When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home. — Chief Tecumseh
Ever watched an ice cube melt in your glass? Or a cheap candle burn down? Or the leaves fall?
If you live with depression (or a penchant for introspection, or both) you’ve likely done all of the above while considering your own mortality in every bead of water, drip of wax, and windswept leaf.
Despite the perceived eternity of your last panic attack or bout of insomnia, our kind has but a minute on Life’s stage. Even if we eliminated all birth defects, diseases, and stab wounds, we’d still die. Even if no one ever rode another Segway off a cliff. Or was killed by a lava lamp. Or was spooled to death. We are mortal by design … or by evolved biological intelligence … whatever. We are mortal because our DNA says so.
Even though scientists are working to undo the “problem” of a human shelf life, I’m planning on one day not breathing anymore. Even if I hadn’t of smoked balls of road tar as a kid (in our defense, we thought it was heroin) and similarly stupid things, I don’t expect to live long enough to see the life-extending breakthroughs now being discussed much less be able to afford them. Though I don’t plan on speeding along the process as I’ve considered in the past, I also don’t expect to last to enjoy a solid gray head of hair (though I’m starting on my way).
My body will break down into smaller and smaller parts for one reason or another, returning its material back from where it was borrowed. Before such a time as that I hope to have an excuse for my life. I work myself in knots over the meaning of life and varying promises of a life that can be experienced after this flesh dissolves, but in the end the Big Question may prove to be if I will ever be able to forgive myself for being such a self-centered ass despite having been given so much in the way of time and material resource to transform myself into something better.
Like a rat in a maze, I’ve run after those things I thought would make me feel better over and over again. A taste, a high, a safe place. And I’ve run away from those things that are embarrassing or uncomfortable or hard. I’m like the worm squirming away from the hook’s touch with no sense of what I would do if those enormous fingers got clumsy and my previous freedom was restored.
If you haven’t caught on by now: I’m not sure I deserve a slippery-fingered fisherman.
What is left to do but our best? While my nature is to turn to books (and I seem to travel through them endlessly these days, the thoughts and experiences of those who have gone before), I’m sometimes convinced the enlightenment I seek is in other people and a deeper experience in the physical world: that there is a unique revelation I will only achieve by seeing for myself — by processing that stimuli in my body and “hearing” the message that then comes crackling out of my heart.
Is there a formula or guidebook for that? Probably dozens of pretenders clogging bookstore shelves the world over. But I’m willing to wager last month’s wages* that there isn’t one composer on the planet that can write my death song for me. Just as it should be.
* Full disclosure: My earnings last month, after taxes, came to exactly $0. I’d feel bad if you were to take my wager not knowing.