We know we will die. Our minute of death approaches with the measurable swift movement of the moon. We live beneath a hatchet poised over our necks, and there is nothing we can do to stay its chop. We dine, drink, dance, work, play, write, and try to craft our lives around artistic, beautiful, and excellent themes, despite the looming hole in the ground that will hide our dead bodies. Trillions of germs lurk within our organic cadavers to finish the job inside hermetically-sealed coffins designed to keep out worms and confine stink; a manufacture to validate our illusions of deathless existence.
Death becomes unreal after the last shovelful of dirt. It doesn't even smell. As we decompose our bodies expel methane, benzine, ammonia, and other gases that we didn't know we harbored. The trillions of e-coli germs of our intestines, which have digested our food, now digest our remains. And they die.
It's ugly, isn't it? We try not to think about it. Death is impossible to conceive. In order to deny it we cause it. We kill everything in our path, especially one another, for various reasons making little sense. Cows, buffalo, passenger pigeons, chickens and ducks, mastodons, plants and dodos, whales and crawfish, frogs and birds; we eat them with gusto. We clothe ourselves with their skins and shells and adorn ourselves with their garments.The living capture the living and kill and eat it in order to live, and then dress in their remains. We are life thriving on the death and consumption of living things.
When I die I prefer to utterly vanish. I'd rather be cremated, denying germs their mission and speeding the process, releasing my atoms into the web of everything, than be buried; but I have no say, being poor. Wills are meaningless to officialdom. I cannot dictate with confidence my preferences. One day I hopefully will simply drop dead without very much pain, and whatever the City of Las Vegas decides for my corpse is a done deal. If I could I would erase all documentary evidence of my existence, but it is impossible. No one can do it. Only fear or extreme disappointment or unendurable pain can hasten us to suicide and make us wish to erase every trace.
A graveyard is a junkyard for bones. We make it as pretty as possible. Beneath manicured lawns and expensive, chiseled stones of granite, marble, and other polished rocks lie millions of bones of people who lived beautiful or vile stories. Most of the stories will never be known, and those remembered will be forgotten sooner or later. The vast universe remains incomprehensible despite persistent efforts of scientists--modern magicians--with elaborate instrumentation and encyclopedias of knowledge and theories.
This morning I heard a bird-call that I could not identify. It wasn't a member of the family of sparrows that thrives this Spring in the leafy branches outside the window. I know their chirps and whistles. Pained as usual and drugged, I reached for a slat in the venetian blinds to see, but the effort was painful so I went back to sleep. The song was different from any bird I have ever heard. It could have been anything, even a clever mockingbird, proved capable of a thousand sounds.
If it was a mockingbird I wonder what it imitated. All I know is that the song was meant for me because I heard it. I was meant to wonder. I was meant to write it.
That's fate. No one can deny fate because death is fate, and everything is chance except dying. We cannot deny death. We can deny theories of global warming, the finales of films, accusations of the law, and and assertions of people who dislike us, and we can deny even that there is a god or a higher power ruling all; but no one can deny the death that will stop our heartbeats and deaden our electrochemical brains.
Why do we grieve? It seems absurd to bemoan the inevitable passing of life. Logically, we should celebrate, but we don't. We cry even for the passing of strangers who enriched us with skill or art or heroic deeds. And no matter what we say most fear non-existence. How can we understand or accept the complete end of lives that seemed so precious? Of egos we didn't even know we had? Even those whose lives have been unfulfilled, ruined, and miserable, who should welcome death, fear. Much of our bravery is bravado; false courage.
Mine too. But I do not tremble yet. Perhaps I will. Maybe I won't. How can I know until the moment arrives? It is said that no soldier knows whether he is a coward until the bullets fly.
Meanwhile, I will assume a brave face and write some more of things that seem important but really are not. Am I a cynic? Am I a fool? Am I only an extra in the dumbshow of the streets?
I don't know.
The bird is back but the blinds are drawn to keep out light and heat. I might rise from my chair and look again. On second thought, I won't. Mystery is important.
It keeps us interested.
But I am no longer curious about the bird. Anyway, it is gone now.