[ Return to the SOAPBOX ]

 

"De Vita Morteque"

It wasn't that long ago that I wouldn't have protested much if it were my time to die.

It's not like I was suicidal or bored with life or anything -- I just don't think I appreciated my life as much then as I do now. Actually, I don't think that's true. I've always loved life, and I've always looked forward to my future. Perhaps, after the recent things which have happened to me, I feel more tied down to this physical world. Whether that's a good thing or not, I have yet to determine for sure.

In the past, I would say that I would have no qualms with looking into the face of Death if he had come for me. My logic, naive as it was, dictated that I had been living my life the way I wanted to live it, and so if I had to leave life, I wouldn't have regrets. Besides my family, I didn't really feel like I was going to leave anything behind. I didn't account for not having enough time to finish the things I wanted to do in my life. Let's face it -- I was, and still am, a kid with few life experiences.

At least I'm honest about it.

I don't fear death. I guess I still feel accepting towards Death -- I believe I get a say about when I should be able to die (meaning I should be able to justify a continuation of life), but I also respect his judgment. I don't fear falling prey to a freak accident, or getting ill. I would dread being painfully immobilized afterwards, but if I die, I die. To dwell on the worst things that can happen to you is destructive and leads to cowardice, one of the worst traits a man can embrace.

If I were to die now, I don't feel as though I would cry or get angry or feel pathetic -- I think I would most want to ask why. That whole rap about just letting God do what he thinks is right for you, leaving you to figure out why he did it, is not enough for me. "God works in mysterious ways," cheap Lifetime movies and bad TBN commercials say. What kind of cop-out is that? If life and death are really so precious, don't you think we should at least be able to know why it was our time to be born and why it was our time to die? The way the Christian God is portrayed, he resembles the many divine tricksters who are compelled to destroy peoples' sense of identity and worth.

I really dig that speech by Pacino in "Devil's Advocate". Few other people seem to have found this movie as good as I did. At any rate, the Devil says that God created the world and then left it, like an absentee landlord. The Devil, he argues for himself, had been there the whole time, nurturing humans' desires and pleasures. He'd been the one who actually cared about people. Not that I wholly believe it, but it's worth thinking about. No matter what the Devil does for you, you can never trust him. That's part of what makes him the lowest of the lowest of all -- he won't remain loyal to you. Heck, even the Mafia has trust. (unless you do something wrong)

So yes, I would want to know why I had to die. I would want to know why I was being ripped apart from Anna, who is already far enough away from me as it is, her being in Sweden most of the time. I would want to know what benefit death would have by taking me away from my family. I would want to know why I couldn't pursue my career to its natural end, or why I couldn't come to enjoy the many experiences to be found in life. Sure, just realizing the unfairness of death leads one to appreciate life more, and to take more advantage of it while one still can, but it's still not justifiable enough.

How dare life be taken away from those who want to live. What sort of meaning is there in a world where nothing is rewarded, no justice is fulfilled, no happiness means anything because it could end the next day without a goodbye?

And spare me the whole afterlife argument. I don't buy the conventional rationale for it. (I allow for the afterlife, but on different terms.) Being caught in an unbreakable sphere of Western philosophy over here in the States, all I hear is how bad the physical world is, how impure and temporary it is, and how indulging in it is terrible. The afterlife, when the soul is free from the body (or however one chooses to explain the beginning of the afterlife), is the ultimate form. Everything tells us that we should be in a hurry to die so we can be with God. There is nothing worthwhile on this planet except preparing for the afterlife.

Forgive the cluttering of Greek philosophic ideas, the original Christian notions, and later injections into the religion -- it can be confusing and laborious to talk about religion, can't it?

I haven't found a religion that appeals to me most yet. If anything, I think the Greek gods are the most realistic for me. I might be biased though. There's a lot of quid pro quo going on between mortals and immortals, and I suppose the trading seems more acceptable to me than pure faith. It certainly makes the beings whom I believe in more accessible to me. The fact that the Greek gods suffer from many of the same emotional ailments as man appeals to me too. A perfect god is a boring god. (although I personally think the term "perfect" is open to debate regarding definition, seeing as how God did after all punish man severely for something He basically set himself up for -- trouble with your work, Mr. Frankenstein?)

