Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Morbid (Mortal) Thoughts, part 1

Philosophically, I'm pretty well adjusted to the truth of human mortality.

What I mean is that, on the intellectual plane, I really don't see much reason to worry about death. It doesn't really scare me much, and the reason for this isn't because of some kind of mental parlour game I play with myself. For example, I don't somehow imagine that I'm going to heaven, and thus have nothing to fear from death. Nor do I have a concrete intimation of reincarnation, which might help me avoid the fear of death. I don't insist that such a possibility doesn't exist; but I don't have any evidence that it does, either. It would be cheating to console myself with such mythology.

No, I know full well that the person I am now will come to an end one day, completely, and when the subject comes up for discussion, I don't really feel too much angst over it. Others my age sometimes talk about feeling younger, more alive, than they ever have before. Frankly, I"m pretty sure this is nothing more than a mind game they're playing with themselves. If you have any degree of self awareness whatsoever, you can't help but witness the truth of our decline.

In point of fact, life can be a somewhat tumultuous, messy affair, and there are times when I actually quietly look forward to the end of all the tumult, an end to the constant sensory barrage that is life. I think that death may represent a well deserved rest.

Then again, I do have a pretty strong intimation that awareness is an energy inherent in the world itself, and while I'm pretty much willing to relinquish my petty human awareness one day, I'm also reassured by a strong sense that awareness as a universal force will simply gobble up my miniscule personality for recycling.

I often think of myself as compost—raw material that is currently serving as nutriment for my kids and perhaps my friends.

And when I look around at the world, I see no real indication that anything dies forever. Individuals die, sure, but they are always recycled in some form. This recycling is a reassurance and relief to me, and frankly I think it is a very fine thing that we don't go on forever. On my death bed, simply thinking about my kids will be pretty good reassurance.

That's my position intellectually, and I can argue it pretty damned persuasively.

Viscerally, though, deep in my gut, it's another matter entirely.

On that level, present a long way south of the brain, I'm not in the least bit happy about growing older, and like almost everybody, I have a strong wish to put it off as long as possible.

In a 20-year blink of an eye, I've gone from a young man to a solidly middle-aged man. In another 20 years, certain to pass even more rapidly, I'll be an old man by every possible definition.

I don't like this. Not even a little bit.

Arthritis has plagued almost every member of my family, and while it's come to me later than most, feet and ankles that could once walk for many, many hours without complaint, now feel the pain after a few hours of walking. My hands are thus far largely free of arthritis; but it has appeared in my left elbow, which becomes tender to the touch after a couple hours of gardening.

Yep. I'm in the process of decay, and I hate it.

(to be continued)

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