Monday, July 10, 2006

Death is the Counterweight to Meaning

I'm afraid of death. I'm not afraid of death. I don't believe people that claim they aren't. I used to be one of them, but then I realized that I'd just stopped thinking about it. How would I measure Life's value without that fear? One of the first nightmares I can remember (and possibly even my first memory) was a recurring dream: a pulverizingly massive and uniform black particle sucked up and swept down and slowly rolled over a brightly painted English cottage. Alone in that house was a small girl with curly tresses. She frantically locked the windows and stuffed towels under the doorgaps, but the house began to shrink under the infinite weight. To implode evenly. The sensation was of a zoom out on this one spark of light, leaving only this impossible thickness of black. Some nights I woke myself up with my screams, having absolutely no idea just why I was so frightened. Other times, my mum would tell me I'd had another nightmare while my face was in my morning cereal. She suggested at the time that it was some residual memories of the complications I'd had in the womb (I'm a breech baby), but I think that she was trying to soothe me. hahaha. I later learnt about death from our tortoise that came out of hibernation too early one year, and passed. I think I have to learn about death each time I ponder it, it slips away so quickly by the rote passage of time. Thinking about death restores meaning. It also hurts so very terribly.

I saw the new Nature of Things last weekend and it was suggested that primal humans created art as a means of tribute to -and understanding of- the death of members of their clan. Seems obvious enough, but the idea struck me with some force. Art as a method of coping? Get me some paint and safety scissors!

Somewhat related. I won't pass comment on this other than, if I understand this correctly, this is fucked up: collective punishment.

12 comments:

Beckledshmeck said...

Beautifully written Tommo......

pagno said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
pagno said...

my parents used to blame my mortal terror on the womb exit as well. apparently a 27 hour labour for an eight n' change pound baby and its eighty n' change pound mother is a precursor to fears and obsessions in both. perhaps. i'd agree that death can be rejuvenating and art helps stave off the pain of that reality. viva los dark art!

eve said...

I think an obsession with death is normal in childhood, once we have the abilitiy to understand it.

Also, art is more accepted as a means of therapy (if informal) and definitely helps one to express emotions, as opposed to verbalizing them.

Lindz said...

I've been sitting here for an hour trying to figure out what I wanted to write. I've written paragraphs...and deleted them over and over.
But the thoughts in my head about this topic are so jumbled and confused it just never comes out right.
But thank you for the think...and for your thoughts.

Isabel Brinck said...

We were just talking about this the other day here in beautiful Hawaii.

My first recalled impression of death was Mr. Hooper, on Sesame Street.

And the first time it really hit me was when my friend Soledad died on a plane crash. What I learned then was that death is the only thing I know that is forever.

Sir Stevalot said...

oh and isabel....dont forget taxes.

Jordan said...

I don't remember my first philosophical notions of death, but let me relate a story from my childhood:

My dog was a yellow lab named Crissy, who Eve's Cocoa never failed to remind me of, except in color of course. We had a flock of chickens which were fair game for Crissy if they had the gall to leave their coop/pen. Crissywould take out ambitious birds on occasion. I didn't like that Crissy had this habit (I was also in charge of the egg production and chickens are, generally speaking, pretty cool). Over the course of one summer I decided to set up some old cages to protect the carcasses of Crissy's victims from further disembowelment. At one point I had half a dozen chickens in varying stages of decay, which I would check on every morning, poke around a bit for the sake of observation (I had a special stick for this purpose), before going to get the eggs from the live chickens. At some point during this period, I fell off of the deck and shattered my nose, and my first grade teacher (who was an old foe of my parents due to an incident with my older sister) called social services. I was sitting outside when a car pulled up and a woman started asking me questions. Both my parents were out in the barn. At 6 I wasn't much of a conversationalist, so I asked the social worker if she wanted to "come and see my chickens". My mom remembers running out from the barn at the sound of her screaming...

Incidently, Crissy was killed by a wolf the next summer, an event which I still remember justifying by thinking that the wolf was exacting the chickens' revenge.

Graham said...

....and then the wolf ate all of the chickens

pagno said...

...and then jizzed all over your sister's face...

pagno said...

qualification of my last comment here: jordan jarjour once told me that in aiding a mating session with one well endowed horse, his sister was accidentally ejaculated on as a small child. when i met her, i asked her about the mishap and she denied it ever happened. when i asked jordan, he took it so far as to get his mother on the phone. i declined speaking to her and took his sister's word for it. all this to say, in my experience, jordan may totally make up a given story just to get a rise out of you.

Jordan said...

Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny!