[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]
People say “It’s a new year” and the good wishes come a-flying from every direction. I don’t mind, I’m all but immune from, and inured to, any good wish. For me, a “new year” (if I acknowledged such a thing as valid) would mean something as at the end of “V for Vendetta”. Basically, the idea expressed by “V” is, “the world until today belonged to me and it ends with me tonight. Tomorrow a new world is born, and you, “Evey” will nurture that new world.”
You see, it’s a truism, like it or not, that for something new to begin, something old must die. If all that “dies” is a number on a man-made calendar or the passing of a certain point in a planet’s orbit around the sun, that is not a death but an illusion. People don’t change, nor do their systems and societies, just by changing a year number, from 2016 to 2017. I think the farce has gone on long enough. I think it’s high time for would-be adults to take responsibility for their words and “do” something instead of just “saying” something because it feels good to say it, or worse, it’s traditional.
Life isn’t about feeling good. Am I saying something anyone hasn’t figured out yet? Life is a series of challenges, and some of those are quite heavy. Sometimes it’s a horrendous event beyond anyone’s control, and sometimes it’s a change that may bring good things, or bad things. Life is a struggle. Those who do not struggle are not living: alive, yes, but not living.
But back to my favourite subject: death. For me, a new year has always been about death because death implies renewal: no death, no renewal. So each year I die and each year, hopefully, if I take responsibility for my own life, I renew myself. Dying is an interesting process. We’re all dying, all the time, but we spend our time denying it instead of teasing meaning out of it.
Some quotes about being dead, the dead, dying:
“Being dead filled her beyond fulfillment.
Like a fruit suffused with its own mystery and sweetness,
she was filled with her vast death, which was so new,
she could not understand that it had happened.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke.
“I have my dead, and I have let them go,
and was amazed to see them so contented,
so soon at home in being dead, so cheerful, so unlike their reputation.
Only you return; brush past me, loiter, try to knock
against something, so that the sound reveals your presence.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Requiem for a Friend.
All of life is a symphony of successive losses. You lose your youth, your parents, your loves, your friends, your comforts, your health, and finally your life. To deny loss is to lose it all anyway and to lose, in addition, your self-possession and your peace of mind. (Isaac Asimov – “Nemesis”)
What a solemn thing is this infinity which every man bears within him, and which he measures with despair against the caprices of his brain and the actions of his life!
(Victor Hugo, Les Miserables)
We can die by degrees (while hiding the truth from ourselves with drugs, work or play) or we can die suddenly. Sudden death is cheap: it doesn’t teach much and perhaps that is why so many would choose it. “Eat, drink and be merry” then “dead!” There’s death by slow-kill disease and that one is a monster though some manage to harness it, learn and teach from it. Still, it wouldn’t be my choice because I hate pain and consider it to be an unnatural effect of a twisted and tortured world.
The best kind of death, for me, is the one I’m on. I call it, “sudden death overtime” only it isn’t sudden death at all since I’ve been in it for 20 years now. I had set a date for myself to shed this body and go on vacation throughout the cosmos for a while. 20 years later I’m still contemplating that final separation sequence but this body isn’t showing much sign of letting go or slowing down. It’s like a combination of the Energizer bunny and the Timex watch that takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
Nota bene: I’m NOT complaining! But here’s the difference: I am dying, not by accident of birth, but by choice. Each dying day brings me closer to the last one and in each, as I look towards the finish line, I learn something new about myself, something that only my contemplation of death could reveal.
Now try to see the effect of a New Year’s good wish for me: “May you experience your good death this coming year!” For most people, that wouldn’t go over so well. For me, I’d have a positive response to such a wish. What does that say of my mindset; my philosophy about life? Certifiable… or expanded awareness?
In “V for Vendetta” “V” sets “Evey” up with a fake arrest, incarceration, interrogation, torture and constant threat of death if she doesn’t reveal “to the authorities” what she knows about “V.” She refuses, and at the end is condemned to be excuted by firing squad. Convinced it was her last few minutes alive, when questioned one last time she gives a resounding “No!” to the promise of total freedom if she reveals what she knows about “V.” At that moment she earned her freedom; she had conquered her fear of death. Her life changed. From a frightened mouse in a horrid world she became a change agent, resilient and fearless.
Somewhere deep in the subconscious we’re all “V” and “Evey” cocooned away, hidden. I am convinced that what enslaves us more than anything else is our constant fear of “death” – that nebulous, unknown factor; that terrible thief that hounds every minute of our physical life, whether we are conscious of it or not. We hunt happiness and haunt the pleasure principle trying to get the most out of every minute.
There are people who harbour such a great fear of death that they have to indulge in “extreme” sports and other death defying nonsense to try to prove to themselves that they don’t fear it. It is those people who fear death the most though they are seen as the opposite. That is how the fear of death brainwashing works.
Try to ignore it, or spend your time challenging it: the first “effort” is a waste since the company of death has much to teach particularly on detachment and self-empowerment; the bravado of the second is a congruence of twisted cowardice and pride, nothing more.
Perhaps one has to reach a certain age before one is comfortable in death’s company. Or perhaps it’s a question of greater awareness; of a mind set free from the shackles of organized religion, spiritually dead scientism or ignorant hedonism. A day came for me long ago when I was sure death had taken me. I was relieved, so much so that when I found myself physically alive again I was not at all happy until I realized I had gained a new friend: death would walk with me the rest of the way – and I found her to be very, very wise.
So next time you hear, “we are not alone” know that you have one constant, steadfast companion who will walk with you every step of the way to your last breath and beyond. She’ll show you the way, and she will help you change if you want to put in the effort.
My Friend, the Lady in Black
I walked uncertain, so dead tired
Lost in a grey shattered landscape
Of crumbling hills and broken trees,
Eroded gullies and clumps of dried grass.
I walked under a leaden sky
With the sun a deadly copper disc
Fixed overhead as if never to set;
I staggered until I could go no further
Falling and sliding against a rounded stone
That had witnessed many a season
Under such a day as this.
I fell asleep, or I died, not sure which
But when I awoke
There was the Lady in Black
Standing still beside my wrecked body.
She gestured for me to stand
I did, much to my surprise
For the body did not stir, nor eyes blink.
“Come” she said beckoning
And we walked around the hill
Into a garden to provide pleasures
Not to be found on the world I’d left.
“Enjoy” she said and vanished:
I felt terribly alone once again.