The people we love are constantly being taken away from us.
It’s odd how we worry about the end of times. The religious dwell on the rapture. The paranoid fear a political or economic collapse. The scientific community worry about climatic apocalypse.
These fears might be justified.
But isn’t it weirder that we factually live in a world where millions of small “micro” apocalypses transpire everyday?
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
Perhaps we are so obsessed with end of the world scenarios because it would be easier to deal with one grand ending instead of all these subtle and fragmented cataclysms.
Wouldn’t it be nice? The news says the planet will be wiped out by sunset. The pathos overwhelms you. Your senses sharpen and everything meaningfully immediately comes into focus. How good would it feel to be able to say that one good dramatic goodbye to everyone at once? To know this is the last the day for us all and act accordingly.
This though isn’t our reality.
We have millions of hollow whimpers at the hospital every day. We have the internal whimpering of the person who just signed their divorce papers; your miscarriage, the suicide, the assassination by drone, this heroin overdose.
What stares us in the face is often the most difficult to perceive. Perceive it now. We are vanishing.
Between the ages of 6 and 11, our faces grow out of our skulls. By age 9, our hearts have grown six times their birth weight. In puberty, we bloom. We reach the apex of the birthing process we started in the womb and take the shape of our adult selves.
In our late thirties, there is a transition. Around the age of 38, our bone mass will decrease for the first time about 1%. The next year they will decrease around 2% in mass and the next 3%. And so on. The bones inside your body literally begin a disappearance act.
A summary of a scientific study: “Given a list of 24 words, an average 20-year-old remembers 14 of the words, a 40-year-old remembers 11, a 60-year-old remembers 9, and a 70-year-old remembers 7.”
We begin to fade, until we thoroughly disembodied. So it says in the Old Testament:
For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
The Hebrew word for dust is עָפָר — translated literally it means: “dry, loose earth.”
For you are the dry, loose earth;
and into the dry lose earth you shall return.
So it goes.
I live most of my life as if death wasn’t in the background. Privileged and joyous days, glowing with artistic expression and the textured intimacy of the senses.
There is no “but” here either, no apology or sense of pending dread. This is a joy that is unadulterated. Now is now and right now our eyes are pacific and vibrant. Our skeletons jilted with strength: our veins pumping the thicket and wettest blood; the sky a supernatural dome of warmth kindly cocooning us.
You move as if light in a time-lapse, smiling up from your beautiful spine and it’s like Homer said so many thousands of years ago: “The Gods they envy us because we’re mortal. They envy how everything is more beautiful for us because we’re doomed.”
I can hallucinate a future. I can see myself at my father’s funeral. I can see myself kissing my mother on her forehead at her wake, lifeless in the coffin.
The echo of the eulogies are on the tip of my tongue.
“My mother she loved my sister and I, and the people of this world to a fault.”
“Dad, you were my only true friend in this world.”
Goodnight dad. Goodnight mom.
I can hallucinate a birth, anticipate the unfolding of my future.
Trembling with tenderness, here you are, child, made from the dust of the universe and bathed in blood. Encrypted in this blood is the stellar motion the secret, here in this blood is my parents, and the parents of my parents, and the whole of all creation. You, the miracle of this ancient line of life.
Here is our love. Here is our greatest attempt at doing what is right.
That screaming. “Stop yelling at us. We know we are not perfect but we are trying our best.” An evilly adolescent eye roll: a weak cry with the violent shut of a door. Later that childish reticence as she hugs me, holds me. ‘Hold me longer,’ I want to say, ‘because soon you, like me, will be an orphan.’
Goodnight mother, goodnight dad.
“And those who expected lightning and thunder are disappointed. And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps do not believe it is happening now. No one believes it is happening now.” — Czesław Miłosz
There is no place for a mediation on death to go, no satisfactory way to tie together the narrative without invoking cliché or cheap sentimentality. All that remains is to plainly and clearly state again what has already been said once more. This world of yours is ending. You have a few magical moments to say hello but this life is mostly about saying goodbye.