Monday, August 2, 2010

Sadness, Hamlet, Community

"Some say that it is possible to profit from death. Accept death and one cannot be paralyzed by the fear of it. Since nothing can be more precious to a self than its life or perhaps the life of another, the acceptance of death is an occasion for purposeful action. For an authentic movement. Does a definite move toward death also indicate such mastery? Is suicide as authentic in practice as it seems to be in thought? Does the samurai regret his code as his stomach pours onto the ground? How steadfast can a man, who believes that death is nothing, speed toward his end?

Fear, endured for long enough, becomes seduction. Nothingness is just as inviting as the threat of nothingness to one so inclined. Is it right to jump to death from a whim? Is it ever right to act in such a way? The threat of death is not a cruel reminder of life’s value while one still lives. It is a reminder of life’s true worthlessness. In life as in death, nothing will shake or shatter. We have only the supposed perceptions of others and the illusion of the completion of a life’s work. There are no reasons to live. For then there would be justifications for life. As though an argument brought us into existence. And there is no difference between life and mere existence. Even the hero merely exists. The hedonist is soon satisfied. The man of peace goes to war and god grows weary of his creation.

On the other side of death, the proclamations of life sound hollow if they sound at all. Persevere. Endure. Never give up. Stand up for yourself and others. None can be heard over the last great command: “die.” Awareness, self-consciousness--no kind of mind can imagine the time after its ending. Yet those who fail to imagine never fail to die.

The man who desires death but cannot bring it about himself waits for it. He imagines accidents, random acts of violence. He pictures the weightlessness of the cabin in a plane whose engines have lost power. The burning suffocation of a stray bullet. Acquiescence to the microbes of disease. He even looks forward to life without him. To funerals and wakes. To friends who mourn him. To a world in which he is a record but not a memory. Perhaps his last evaluation is that this future world is a far better one.

This is his last attribution of value. Like all skeptics, the man of death makes an exception. He encounters with a sad lucidity the nausea of existence. Having given up on value, he finds only meaninglessness in every lit corner. He watches and does not participate, though he still acts in the world. He sees that perception is all that has ever mattered in communication. So he nudges the perceptions of others to maintain his anonymity. He may also wait for a value to appear. But none will come. From here it is just a matter of time until the first good night’s sleep in ages. The prelude to death, then, is a kind of drowsiness.

There are no reasons to live. There is only the will to live and distractions from the question. Where do we draw this will? It cannot be known. Resoluteness in the face of death has backfired. We have instead resoluteness for death. Anxiety in the face of life. There is no such thing as a reason to live. Is not living an act of faith? Is happiness a delusion? Why hold on to find out?

For every marker given value by the power of the crowd, for every great moment reflected in the record, there are those who cannot speak even of death itself. They are the third option. Inevitable, but also chosen by those who have grasped the tragic, maybe even the truth.

Life sabotages itself. It provides the criterion by which it fails. The book of life is a black list."

These words came from the black notebook in which I record my thoughts. I wrote them in a sad time. The emissaries of the medical gaze say that my sadness is clinical. Maybe that's the view from the third, but who can spot a DSM entry from the inner? Still, it is the cross that I and others bear in the Roman empire of life. It is a kind of unifier in that way.

Think of the times that you have heard the solemn words: "I know how you feel." I wager that most of the times this has been said were times of sadness. So it is with the invocation of sympathy and empathy. It is a hard to think that we live in a world in which joy is more alienating than its cruel opposites, that suffering is most familiar, most often our tie and bind. Yet I have only to write one line to confirm my suspicion. "To be or not to be." The start of a monologue in which a tortured man wonders whether he could bear the weight of his willed death. Who among us does not know that this is his question? Some say it is the most famous passage in all of literature. The eyes that linger on that page can see me deeply and the page is well read. It is the task of humanity to extract comfort from such commonality.

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