Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Do you ever think about death?

I don't often. I mean, it's a looming presence, it's constant, it's the end of life - as natural an occurrence of the night following day.

But we don't know what death means, really, do we? We can speculate, but what do we know? Nothing. And that is scary.

I find it impossible to believe that the essence of a person, the soul of a person simply ceases to be. I think of Ross and it is impossible to believe that that wonderful man, that large personality, that much kindness, goodness, love and mischief is just gone. I find it hard to believe that the core of who I am will simply expire one day when my lungs cease to take in air and my heart ceases to beat.

Flesh and blood - that does feel separate to me, that does feel on a timeline, impermanent. But I have always felt somewhat separate from my body, as if it and my spirit are two separate things, only intimately entwined.

I started thinking about death tonight because, of all things, an episode of Scrubs. Death scares me. Not knowing what comes next frightens me. I have no idea what is going to happen, only that it will happen someday. We go through life, making plans for hours, days, months, years into the future, all without knowing whether we will ever acheive those minutes or whether we will meet death first. We plan and we act and we live our lives and we waste precious minutes in foolish ways and all the time, death moves closer and closer.

It approaches, always. We do not think about it, we choose not to, because 'what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause' - the calamity that makes long life Shakespeare informs us. I assume that there is something after death. It makes more sense to me than nothingness. Perhaps it's just egoism on my part, but so much intelligence and so much individuality as the human race has produced - I cannot believe it so random.

But I do not know, and that is frightening, isn't it? I wonder sometimes, if at the end of my life, I will think back to how I lived and be ashamed, or pleased. If I will think of this time, and sob at the waste, or if I will be content with what is left behind me.

There are two pieces of Shakespeare that I cannot help think of. The obvious from Hamlet - To Be or Not to Be -

'To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect'
That makes calamity of so long life;'

And from MacBeth:
' To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.'

But is this all? Sound and fury? A walking shadow? A sleep that frightens us?

I hope not.

No comments: