I have lots of thoughts in my head again today. I have songs that are reminding me of emotions and provoking thoughts, images that are causing me to dream, videos that are making me think, words that are spilling from crevices in my brain.
Did you ever realize how many poems and books are dedicated to the message that death is inevitable? Why is it?
I can only imagine that our fascination with death comes from our fear of it. Death is terrifying, the idea that all things end is an unpleasant truth. It’s hard to think of loss, the void created by losing friends or losing yourself– of everything you are familiar with coming to an end. There are so many things about death to be afraid of and to wonder about. The afterlife or lack thereof; what is it like, if it exists? How will we each die? What will our legacy be?
The other day my friend Kimm said, “In the end, the dates on your headstone will not be what matters– the dash between them will be.” If you take that literally, then it really says nothing important, but I understand what Kimm is trying to say: it isn’t our death that matters, but the span of our lives. Even if our lives are cut short by one thing or another (there are far too many possibilities), what matters most is what we did with that life.
I think we’re foolish to dwell on death the way we do. Death is coming, yes; everything is in the process of dying. It’s depressing and overwhelming, but true. I think our problem (if it’s even a problem at all) is that we only KNOW life. I mean, we know it as much as something unpredictable and illogical, but we enjoy LIVING.
I keep thinking about how many characters in literature seem to have this same fascination with death and dying. Think of Hamlet and Frankenstein. Voldemort. Classics and modern literature alike, characters frequently seem preoccupied with death– or how to avoid it. How to become immortal in some way. Immortality is our poison, our addiction: the idea of living forever. Maybe it is because we think immortality is the same as power, or maybe we are just obsessed with the idea that we can avoid the Great Perhaps of death. (Looking for Alaska reference)
Maybe when we think about death, we think of how we aren’t ready for death. What if we’re NEVER ready? What then? Will we be okay with letting go of life?
I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing– to be frightened by death. I think the reason it’s so present in literature is because we can all relate; we know what it is like to think about it and to want to avoid it or to wonder about the value of our own lives. It’s humbling and it’s terrifying, but it reminds us to live– to seek out whatever it is in life that will make us feel like our time here is valuable. One day we will seek a Great Perhaps, even if we’re reluctant. But life is our first adventure.
Once again, I deviated from my point. I’m getting really bad about that…
(On the bright side, it’s sort of relevant to the theme of character! 🙂 )