But anyway, I still don't see the benefit in ignoring this world in pursuit of a promised land. It seems myopic, a strong way to hold onto one's hope. What of Heaven, anyway? It must be a completely open-ended place if everyone there is happy and content, satisfied to be with God and his angels. I mean, is there ever any conflict? It's a spiritual place, but the human spirit is riddled with conflict and contradiction. That's a lot of what makes life interesting and worth it. There's something to be said for the importance of finding oneself through conflict, and growing through adversity. An eternal life with the absence of bad things to keep us modest and to make us stronger doesn't seem all that appealing. I suppose the alternative is Hell, however, where you could possibly be subjected to such fun things as being pushed under the tar pits by gargoyles, as Dante proposes. Safe to say that that choice is less appealing.

I don't consider the body (whether it's the physicality of the body or just being tied to it) to be bad, nor do I consider the physical activities of humans to be evil either. I certainly don't believe in year-long orgiastic liquorfests with ritualistic virgin beheadings or anything like that, but I don't see much wrong with physical pleasures intrinsically.

This is your fucking life, damn it. Live it! Life is a blessing, and the world we are born into is, overall, a supremely beautiful place. For only being a physical world, it's one of the most beautiful places we know, right up there with the worlds concocted by the imagination. As humans, we have the ability to think (most of us, anyway), laugh, cry, become angry, fear, et al. We can conjure up the thought of divine beings, and we can communicate using language. We can form bonds with other humans so tight that not even death can separate them. We can let our rage consume us into doing things unspeakable and sinful. We, as humans, can do so much during our lives on this world. And yet, (and while I do feel this was a much-needed step in philosophy) some religions find their strength in denying this world precisely because it's so exciting and tempting. If we look past the glitz and show of this world, we will go to some place like Heaven, being rewarded for our faith and foresight.

The main emphasis of this aspect is that you make the ultimate sacrifice of something you enjoy, to become part of a greater purpose. I like the idea very much, and I'm not saying I deny it -- I just feel that it's only half the answer. I feel that learning about this world, learning its rules and learning about humans and other species in the process, is another half (okay, so I'm allowing for other "halves", if that's possible). Dangling Earth in front of us, giving us no alternatives, with little to guide us, even if this IS the way God wants us to work, is cruel and foolish. Oh sure, maybe I just don't understand God -- but come on, if someone jerks you around long enough, you stop listening. It's as teasing as an X-Files episode detailing more of the story arc. You get enough tidbits to keep you interested, but you're not really getting anywhere. Can I get an amen for the X-Files/religion metaphor?

I didn't really want to get off on a rant against Christianity or whatever. But it's basically all you read about these days, and it just doesn't seem to me to be a realistic religion for this world. There are glaring inadequacies and faults if it's applied to my world.

Okay, yeah... So I don't fear death, but I'm not done with life yet. And a large part of this is because of Anna. I know most of you are tired of hearing about it (except perhaps those other long distance couples which write me time to time), but she really has changed how I perceive things. How could I willingly leave this world if my Anna was still here? She's opened me up to so many things in life, whether it's matters of the heart or matters of the mind (matters of the body I mention only here; I'm never going to discuss it in any more depth on this site, because it's private). She's basically taught me how to live. She's shown me what things are out there to see. She's gotten me to read more, visit more places in the world, examine different perspectives in politics and ethics and such, and so on. Her love has kept me from ragging on love the way I used to, and that's a good thing -- nothing blows harder than reading someone who doesn't have any experience in what he's talking about. She's shown me how much of an ignorant American I am. So many people in the U.S. would produce more rational arguments if they were able to visit other parts of the world and see how other cultures feel about things. America is mired in its own culture, with no escape anytime soon.

To keep it brief, I'll stop there. I love Anna very much, as you can tell, and again, it's mainly her that's kept me from being so ready to let Death take me away. Even if you don't have a significant other yourself, there is something to be said for the hope you keep while looking for that right person, no? Even when people fail you, and betray your long-held impressions of them, it was those special qualities you found in them that inspired hope in you. It's a unique thing to find someone who actually lives up to your ideals, but even if they don't, they remind you of what you find important.

