I spend far too long rationalising mortality to myself. So often, that I consider it a failing on my behalf. Just accept it already is my self-denigrating way of dealing with the fear of death. It was interesting today then, while reading Christopher Hitchens Memoir – Hitch-22, that he appeared to clearly describe almost in full my way of thinking on the matter.
I should note here, that I’m too often reminded of my own personality when I read memoirs, biographies or the like. So much so that I wonder am I only attracted to stories about or by people who I share some similar traits? Or am I promoting the thoughts which align with my way of thinking – or the way I would like to think – ahead of those which have no relationship with me at all.
In his book Hitchens describes when understanding finally came to him that there is a funeral director just for him. It was just after his son was born and he refers to some lines from Dante Gabriel Rossetti which Borges shared with him some years before:
What man has bent o’er his son’s sleep, to brood
How that face shall watch when cold it lies
In the same way I feel, as I watch my children sleep, I’ll live in them for some time after my own end. Or as Hitchens puts it:
Nothing can make one so happily exhilarated…to realise your heart is running around in someone else’s body.
We all know death exists but to use a Hay’s Office analogy of my own, to talk about death is to acknowledge it exists. I’m unsure if it is a cultural thing that I never talk about death with family of friends or because we prefer to focus on lives led and remember them well when finished.
What I do know is that as another year turns at our house, and ms4 and ms2 turn into ms5 and ms3 over the next 8 days, it’s getting closer to the time when these conversations need to be had in some seriousness.
Because I subscribe to the notion that you can believe what you want, neither do I believe in supernatural concepts evangelised by “religion” nor do I believe it is my role to be an evangelical atheist (and the irony I see of that position when held by certain atheists).
Once when a child of 14 I discovered myself questioning a man in a black dress telling his idle followers how to vote. I immediately departed the scene and have rarely returned. You could say that it is because I am a religion abandoner that I fully concur with Hitchens view on religions as the creators of pointlessness. But you’d be wrong, the fact I grew up “in religion” is beside the point. Instead over time I’ve realised if life is for living, why do religions focus on living it well simply in order to have a good afterlife? Our lives are our testaments. Our children and our relationships with people etc. become our immortality.
That “immortality” is less important as it too will dissipate over time. Instead I’ll explain the certainty of death to my children by telling them they should simply live life.
Even if Living Life means waking up from Nightmares at 11pm on a Saturday night with (growing?) pains in the legs.