And though I had slain a thousand foes less one,
The thousandth knife found my liver;
The thousandth enemy said to me,
'Now you shall die,
Now none shall know.'
And the fool, looking down, believed this,
Not seeing, above his shoulders, the naked stars,
Each one remembering.
--John M. Ford, The Final Reflection

The Asylum Director

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"The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any." - Russel Baker

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

On Mortality.

On average, 146,357 die every day.

It can be considered a sizable, staggering number. Until one considers that there are literally a few billion people on the planet. Living, breathing, surviving. And in the end, all those billions of drops in the overall sea of humanity have but one common trait in common. Sooner or later, we're all going to die.

Billions of people, all waiting in line for their turn to die.

I've found myself thinking about it fairly recently. I think I'm thinking about death in the usual manner that people do, assuming they think about it. That is, are they afraid of it, wondering how and when it will happen, and things they'd like to do before time runs out.

I suppose I'm like everyone else in having a list of things I'd want to do before I die, if at all possible. Just that is a long list of things that I can't do, no matter how many improbable events occur in my favor. Some of these items aren't so much things I'd want to do before impending death as they are goals, tasks I'd like to accomplish at some point. Though, I suppose, there are a few items that are the sort of thing only someone with the assurance that he's dying soon (and thus be relatively safe from the consequences) would do.

Timing doesn't seem to be much of an issue for me, either. I could probably die now and not particularly mind. I guess this comes from the grim acceptance that I'm going to die sometime, and have no say in that matter. Neither do I have any real say in when I'm going to die, so no point really bickering about that, either. Death is the great inevitable, and pondering about when the inevitable happens is kind of pointless to me. Certainly, I'd prefer it be not quite as painful as it could be, but when the end comes, I think we all have to accept it with the stoic dignity that comes with knowing you won't have another chance to be dignified.

What I'm not so sure of, though, is whether or not I actually feel anything concerning death. I'm sure I'm going to die, and I'm sure I'll have next to no control over it. But what do I feel about the fact that I, like everyone else, am mortal? Strangely, all indications point to me not really caring. Perhaps I've come to terms with death even though, statistically speaking, I'm not exactly going to keel over and die the next day. It will happen when it does and how it does, and I find it difficult to muster the will to care about it. Granted, I probably will care when its happening, but now? Not so much.

Death is inevitable, and I accept that. I don't embrace it, but I'm not going to fight it. Not that I believe in much of an afterlife, either. I'm not entirely sure what prompted me to start considering, pondering mortality and the prospect of death, but I've come to find it rather fascinating.

Is it strange, I wonder, to enjoy thinking about death, yet not entirely care about the death itself? Still, many would consider this acceptance to be an alien concept, something that goes against the natural preservation instinct of the human animal. I'm not sure why I've come to accept it, maybe even embrace the idea of dying. Perhaps I'll figure this oddity out, perhaps not.

Tempus mortis.

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