It's been a big week for death in my circle of friends (real). One friend lost a cat, two others were shaken by the unfortunate anniversary of the death of someone close to them, and another friend watched a man die after an accident early in the week and then watched her grandfather die a couple days later. Death, it would seem, wants my attention.
You have it.
My first attempt to grasp the concept of death was way back when I was four. I asked my brothers and sister for some clarification of this new concept. They told me it was like sleeping but you didn't wake up. I looked around the room for an example and found my dad napping on the couch balancing a can of Old Style on his belly.
“Is dad dead?” I asked.
“No” they said and they were right. They pointed out that you could see him breathing and he did, in fact, wake up an hour later and helped me work on my T-ball game. So I still had no idea what my brothers and sister were talking about.
A few months later, he died for real. Everybody was upset. I didn't get it. They told me dad was dead but I didn't get that at all. I clearly didn't understand what all that crying was about. I had already given up crying because dad told me crying was for babies and girls.
I knew whatever happened, it was important because we were using the living room. That room was another mystery. It was a big room in our house with nice furniture and we were never allowed to “live” in it. I mean, what's the point of that room? But that day, we actually used that room. Nice furniture and all. A preacher came over too. Since I was clearly clueless about what was going on, my family ushered me in his direction.
He told me that dad had gone away. Okay, where? I asked. To a special place.... a better place... he said. I had no idea what was wrong with the place we were at but if he's gone to a better place, I was okay with that. The preacher also told me he was with the Lord now. I didn't know much about that guy yet but I knew He was pretty important. I figured He probably didn't live in Elgin either. I figured He must be someplace awesome like the top floor of the Sears Tower... easily the coolest building in the world.
Cool, I thought, dad was hanging out with some cool guy on top of the Sears Tower. Now can we all just stop with the crying? You are all embarrassing me.
Then there was the burial. That was cool too. It was a nice summer day and the cemetery was just like a park except there were all these fancy carved rocks everywhere that mom told me time and time again not to walk over. There were soldiers too. I really liked soldiers back then. They even fired their rifles into the air. When I asked why they were shooting people told me that dad was in The War. With all that fanfare I could only assume that dad was a big hero just like Audie Murphy. I was cool with that too.
But then there was that box... that long wooden box that was the center of attention. What was that about? Finally, they got it in my head that my dad was IN THAT BOX and THAT BOX WAS GOING INTO THAT HOLE IN THE GROUND. I was so not on board with this. That hole was clearly NOT a better place. Fuck it, call me a baby, I am crying now.
I have not trusted a preacher since.
Since then I have looked at death with more fascination than horror. Perhaps some of my interest is due to the fact that even though I consider myself clearly outside of the larger crowd of humanity this death thing might happen to me anyway. Among the many mysteries in my experience is why did this beautiful feeling of peace and serenity come over me immediately after my witnessing my mother's death? Was it a kiss from beyond? A contact buzz from all the chemicals released in her broken body? That godawful hospital cafeteria food?
How was it that when my sister brought home her clothes, my mom's cat and dog inspected it and became instantly depressed? She wasn't wearing those clothes at the time. So what channel were those furry friends of ours tuning into? This apparent metaphysical phenomena did not exactly fill me with hope however. Whatever knowledge they were tapping into was still telling them to be depressed.
I give no quarter to the fairy tale notions of our lesser religious teachings. I was fooled once by a preacher and plan to keep it that way. This whole concept of being rewarded with virgins or wings or a nice little planet or some cloud to set up shop on provided you accept the right prophet or Messiah does NOT give me comfort. It fills me with horror and rage. If this God fellow turns out to be even half the BIGOT these assholes claim than by all means send me to hell and hook me up with an anti-aircraft battery. You angels had better watch your ass. I am a good shot and given an eternity to practice, I am sure to get even better.
To be honest, I think all those people expecting eternal awards would realise that they were getting hosed if only they were alive to understand it. I definitely think we would all be better off if everyone just took the after-life out of the equation and worked in making LIFE better. Seriously, how long do you expect those seventy girls are going to keep their virginity anyway? My eternal bliss is sure as fuck not a bunch of knocked up prissy bitches. Nor is it harp music.... ugh.
Still I don't dread the End nor am I entirely sure it is really a bad thing. It seems to me that the universe is itself alive and we're just one perspective looking out and back upon itself. What is the end of our selves but the beginning of everything? As one of my own personal profits, Bill Hicks, put it...
“All matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration ... we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There's no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we're the imagination of ourselves.”
Here's Tom with the weather.