Recently I’ve been thinking about death a lot.
Now before you start, don’t worry, I’m ok. Really I am. It is just something that has been playing on my mind a bit.
Fine, let me explain… Kind of…
The other night I was lying in bed and I couldn’t sleep at all. It wasn’t my usual restless shuffling either. I was just lying there and my mind was on fire. I couldn’t silence the cacophony of my thoughts. Each new thing that entered my head fractured, splitting into countless avenues of thought each vying for my attention. The convocation of the swirling morass of thought was overwhelming. No matter which I turned to, I could never fully focus. My still silhouette was contrary to the disquiet of my mind.
In an attempt to trick my raging mind into lethargy I got up and stood by the window, a sentinel looking out at the empty street. I thought that by showing myself it was indeed night-time I might finally get the rest I craved, however fitful it might be.
As with most of my plans, it didn’t work out. The sky was alive, more alive that I’d ever seen it. I expected to look into the void of a black night, but instead the solar expanse danced before me. The Stars crowded the sky, jostling one another for prominence. The universe was holding a symphony in a vain attempt to soothe my wretched thoughts.
Damn. Sleep was not going to come.
Anyone who saw me outlined against the dark of my, room gazing upwards transfixed by the sky probably thought I was just plain weird. It didn’t help that my topless form was strangely rigid, trance-like, stiff (not like that), illuminated from below by the sickly orange, halogen wash of the street lights outside. All in all I have to admit it was not a great look. Unless weird, orange, night-man chic is your thing, in which case you just keep doing you Mr. Trump.
It was this experience (the sky, not being topless) that brought on my morbid contemplation. The vastness of Space and the inconsequence of this vastness fascinated me. For me, it echoed the human condition. The sheer incomprehensible bigness of the universe is only revealed to us when we are asleep. And if we do look up, we are mesmerised by the Stars, tiny pricks of light in amongst the black. We give little thought to the gaps between them. Those that stand out are revered, what separates them is ignored.
We see this every day reflected in how we view others. We forget that each and every person who has ever been or ever will be is different. Those we venerate, be they friends, relatives, ancestors, enemies, whoever, are distant from us, separated by an impassable gap. Their lives and their perspectives are unreachable, unknowable and unintelligible. You experience everything entirely differently to anyone else. No one knows how you think, how you feel. The little things, the miniscule things that not even you notice about yourself are entirely you. We can never hope to understand how another person sees the world. We may as well try to measure the difference between the stars with our eyes alone.
Now, you may be thinking how this has anything to do with a restless boy standing at his window in his long johns (what? They’re comfy) and his contemplation of death. And fair enough, it doesn’t have much to do with it, if anything. It was just a thought I had, connected by a loose strand of consequence to nothing in particular. And it helped to focus my mind a little.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that death is always going to be looming. Cheery, I know. But the distance we are away from death is of little value. I may die tomorrow or I may die in seventy years (pls 70). When I die doesn’t matter. It is enough that I’ve been able to experience my world, in my mind, with my body. The way I perceive this cruel, confusing and idiotic world allows me to fill it with beauty, colour, and meaning. It allows me to live. The fact that this world, the one that I have created and lived in (in a roundabout sense, I’m not claiming to be God) ends with me, whenever that’ll be, is exciting. It’ll allow more space for others to forge their own. As long as I’ve been able to live a good life, I think sleep might come that little bit easier.
Although, it might help if I closed the curtains once in awhile too.
Photo Credit – https://www.flickr.com/photos/gruenewiese/