNiro’s redneck Nemesis in Cape Fear, warbling in tongues as the rising tide consumes him. I want to play myself over this way, a segue between shows, until the dirty water fills my lungs. It’s not bravery, it’s denial; and denial gets a bad rap. Denial is essential. Here’s to denial! Without it life would not be possible.
I had a moment of clarity–terror, that is–recently, regarding the reality of death. You may know what I’m talking about. These moments when the veil lifts, for no apparent reason. You stumble into the misty vale; you are suddenly lost. The unwelcome result of too much time alone. Solitude is dangerous. Solitude is a faint whiff of death. Solitude is death’s annex. I didn’t choose solitude, it chose me.
I think about death all the time, but from a cowardly psychological remove; indeed, the thinking and talking about death are just skirting about the reality, as if to appease it, or perhaps find some soft point of entry. We turn a thing over in our mind endlessly, compulsively, as if to discover it anew; we think our gaze has transforming powers. How can a thing be seen, named, obsessed over, so familiar, so present and still taunt us with its opacity and mystery?
Death is an impermeable thing because oblivion, or non-existence, is necessarily beyond comprehension. The mind cannot step outside itself in the end. You can’t imagine, much less know, it; we make do with the possibility of a thing called oblivion; an alternative to the fire of redemption, before which we alternately cower or warm ourselves. But then, perhaps non-existence simply isn’t possible. If energy never really dissipates, but merely transfers, morphing endlessly in an ultimately meaningless burlesque, why then should we cease to exist? Vapor, too, is a state of existence. Immortality is no less plausible than mortality. But the question cannot be answered. Each will learn–or not–for himself, alone, and only upon passing. Curious? You first.
This is why religion is a necessary constant of human behavior. Death is why the organized atheists can only piss into the wind endlessly. Theirs is a sterile zeal. Death is the darkened face of nature’s mocking mystery; death will forever be the abyss, the reason why the Known will always be but a sheen over the far greater Unknown.
Buck up, friend! Come along with me! We’ll sing together the tune we know by heart. We’ll sing like the hopeless do, like the doomed and the damned will, when there’s nothing left but the breath in their lungs. We’ll shed our heartaches along the way. Think not of death but life. Death will abandon discretion to reveal himself soon enough. He’s already here with us.