As I write this there was just one day last week when I thought that after I lay down, I may never wake up. I had a very minor accident and the accompanying strong headache that followed as a result of a mild concussion fed into my awareness that life is finite, that one day I will die and that that day may have just arrived. Mid-afternoon and with no drugs, I laid down, slept the sleep of the innocent and carefree and then woke up when a friend was at my door expecting dinner. Dinner had to wait, and I was alive.
However for some odd reason, death has been very present in my life this year. At one point I bumped into a colleague in the bus and casually asked her how she was. I was not ready for the answer, her husband had just died, she was returning from her sister’s who happens to live around the corner. All I could do was take her into my arms. I could not really imagine what it is like to loose a husband, but I could imagine what it is like to loose a good and dear friend, or a member of the family. When the freshman class at CMU is given the assignment to read Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture, then all of a sudden, brutal or inconsiderate as it may seem, death is about life. It is a call to go for your dreams, and it is a reminder of what the nature of nature is.
At this point theoretical man is on my top priority list, or if I had the say, it would be my top priority. If I think of death, it is my own death that I rarely thing about as that to me is easy because after that event, there will nothing that I will have to do or think about and I am not inclined to dwelling on what those surviving me will have to deal with. Last year at one point I declared to a friend of mine that if I were to die that day, I would die happy. It is a remarkable claim given the very fact that the word happy seldom computes in my world, but then I do live in a world that explores the very limitations of words. Happy is one of those words whose meaning I often question, interrogate and massage while often the yield of these efforts to conclude that there is some form of emptiness to the word. I have experienced immense joy and something that I would want to label ecstasy, but happiness? What is happiness other than the grand Utopia?
Why is it that I think that I do not have the say when it comes to what my priorities are? When last year I first saw the video of Randy Pausch’s last lecture I run a mental inventory of my own dreams and those that I have brought to bear on reality. The score is good, very good, and often I tend to forget how very good the score is and then all sorts of drama surfaces in my narrative. I have however no particular attachment to drama, but do have a great deal of curiosity as to what the nature of nature is and within it, what the nature of man is. I postulate that one aspect of human nature is man’s ability to abstract, conceptualize and theorize.
A few weeks ago a casual friend confided that he often goes through depression phases when he totally shuts out the world and that in him then all is rather dark and that he finds himself in a place inaccessible to others around him. I am not one prone to believing every word of confidence that I hear, however in this case I am willing to assume that this may indeed be as I was told. Intimate interactions, or that which is told in confidence when two humans interact is always fascinating as it reveals detailed aspects of human nature and communication. Depression of any kind is not really what is considered an acceptable conversation topic outside of the clinical and private spheres, much less within a context of technology. The confidence took me by surprise, yet I was curious as to what drives somebody to make such a confidence in a crowded hallway. Am I just asking what it is that attracts one man to another?
Why are humans so susceptible to suggestion? Are other animals equally susceptible to suggestion? What drives the suggestion susceptibility? What does any of this have to do with death or what attracts one man to another? How do any of these questions connect to those dreams that we are all born with?
Many years ago I got to read the novel Das Parfum (1981) by Patrick Süskind. My reading of that novel within the then context of my life has in itself all the great elements of what could de turned into fascinating narrative. Like it often happens to great literature, I get so involved and overwhelmed, that often I can not finish reading the story. There is a Swiss writer whose word-craft seems magic to me, and each time that I sit down to read his work, I get so entrained in his words that I can not proceed with the reading. This is for me the power of words, and how I deal with the books that one of my neighbours writes.
Death is just the only certainty that I do not yet know.