Wednesday, October 05, 2005

If I Can Remember Having Lived.

If I can remember having lived before and been different than I am now, then I can imagine the years that still lie before me, and that with their passage i will move and change and age and die. I do not fear death; but I fear disintegration. I cannot envision the dissolution of my consciousness. I cannot believe in its possibility. I want to die bravely, in words, my last thoughts clear and conscious; and I feel somehow that if I can manage this, then I can manage a sort of immortality. But I have never seen an admirable old age and I cannot imagine dying bravely after having been so enfeebled. I have seen the old empty and denying, I have seen them hard and miserable in their fear, senile and babbling, or far more rarely, too complacent in some thin accomplishment. When weakness strips me of all my human dignity, will I be able to face anything bravely? But perhaps it is dignity itself that is the weakness. Dignity is a frail and slender lie that pretends to find in an individual unearned qualities based on an abstract ideal of humanity. I should learn to shed my dignity before I am forced to let fall its final tattered shreds. It is possible to be weak and shaking, unable to speak, to shit in one's pants and still be human. To have the courage to be ridiculous before others is to have the courage to die. But it is easy to speak of death when one views it as distant. I just heard a crash somewhere in the dark and was rendered blank-minded by fear. Although I know that at any moment I might die, I know also that the far greater probability is that I have half a century still stretching before me. I choose, as we all do, to believe in this probability as though a certainty. But at some point, that half a century will wear itself out, and if I still live I will be living robbed of the comfort of those long and likely years. Old age lives unable to pretend any longer that death is not an inevitability. The old simply sit and wait, no longer struggling, aware that there is no hope for possibility, no time for change. And though the imminence of death is the single defining fact of their lives, still few admit this to themselves, because the thought that what they have never lived they never now will live is too terrible a thought. But dying consciously is no more terrible than living consciously. Each stage of life is singular and precious only in its singularity; each moment passes never to be lived again. Our youth is, in this manner, as much a part of our dying as our old age.


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