Dancing with Death (part uno)

Most of us think we are going to die some day. I say “most” because some of us think that rather than dying, one day we are going to “wake up.” Some of us think that death is actually just a moment of transition to some higher reality, a reality where a bunch of sweet stuff happens and/or we get to jam with some deities or something. This tongue-in-cheek description of the after-life is not me being dismissive of it. On some days, I believe that this view of death might actually be correct.

But today I don’t think that. Today I’m one of those people who thinks that, one day, I’m going to die. Now, not everyone who thinks that they are going to die one day has actually felt that fact before. There’s a difference, I think, between knowing factually that your going to die one day and feeling the fact that your going to die.

I felt that fact one day back when I was still a teenie-bopper. And of all the places I could have first felt this fact, my first feeling of death occurred in the bathroom. Yep. Death sneaked up on me while I was on the toilet. I was sitting there doing my business and reading my favorite toilet literature and felt the fact that one day, I will cease.

I can’t quite describe how scary that feeling was, but I can say that I am glad I was already on the toilet. (Okay. Pardon the embellishment. I didn’t actually sh*t myself, but you get the point.) Anyway, after I starting feeling death bearing down on me, I thought about the fact that I was currently feeling: “One day, I will cease,” and somewhat redundantly I added, “And I won’t even be around to think about the fact that I am no longer around.” And again, feeling those facts was poop-your-pants scary.

The feeling wasn’t like a bogie-monster type scary. It was more like the scary feeling you get when you drop your [insert name of expensive smart phone here]. In that moment between the dropping and the smashing of your phone on the pavement, there is nothing you can do – unless you’re a ninja – to stop the fact that you are going to have a big ass crack in your screen; angry birds will never be the same again. The scariness of that situation is this: there’s this crappy thing that is going to happen and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. That’s the kind of scariness that feeling the fact of our immanent and ultimate demise can produce.

Maybe you’ve had a moment like the one I’ve just described, a moment where you first feel the fact that you’re going to die. Or maybe you haven’t and this whole rant just sounds weird to you. But if you haven’t had such a moment, you should probably stop reading now. For the rest of my ramblings, I’m just going to be talking about how I lived after that moment when death sneaked up on me while I was “in the John.” (Why is that slang for being in the bathroom?) And if you’ve never had an experience like that, you probably shouldn’t waste your time reading this. After all, you’ll be dead soon, and you’ve probably got more important things to do before that day.

So, after flushing the toilet, I decided that maybe this whole death-feeling-scariness-thing was probably just a side effect of that weird tasting hotdog I had at a kind of sketchy street-cart in kind of a sketchy part of sketchy town. I decided I should try and forget about the feeling (the fact) that I was dying.

Of course, I couldn’t forget about this death-feeling. It became a specter that haunted me in the spaces between the events of my day. In between 3rd period and lunch, I would be walking to the cafeteria and Death would just be chillin’ at the entrance of the cafeteria. He would give me this kind of gangster nod that meant something like, “I’m still coming for ya.” Or he would haunt me just when I was about to fall asleep. I would think to myself, “One day, you will fall asleep and not wake up.”

Now, I’m a Christian (on some non-standard definition of that term ’cause I’ve got some weird beliefs), so in those moments when death was hanging over my bed, I would pray. And sometimes, thank God, I would feel some peace. But other times, I wouldn’t feel that peace.

So, this became a problem. Apparently, God had other things to attend to aside from consoling me in my moments of existential pansiness. Or maybe my experience of existential angst was all a part of “the plan.” Or maybe God is just as dead as I’m about to be and that’s why I wasn’t getting a whole lot of help with this issue. Regardless, I was getting tired of Death continually bustin’ down doors and breaking into my thoughts. I was a teenager, and I had really important stuff to do, like catching ZZZs and updating my facebook status. I thought, “Geez, Death, give me a break here.”

Fortunately, after several years of encountering Death on various occasions, I think I’m finally making some progress in solving this problem, this problem of dealing with the feeling-fact of my death. To my more “post-modern” readers, that sentence marks a turn in these ramblings that will seem super lame. Mildly funny ramblings that aren’t terribly written are fine. But didactic ramblings? Ramblings that speak of progress? This is taboo.

Progress of the kind that I am speaking, in the post-modern world, is naught but an illusion, a social construction. We now know that progress is just a piece of meta-narrative that can not be justified from any “objective” perspective. Thus, I have no business turning these ramblings into preaching.

Maybe you think that that’s true, but I’m not trying to argue with anyone. I guess at this point, you can either a) accept my ramblings as something that might be psychologically useful, even if it is not a manifestation of “objective” progress or truth or b) stop reading here. Life is – as I’ve been noting – short, and like the folk who have never felt their death before, post-modern people probably have better things to do than read the less-than-eloquent-ramblings of some 22-year-old who’s still a bit stuck on silly “modern” notions like progress.

Now, I could explain this progress in terms of abstract philosophical mumbo jumbo and/or in terms of some rather mundane events (like pooping) which produced some not-so-mundane conclusions. But I prefer to explain this progress in terms of a kind of “dialogue” I’ve been having with Death over the past couple years. So, here I go:

Death sneaked up on me again. This time, I was working on some homework. He was sharpening his scythe in my room, and it was making this ridiculous racket. I know what your thinking: “What did Death sharpen his scythe on?” First of all, chill out with the logistical questions. This is a just a metaphorical dialogue. Second of all, he brought his own sharpening wheel. I was pretty surprised that he could fit that thing in his cloak.

Anywho, I was ticked at the noise, so I decided to just fully embrace my insanity and start talking to Death.

Me: Seriously, dude. You can’t do that somewhere else.

Death: (sheepishly, and with a voice that kind of sounds like Leo from That 70s Show) Sorry, man. I’ll move outside if you want.

Me: (kind of surprised that Death sounds like Leo) Yeah you do that. Actually, can you just leave me alone.

Death: Nah, man. I gotta stick with ya.

Me: Yeah I get it. You need to be around when I kick the bucket, but can’t you just come back when that’s about to happen?

Death: Well, I suppose I could, but I’m here to do more than just “collect” when you croak.

Me: What? Really? What are you here for?

Death: Well, I’m here to dance…

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