I realized that it would be hard for me to truly become a philosopher. I would like to, you know. There's a supreme nobility in pursuing nothing in life but the truth. But what it requires is giving up everything you have, so you are free to challenge everything that you have long thought was a fact. Being a philosopher demands the lack of irrational thought, doesn't it? Perhaps "irrational thought" is too extreme a phrase to apply to bonds and friendships and such, but it certainly doesn't help when you must choose between what is logical and what is loyal.

I respect anyone who can let go of what he has (with the devastating pain of losing those good things that oh so few people ever get in their entire lives) and devote his life to examining the nature of Man and Nature itself. Some say that philosophers in fact are those who have found that there is no reason to fear death. Asian cultures have excelled at this, what with Buddhist monks burning themselves and samurai warriors finding power in their own fearlessness and kamikaze barreling into aircraft carrier decks and so forth. By not allowing myself to give up my life, am I afraid of death in some deep way?

Am I becoming too deeply entrenched in materialism? I admit very openly how materialistic I am. Hell, talking about money and business success and computer games and web page design and physical looks and such...it smacks of materialism. I'm the only materialistic person in my family, really, and I think everyone in the family is aware of that. Is it a bad thing? If so, is it at least a thing young people learn to overcome finally? I don't have the answers for these right now.

Maybe I need to devote more time to matters other than myself and my well-being. Maybe I have to make some personal sacrifices of sorts, like dropping extra projects and studying more. Maybe I have to concentrate on disciplines like philosophy and language more in order to conquer my materialistic tendencies. At any rate, I need to keep moving forward. We all need to keep moving forward. I hope you see a bit of yourself in what I write -- otherwise, why are you reading, beyond interest in me? (right)

Oh, and by the way. What's the deal with the five or so people every week I catch wind of who like to dismiss me as arrogant and stupid, incorrect and foolish? I notice, yes. And how come none of these people explain why they think that way about me?

I'm so tired of hearing negative things about me (that doesn't really bother me, but the next part does), and then when I inquire as to what brought the attacks about, the other people are unable to explain. I can understand if my tone turns you off, but at least let me know. Very, very few people actually take the time to TELL me why they disagree with me. "Why do you not agree with me?" "I don't know. I just do, you juvenile fool." They are not interested in having their opinions tested. They are cowardly and ignorant, blind to other ways of thinking. I try to be very honest about my intellectual development. I make it very clear that there is a lot I don't know much about yet, and I don't want to delude anyone into thinking I know more than I actually do. If someone comes up with a good argument, I'm going to listen -- if I find validity in it, I will adopt it. All too often, people I've talked to just write me off as being childish, when the truth is that they refused to open their ideas up to debate. Again, I understand if someone doesn't feel like having to put up with my attitude, but most of the time, I just think people are afraid to discover that they're wrong about things. In other words, fuck off, twits. I'm paying my dues right now for later benefits. Go find something else beyond me to write about.

There, mini-rant done. Don't be afraid to put your ideas up to scrutiny. I make myself look like a fool, writing simplistic essays and asking basic questions, making plenty of mistakes and seeming to not be all that bright, but it's because I want to learn. I know my parents have probably been surprised at the dumb questions I ask them. Right, Mom? Fred? It's because I'd rather look stupid once than multiple times, I guess. ;)

Getting back to the original topic, I'm becoming more laden with responsibilities and other shit that every other adult has to put up with, but I'm lucky enough to realize what's going on before it's too late. Others hit 30 and even 40 before looking back at things. I know that there are definitely things and people on this Earth that make it glorious for me to wake up every day, and I know that there is so much out there in other parts of the world (and even the States) that is waiting for me.

I will not leave this Earth until I'm ready, dammit. And I won't be ready until I'm very, very old.

[ respond to this in the General Discussion forum ]

 

[ Return to the SOAPBOX ]

 

benturner.com:  click here to start at the beginning
 
RECENT NEWS (MORE):  Subscribe to my del.icio.us RSS feed! about moods | mood music
12/03/08 MOOD:  (mood:  yellow)