A free man thinks of nothing less than death

That hint of spring in late winter reminds me of passing time, and passing time reminds me of death. Not just my own death, but the death of everyone and everything. Each and every person currently alive today, covering the distended spectrum of decency, talent, and status, is destined for decay. Made for unmaking. It’s happening this very moment; with every word that I write every single one of you is a little closer to death than you were before. Whether you are striving after greatness and glory or sinking deeper into sloth and despair, death will rip your soul out of your chest and tear it to shreds. It is an arbitrary ending, a bad punchline, the ultimate deadpan routine, if you will.  A darkness so dense and concentrated it stops your breath in your throat. Senseless eternity, a night sky with all the stars snuffed out.

Walking down the street in downtown D.C., dragging the trash can from the shop to dumpster, mired in the tedium of labor for subsistence, I held down my sadness and suppressed my tears. A grown man is not supposed to cry, especially in public. Regardless of what open minded people may think or say, I sincerely doubt I’d be applauded for pushing gender boundaries were I to collapse and wail on the street, mourning for our pitiful condition, reduced to a convulsing, sobbing heap, a puddle of salt water and snot. Genuinely spontaneous displays of deep feeling are disruptive. We dread the breakdown of convention so intensely that we have contrived innumerable pressure release valves, times and places where tears and lamentations are not only acceptable, they are encouraged. Theater, musical performances, religious rituals, warfare, and so much more, allow us the chance to dissolve our isolated individuality into a harmonious whole, and quiet the creeping, background hum of separation anxiety.

Why are any of us brought into this world to suffer and die? Is there a lesson we are supposed to learn? How can it be an accident, a coincidence? Why not the life of a beetle or mosquito, a single celled organism replicating to infinity, a self splitting perpetuity? I wonder if I am really just this person, a disembodied gaze, an invisible eye seeking to leave a trace of its seeing on what it has seen. All of history, the inheritance of the past in the present, is this transmission of traces, intentional marks of having been, sent forward to remind a possibly existing future individual that others have lived and died before him. And as Jacque Derrida said, that french asshole, writing invokes mortality. I write these words because I will die, the certainty of my future absence gives birth to these words in the present. Though this text signals what I was at one point in time, there is no guarantee that the message will ever be received by a reader, or that a future reader will understand what I have written. Reception, understanding, and repetition of the written word that fixes the passing phenomenon of living speech is tenuous. The event of mass illiteracy would be the genocide of memory preserved in writing.

I’m taking out the trash, heavy with coffee grounds and cups, and outwardly I am a man composed, upright, aloof or maybe distracted. Inwardly I am clutching the casket of humanity, scared of disappearing, overwhelmed by nullity and sadness. I want to climb into the dumpster and be buried by the discarded objects, I want to be stuffed into a black bag and thoughtlessly tossed into a pit where I will be overtaken by rust and mold. For the rest of time I will become without being anyone, a slide show of bacterial looting and fungal revolt. All that will remain, for an indeterminate time, are words I may have wished I could amend or even take back, ignored or poorly digested by souls numbed by the glut of messages already consumed.

Author: The Empty Subject

Born curmudgeon

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