Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Inevitable End

Yesterday I spent like 3+ hours late at night talking to my friend JW-M. Every now and then we have really deep conversations; it's great. And it's interesting how the conversation wanders from topic to topic. We talked about medicine and health care, we talked about politics and science, etc.

At one point we were both like, "Wow, we're seniors now. Where did the time go?" And it's kind of scary really. Some days it feels like high school was just last week, and other times high school felt like forever ago. Many days it feels like freshman year was just yesterday or the day before that. Yet when you think about it, it was also quite some time ago. There's like a disturbance in how we perceive time or something. How I wish I could just freeze an instant in time so I could better appreciate it, or make it last longer. And as JW-M said, "Before you know it, you'll blink and you'll be 80. And then you'll wonder where that time went."

That is seriously really scary to think about. One day you'll wake up and be old, and perhaps the next day you won't even wake up again. Death, the inevitable end. It's such a strange thing to think about. I can think of it in terms of other people remote from me, as a fact of nature, or in a theoretical way such as life after death. But I can't bring myself to think of a personal death, to imagine what dying or oblivion would be like for me, would feel like to me. To imagine about not thinking, not feeling, not breathing, not moving - it makes me shudder. Very few things phase me and make me shudder like this, but the concept of a personal death is one of them. I try my best not to dwell on it for too long.

At least I take solace in a few things. There are a few things that help me keep calm when discussing death. Again, one of them is biology. In biology, life is a cycle of birth, growth, life, reproduction, death, and recycle. And with all my heart I do believe that consciousness follows this same cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Perhaps it takes the form of reincarnation, who knows. But that immaterial part of me, and of all living things, will forever exist in some form.

Also, one of the things people fear about death is that they won't be remembered, that all living memory of them will fade away. But I believe our very existence is sufficient. That we exist means that we interact with others, and thus touch everyone in our lives no matter how small and inconsequential it might seem. How we behave towards each other in this life matters, because that's all people will truly know you for; and perhaps, you will pass something on to them that will be passed down for many future generations. And our greatest legacy to future generations is perhaps our experiences and our memories.

This paragraph below is actually part of a passage from the verbal section of a practice MCAT exam I took (terrible, I know). But I feel like this sums up a lot of what I sometimes feel:
Tonight I watch the sky, thinking of the people who came before me and their knowledge of the placement of stars, people who watched the sun long and carefully enough to witness the angle of light that touched a stone just once a year. Without written records, they registered the passage of the gods of night, noting fine details of the world around them and the immensity above them. Whichever road I follow, I walk in the land of many gods. Behind me, my ancestors say “Be still. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”

L. Hogan, Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World. ©1995
However comforting this is/may be to me, it doesn't reconcile the fact that life seems to be going by way too fast. So I've devised a particular activity, if you will, for this very reason.

So at this time, whoever is reading this, close your eyes and take a deep breath. What do you smell? Home? Your apartment? Autumn? Before exhaling, ingrain those smells into your living memory. Carve those instant feelings into an emotion and hold onto it, never letting go. Chances are, years from now you'll smell those smells again, though it may be in a different place and in a different setting. But when you do, remember the memories ingrained right now, let the smells trigger a flood that you should never try to stop. And tell yourself, this was a part of me, and still is, and will forever be.



Anonymous said...

I´ll do it. Thank you for this post. It´s great.

Anonymous said...

thanks for having the verbal passage 'tonight i watch the sky' posted
i remember reading it and i wanted to find it again. i googled it and you came up. thanks for putting it out there.

jessie said...

Hahah..i just googled "Be still. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands." I just now read it on the practice MCAT. :)