Saturday, April 3, 2010

on death.

As a kid I used to ponder what that whole 'death' thing was all about...I'd lie awake in bed staring at the cheap plastic stars stuck to my ceiling and wonder what dying felt like, if being dead meant losing any sort of consciousness, if reincarnation was real, if there was a heaven, and all sorts of other things that people contemplate. I'd get stuck in this loop...wondering how things could possibly have any definite 'beginning' or 'end'. If the universe is constantly expanding, wouldn't that mean everything would stay in some form or another? Was 'heaven' in the universe too? If we were reincarnated, who decided where we'd end up next? Was it a cosmic thing, random chaos, do we get to decide, or is there some 'god' determining who goes where next?

Now that I'm a little bit older I still wonder about these things but it's different. Death is more tangible than it used to be. I feel more mortal than I used to feel. I recognize the choices I make in my daily life that may impact my lifespan one way or another but simultaneously I recognize that there is a lot of chaos in life and I give myself up to that little thing called 'chance'. I see death as inevitable but try to make choices that will maximize the joy I [and those around me] get from the days I have before death. Fussing over the 'death' part seems to zap some of the pleasure out of life. I think maybe that's why my family always celebrates death with parties and laughter rather than dwelling on the selfish sensations of loss.

That said, I work in a museum that currently has an exhibit dedicated to death and mourning rituals. I sit ten feet from a small white coffin every day, walk past post-mortem photographs as I turn on the lights and sounds of the gallery, and sitting at my desk I catch glimpses of the tall mannequins in long black garb, big black hats and veils...I work in a mansion which is, for all intents and purposes, haunted. You can feel the eerie presence, particularly on/around/near the stairwell to the roof. You can notice things out of place, hear voices when no one else is around, footsteps when the building is empty, and so on. I don't care whether people believe these things or not...but to me, it's almost comforting. To an extent this is because it's creepier for me to believe that spirits don't exist. After all, I work by myself at night in an empty mansion. When I hear footsteps/whistling/voices, I can blame it on the ghosts or else I have a whole new set of worries...things like possible intruders. Simultaneously, it's comforting to believe that the energy doesn't just disappear...that life goes on in some way, even if it's no longer a human form. If ghosts/spirits weren't real, it would go back to taking the pleasure out of life with a constant worrying feeling about death.

The show 'Dead Like Me' gave an interesting perspective on the matter and I used to spend a lot of time watching that show while attempting to work out the details and apply them to reality. I realized it was just a pseudo-scifi take on the subject but it still made me wonder. Working here at this museum still makes me wonder, but more than anything it just makes me remember every day that I'm lucky to be alive, grateful for having the luxury of time to ponder such things as 'death' and 'afterlife', and blessed to exist in a world with so many possibilities and so few definitives...after all, would life be nearly as much fun if we already knew all the answers?

1 comment:

  1. maybe my ghostguy in the basement who listens to the twins can come visit you at the museum some time...