Happier Thoughts

People in Western culture, I think (and I’m not alone), don’t really believe they’re going to die one day. They comprehend it on an intellectual level, but the end of existence is not a reality with which we can engage on an emotional level. We’ve seen other people die, but that’s other people. Not us. Or, at least, not us in a way that we can truly understand. There’s always tomorrow, the future. Even though we may accept that our lives might end before we reach, say, one hundred years, that final moment is always sometime in the future. And as we approach that point, we extend it even more; it becomes a little more distant, a little less immediate.

I read an article this morning about the “existential slap,” that moment when a person is faced with the immediacy of his or her death; that instant at which one’s impending death becomes real. The article squares with what I’ve thought for some time now; that the acceptance of the fact that we’re really going to die isn’t a state of mind we reach, even though we claim otherwise, until we have no other choice than to acknowledge it. Even then, we may not accept it.

I have no way of knowing this, of course. It’s just a sense that one’s own death seems always to be an as-yet-unwritten fiction that may well never be written. But, of course, ultimately it always is; and it becomes not fiction but fact.

This is morbid stuff that doesn’t appeal to me this morning. So, why am I writing it? It’s what’s on my mind. But now, I’ll go to the gym and attempt to build my stamina and think happier thoughts.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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