Tag Archives: life

Death By A Thousand Eternities

“Without the threat of death there’s no reason to live at all.” –Brian Warner

We are told to exercise, to improve the quality of our lives, to above all be happy. We buy a Fitbit. It counts our steps, checks our vitals, monitors our sleep cycles. Measuring, labeling, categorizing—our Fitbit is as a body sensor and a mind censor. A census-taker of souls.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves: the final goal of science and technology is to exterminate death. It may take forever, but future generations of scientists will risk their lives to get dying under control.

Are we not heading towards a man-made eternity without God? Are we not destined to create a permanent Heaven on Earth that would put to rest all hope of an afterlife?

Thanks to technology we’ve forgotten how to die.

We must resist the consumerist imperative to buy ourselves more time at all costs. Embrace death. Let it come for us, naturally or accidentally, as a devastating act of mercy. A blessing in demise.

To kill death with technological precision—to be forced to live with ourselves forever—this is Hell Unending. Death by a thousand eternities.

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Great Scott

Last week I played Scrabble with my mom. We each picked a letter to determine who’d start the board. She got an “A.” I picked an “O,” which meant she’d go first.

“Hey, that’s like A.O. Scott, the film critic,” I said. A strange association, considering I hadn’t thought much about Scott since At the Movies went off the air five or six years ago.

An hour later we were watching a show about the ‘80s. Images from The Breakfast Club appeared. And who was in studio to discuss the iconic 80s film? None other than A.O. Scott.

Coincidence? Fate? The cosmos, in full Zen mode, winking a blind eye?

Nobody knows.

The mind imposes order on a chaotic world. Thinking about Scott didn’t cause me to turn on the TV and see him, I know. But, like most humans, I associate random thoughts, objects and events with other random thoughts, objects and events. I “see” cause-effect relationships where none exist. Outside human consciousness, does an effect recognize its cause? Does a cause anticipate its effect?

What does the world think of itself when nobody’s around?

None of this had any bearing on our Scrabble game. Sometimes I think too hard. Perhaps that’s why I can’t remember who won.

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Everything Zen

“If you understand, things are just as they are.
If you do not understand, things are just as they are.”
–Zen proverb

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Philosopher Of Kindness

I went today to my local mental health facility for a shot in my psyche. It’s like a shot in the arm, but there’s no vaccine for melancholy—the best you can hope for is a (self-esteem) booster.

A client stood at the check-in desk in front of me. He wore brown pants with black shoes and a gray jacket. He kept his knit hat on inside the building. Nothing about his appearance begged attention. I figured he’d gone about his life with little fanfare, a common man with simple tastes. The sun shined on him like everyone else. He’d get wet in the rain like any poor soul, but the weather didn’t concern him.

My initial impressions changed within seconds. He’d been to the center many times, it was clear. Staff members greeted him left and right. Another client walked by and smiled hello. He entertained the front desk ladies with a story about his dog. It must have been funny, but I didn’t hear the joke. I was more interested in his parting remarks, his signature goodbye.

“Thank you, Judy,” he said. “I will pray for you and your family. I love you, Judy.”

A minute later, to a therapist in a cast, navigating a knee scooter:

“I’m glad the surgery went well, Mary. I will pray for you and your family. I love you, Mary.”

He thanked a nurse. “I’ll pray for you and your family, Terrie. I love you, Terrie.”

Nobody batted an eye. Nothing felt inappropriate. At least here he felt safe, dealing with his struggles—whatever his condition or official diagnosis—on his own terms.

He’s praying for everyone and everyone’s family. He thanks you and he loves you. He’s refreshingly odd and disarmingly friendly—a poet of the everyday, a philosopher of kindness. Someone thinking of others beyond their awareness of him.

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Letting God Have It

Life is full of challenges, stressors, disappointments. What if I could leave everything—my depression and anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, unfulfilled wishes, guilt over hurting loved ones—in God’s hands?

“Here you go, God. You get my shit together.”

Of course this is pure fantasy. It’s a reflection of my desire to relinquish personal responsibility. A sort of letting go by letting God have it. God as the impossibility of God. My inability to unload the Burden. The bliss that never comes.

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The Other Me

I’ve enjoyed the new series The Affair on Showtime the last few weeks. A married man named Noah meets a married woman named Alison, they fall for each other, someone connected to them dies (is murdered?) and they’re each being questioned by police at some point (years?) after the summer they met.

In episode 2 Noah introduces an intriguing concept. He’s speaking to Alison about his favorite physics theory from college. If you could go back to one point in your life and make a different choice, and you did, how might this alter the life you currently lead?

We’ve encountered such thoughts on this blog before. But Noah adds a twist: What if there’s a parallel world in which another version of you exists, the one who made a different choice at a crucial moment? What if there’s an Other Me on another Earth living his life (mine?) in a different way?

Of course Noah says this in the context of his budding relationship with Alison. He’s trying to picture one world in which he meets his wife in college, marries her right after graduation, and they build a life with their four kids (his “actual” life right now). But he’s tempted by the thought of leaving all that behind for Alison. Can both desires—one for family, the other for a fling—exist simultaneously?

I’m fascinated with the intricacies of choice-making. Our freedom to choose—whether it be from what to eat for lunch or what profession to pursue—is empowering, but it also exposes our vulnerabilities. On the edge of a cliff, one false step means disaster, one right move and you’re still on your feet.

As always, I’m left with a series of questions. What choices would I change if I could? Shouldn’t I simply accept every choice I’ve made? I’m always hearing how I have only this life and nothing more, and yet I find myself choosing to write about parallel worlds and other lives I might have led.

Wherever I end up, there will be moments of suffering and moments of joy. If he’s out there, does the Other Me think the same way? Does he wonder how my life is going?

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A Real Page Turner

I remember from my childhood reading the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Instead of going in order from the first chapter to the last you could pick up a CYOA book and head in numerous directions.

On page 5, for example, you’d be presented with options: If you wanted to scale the mountain to avoid the bear, go to page 27; if you wanted to run into the forest away from the bear, turn to page 39, etc. Each choice led to another series of choices. Multiple outcomes existed; there was no straight line.

My life is its own Choose Your Own Adventure. I enter every day a world created by an Author other than myself. Options abound but no clear path presents itself. There’s always a bear to contend with.

I choose blindly. Sure, I can weigh options and consider where each might lead, but I’m deceiving myself if I presume to know what the future holds.

Sometimes I flirt with the idea of closing the book entirely. What’s the point in picking one path over another when all contain obstacles I might not overcome?

But then I gather myself. I believe in the promise of the story. I want to see how it ends, this book I’ve devoted my life to. My fingerprints smudge the corners, each page retains my trace. Choosing has no easy answers, but not choosing is out of the question.

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