Are we just awaiting death?
5 months ago Ricardo Hylton 0
The Elysian Field is a conception of the afterlife that developed over time and was maintained by some Greek religious and philosophical sects and cults. Initially separate from the realm of Hades, admission was reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. Later, it expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life. If true, what was the purpose of life in the first place? To merely wither and die?
How brief is this life?
In the Satyricon, Petronius gives us the character Trimalchio, a fabulously opulent, vulgar social upstart. In a conversation between two friends discussing a feast to be held at his house, one asks the other,
Trimalchio, a very rich man, who has a clock and a trumpeter in his living room to tell him how much of his life is lost and gone.”
Trimalchio’s obsession is his fear of transience – the brevity of life… that there is too little time left.
Sitting by the Grave
Are we just awaiting death? The invisible aliens pose this question not in a soppy philosophical way where from conception, we travel towards death, caterpillars pursuing butterflies. It’s a question of the utility of that life. Is it of any use?
Chuck Palahniuk’s unnamed narrator notes in his seminal novel Fight Club that:
Everything you ever love will reject you or die.
Everything you ever create will be thrown away.
Everything you’re proud of will end up in the trash.
It won’t take you long to start nodding in agreement and even less time to start grieving. Is this what life really is for our species? It seems like we arrive from a difficult birth adjacent to the cemetery; alongside the fresh clay of a grave. And whilst we leave the gravesite to live a life, the gravedigger remains. And he digs and digs and digs, sits on the banks of his work, inserts a half burned cigarette into the sides of his lips and awaits our return. Because our return is certain. Some of us will grow old, some will return before we cross the street. The air will be full of cries and the thunders will rumble. Then we will sleep.
Events, Mr. President, Events.
We aren’t exceptional or special? We aren’t complete garbage either? We just are? I just am, because I think. Is that it? Really? Things just happen and when they happen, they happen? Events, Mr. President, Events. We’re just like those ants and cockroaches? Are we merely arrogant insects?
There was a moment in your life when nirvana was attained; when suspended between the miles of night between earth and the stars, the dots of your universe connected. You didn’t know it then but in that the fleeting, brief moment you achieved perfection. A moment of completion and flawless precision. A perfection of mind, body and spirit. A perfection as raw as the raunchiest tiger; as hard hitting as a woodpecker’s beak; as serene as a sleeping daffodil.
And that moment of perfection was the most you could ever expect from this life. Like boulder pushed from the mountain’s top, it’s all downhill from there. You will spend the rest of your days seeking to touch that moment again like those two irascible men in bowlers “Waiting for Godot.”
Is life simply a ‘holding pattern’ before death; before our pictures become wallflowers that succumb to dust?
We’re all dying.
Maybe we should simply view Godot as a state of being: the waiting, bracketed by birth and death, that we call life.
Existentialism postulates that our being is a tunnel of hollow hopelessness followed by a sense of futility, reducing humankind to absurdity.
The human condition according to the absurdist is nothing more that repetitive movements and dialogue reinforcing the existential theme that life is a meaningless, monotonous performance of endless repeated routine
But people want to feel like they are living something. That there is reason and meaning and thought. And God!
The Great Depression
Then there’s the materialism that envelops and chokes us free of air. Advertising execs have people chasing cars and clothes they don’t need; working in jobs we hate; buying what the TV tells us to.
In this generation we have not witnessed a great depression in finance or a World War, but we’ve certainly experienced a great depression of the spirit; a spiritual desert devoid of oases or viable life forms. The great depression of job insecurity of the 1930s is now the very essence of our life. Every aspect is insecure, held together by the most meager of threads. One’s job is no longer his vocation, it’s his life. Were he/she to lose it, watch his world crumble. The mortgage. The car. The overdraft. Slips through your finger like a faint breeze.
We are the latest children of history, raised by American Idol, YouTube, Facebook and even lecture theatres to believe that with enough views, likes or certificates we’ll someday become millionaires and pop stars and silicon valley entrepreneurs, but we won’t. And we’re just learning this fact. Truth and lie are now the same thing.
The Mosquito or the Human
In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of “world history”—yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.
One might invent such a fable and still not have illustrated sufficiently how wretched, how shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary, the human intellect appears in nature. There have been eternities when it did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no further mission that would lead beyond human life. It is human, rather, and only its owner and producer gives it such importance, as if the world pivoted around it.
But if we could communicate with the mosquito, then we would learn that he floats through the air with the same self-importance, feeling within itself the flying center of the world. There is nothing in nature so despicable or insignificant that it cannot immediately be blown up like a bag by a slight breath of this power of knowledge; and just as every porter wants an admirer, the proudest human being, the philosopher, thinks that he sees on the eyes of the universe telescopically focused from all sides on his actions and thoughts.
To be or not to be….
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is arguably the greatest dramatic character ever created. It is a life-redeeming work; life redeeming because everybody dies. Because one thing is for certain, death is the pervading theme life.
The tragedy of Hamlet delves into life, love and death. All the major protagonists and antagonists in the play die in the end. In the process, they all redeemed themselves by dying because somehow their deaths advanced the cause each of them stands for. With death, their life shone (See Bob Marley or Tupac Shakur).
In Hamlet, death makes itself known as an unwelcomed guest that never cares to leave, from the opening scene with the ominous ghost to the bloodbath of the final scene. However, there must be some further meaning, deeper connotation, and purpose to which Death is made so apparent in the play (physically and spiritually).
Hamlet appears to have a somewhat creepy yet serious obsession with the physically of death – the implication for the deceased. When in face of Yorick’s skull, he witnesses the ultimate physical transition between life and death; what could have once been the vibrant head of a politician or singer, is now reduced through decay to an empty skull:
“That skull had a tongue in it and could sing once”.
Likewise, Hamlet realizes and becomes fascinated with the notion that death is the impartial, unalterable, and permanent equalizer of men:
“Though your fat king and your lean beggar is but
variable service, two dishes, but to one table:
that’s the end”.
What one does in life, even those as powerful as Julius Ceaser or Alexander the Great (Hamlet references these kings) becomes completely futile in the end. Even more so, Hamlet becomes intrigued with the natural cycle surrounding death; that dead corpses will disintegrate into soil, and it is with this soil humans plant their crops, and so forth:
“A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king,
and cat of the fish that hath fed of that worm”.
However, it is with Hamlets final inner resolution, that he brings the fact of death into a new light, and finds peace within himself.
Hamlet observes, “the readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is it to leave betimes? Let be”. Death is inevitable and he who comes to accept it and sees the futility in living in fear and desperation in trying to avoid it, receives peace and serenity.