the D word2022-01-20 bumpy
I thought about death today, for the first time in a while. I’m not really sure why. Probably because I had coffee. I really shouldn’t drink coffee. I have my “thinking about death” routine down pat. The idea of not existing for eternity pops into my mind, I imagine myself in a graveyard (the one on Sheridan rd when Evanston turns into Chicago. It’s a nice one if anyone is currently in the market for plots.), I get nauseous, I start pacing around and breathing super heavily, and then become so overwhelmed that all I can do is sit down and stare at the ceiling for a while and try to think about nothing. I have a vague memory of the first time that I realized I was going to die. I was really young, probably about 5. It was late at night, I was laying in my bed, and I guess at some point it just hit me. I started crying and I went to go get my dad. He came into my room and we talked for a long time. I don’t remember what he said or what I said. I don’t know how you explain death to a 5 year old. I don’t know how you explain death to a 24 year old. But I know my dad didn’t bullshit me. There were no talks of Heaven or a soul. I wonder how he felt that night. How it must feel to realize the being that you brought into existence knows that one day it won’t. That it will be returned to the same state it was in before it was born. Pure nothingness. I remember first telling my therapist in college how afraid I was of death. He assumed that I had some early experience with death, like the death of a close relative or friend. The sort of thing that would give most people an irrational fear of death, instilling in them that their fragile lives could be gone in an instant. But that never happened to me. My fear is just pure existential dread. The fear of eternal non-existence itself. That no matter what you’re doing, what your goals are, what experiences you hope to have, it’s all transient. For infinite time you won’t exist. So why care about anything? Partially to meme but partially because I really like this passage, here’s Camus on the subject: “Before encountering the absurd, the everyday man lives with aims, a concern for the future or for justification (with regard to whom or what is not the question). He weighs his chances, he counts on “someday,” his retirement or the labor of his sons. He still thinks that something in his life can be directed. In truth, he acts as if he were free, even if all the facts make a point of contradicting that liberty. But after the absurd, everything is upset. That idea that “I am,” my way of acting as if everything has a meaning (even if, on occasion, I said that nothing has)—all that is given the lie in vertiginous fashion by the absurdity of a possible death. Thinking of the future, establishing aims for oneself, having preferences—all this presupposes a belief in freedom, even if one occasionally ascertains that one doesn’t feel it. But at that moment I am well aware that that higher liberty, that freedom to be, which alone can serve as basis for a truth, does not exist. Death is there as the only reality. After death the chips are down. I am not even free, either, to perpetuate myself, but a slave, and, above all, a slave without hope of an eternal revolution, without recourse to contempt. And who without revolution and without contempt can remain a slave? What freedom can exist in the fullest sense without assurance of eternity?” -Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus I know it sounds absurd (haha, get it?), but my fear of death has had a massive impact on my life. In college, I was crippled by hypochondria. I would have bouts of anxiety where I would think I was going to die, and then I would become despondent for weeks. This was exacerbated by the fact that for over a year I had Crohn’s but nobody could figure out what was going on. Everyone was convinced that everything I was experiencing was psychosomatic, and I felt crazy because I “knew” something was wrong with me. But what about all the other times I “knew” I had cancer? I ended up getting a daily dose of head meds (see: https://youtu.be/0gnnFVRlucg?t=1292), which didn’t make my physical symptoms go away, but has definitely been for the best. I’m not sure I’ll ever really make peace with my own mortality. The head meds make me a little number to it, but the fear is still there. After freaking out today, I sat on the couch staring at Cecilia. I was thinking about how consciousness is such a blessing and a curse. Maybe life would be better as a cat. Bumpy.