Friday, November 21, 2008

A Letter to Fear and Ego Concerning My Once and Future Death

Dear taskmasters,

Sometimes, more often lately, I think I'm supposed to have already died by now. I get this feeling that maybe I survived a car wreck in my past or avoided some tainted food when I shouldn't have. And now, fate not having planned me being around this long, I'm just wandering. Like legs fallen off a centipede; still twitching out of habit but no longer with any greater purpose.

Of course, then I realize I don't really believe in fate, so the feeling of aimlessness becomes something that needs to be quantified another way. Rationalization is always a good treatment for inner turmoil. And what is the feeling that you shouldn’t be alive, if not inner turmoil?

One explanation for the feeling could be the wait. I hate to wait on inevitable events. I'd rather just get something over with. This death business looms over every action of ever death like a cosmic midterm I forgot to study for. Maybe if I convince myself that I should already be dead, that would mean I'm not waiting anymore. The big moment came and went and forgot to pick me up. At that point death would be a simple technicality.

But, that doesn't make any sense does it? You can't have the even be the technicality. You can't assume death missed you, because then you're just waiting all over again. The clever metaphor hasn't changed anything. No, I think the feeling originated from a much simpler and selfish source.

I don't want to feel cheated.

You're watching the news one night and you see that some where an eight year old boy has been killed in a car accident or from some maniac psycho. The immediate reaction is usually some small degree of sorrow, presumably for the loss of someone so young, because youth is such a precious thing. But, really we're not sad because he was young. We're sad because his youth means that he never got to do anything. He never got to experience or express or contribute. His life, although precious and unique, from a logistical stand point was pointless. When thinking about what that life added to the world, a child dying at eight years old is almost the same as a child dying at one day old.

And there it is. There's the feeling.

If I died today, I'd be no farther in my life as a contributor then someone born tomorrow. I'm essentially a giant infant that likes to drink Merlot and scribble in his journal. And, not wanting to be an infant, I decided to look for something to accomplish. Something meaningful on legitimate scale, but, attainable as quickly as possible so I can get it in before some unexpected accident ends my expression before it's even really begun. And, barring that accident, I also wanted to work on something that I could enjoy the benefits of after its completion. Something that could afford me some attention before I die. Something that I could look back on for a brief moment, if I'm allowed one after a fatal event, and feel like I made it in on deadline.

It's a train of thought I explore often; the idea of significance before death. It monopolizes so much of my inner thoughts at times I become afraid that my entire life up to this point has been driven solely by a mixture of fear and ego. Then I try to assure myself I'm much to amazing for that to be the case.

So, if the pressing issue in my mind is to achieve before death, maybe thinking I should already be dead is a way to bypass the accomplishment. I don't trust the existence of some invisible Shangri-La to supply me with happiness after a life of hard work. I know I have to attain the happiness myself. If I'm supposed to achieve something before I die to be able to enjoy my life, and then convince myself I should have already died, it's like I've found a loop hole that allows me to relax. I can skip the contribution and go right to the good life, right? I can just wake up and go to work and let myself be soaked up into the millions of kilowatt hours powering the nation's entertainment demagogue and become euthanized in blissful peace, right?

Apparently not.

Until I've made some sort of meaningful, lasting contribution, in my own eyes, it feels any play time I manage to snatch from the day has been acquired illegitimately. It feels like I've defrauded those fleeting moments of happiness from the time in my life that I should be creating. The original idea that since I've already passed my end point and can now just relax has actually caused and anxiety to erupt out of my mind that reminds me that if I'm already supposed to be dead, then, I'm on borrowed time every minute of every day, and have a responsibility to use that time to create the things I didn't get a chance to in my real life.

On top of that is the fact that accomplishment isn't guaranteed to anybody. So that must mean that happiness isn't guaranteed to anybody. It means that we all just have to keep climbing in the fog without any promise that we will crest the peek and get to ride our red Radio Flyer down the other side.

Of course, this is just what it means to me. I can't tell you if life for others is filled with days of foggy climbing and nights full of dreams of red wagons. I just know that when I sit down to write it's not out of love. I don't think it is anyway. I think it's out of a mixture of fear and ego, because that might be the only thing that can motivate me anymore. Maybe it was the only thing that ever did.

Chiggie Von Richthofen
Cheerful to a fault