"It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything."
-Tyler Durden, Fight Club
WARNING!! This entry will come off a bit morbid, maybe even a bit suicidal, but I can assure you with the utmost sincerity that it is meant to be the polar opposite. Read the whole thing and see if you can relate (there's a LOT going on in this post)...then leave a comment - I want to hear your thoughts.
I've watched Fight Club four times in the past couple weeks. I was recently reminded of its existence and proceeded to buy it last Thursday. The reminder comes at an interesting time in my life, considering the messaging behind the movie: I've now entered the 9-5 white-collar world of public relations/marketing/advertising that the movie preaches against, sacrificing 40 hours a week to "buy shit we don't need." Makes you wonder...
Secretly I've always wanted to have a near-death experience (well, not so secretly anymore). I want to know what it's like to teeter on that precipice, ready to plummet into the darkness below, away from life, love, videogames, and everything one holds dear. I want to experience the stark relief, the utter happiness, and the settling calm that follow. I want to feel the absolute fear of death, and then perhaps the calming feeling of resignation, and then maybe the sheer elation one can only know in the seconds before death, realizing your last moments are upon you.
What would be passing through my mind in those moments that will seem to last forever and yet comprise only seconds?
Would I feel the last breath of wind on my face? Would I notice the single drop of sweat trickling down my back between the gap of a loose shirt and my skin? Would I think of a beautiful red-haired girl's smile? Would I want to call my parents and tell them I love them? Maybe I would wish I could have published a book or gone skydiving. Maybe I would have been pissed.
When I die I want to die in the vicinity of no one (notice I don't say "alone"). I want to experience the passing of life into death fully conscious. I realize that I would probably be terrified, but I feel that's the ultimate test for the living - put simply, to die well....allow me to readjust the first sentence in this paragraph..."When I die I want to die in the vicinity of no one who is also dying." In that sense I want my death to be a solitary event - like Owen Meany's death. If there are others around me dying I'll be torn between trying to savor my last few breaths of life and trying to help or comfort them. Call me selfish...
Beginning of my junior year I thought I was going to die - and soon. I was sitting at my desk writing when this feeling just came over me. It didn't have anything to do with what I was writing. I just felt something in my core that told me the sand was running out. And you know what?
It felt good.
The most supreme sense of calm swept over me for the next two weeks. I enjoyed the feeling of the warm sun on my skin for the first time in months, maybe years. I loved going to work and exploring who my co-workers really were. I literally remember walking out the door to my crappy, leaning house and onto the porch, feeling what I thought was the most comfortable temperature I've ever felt. I had a dignified ease about me that I've failed to recreate ever since.
I've always had a fascination with the Japanese samurai and the concept of "bushido," a doctrine of living that, stripped down to its bare essence, meant to live every second of your life as if you're about to die. It sounds morbid, but it's completely and utterly refreshing if you can truly grasp the concept. You feel life with every step you take in a dirty subway tunnel, with every keystroke on your computer, with every touch of the steering wheel, with every blade of grass that bends beneath the soles of your feet. Always striving for self-realization and self-perfection. These are concepts that we as a society claim to pursue, but few really do. Very few achieve self-realization, and the most minute percentage achieve self-perfection.
This is what the concept of enlightenment is based around. I think in our society, though, very few of us will actively pursue it until we have that near-death experience. We have to feel life's tentative hold nearly slip before we can really grasp what it is to live. Yes, most people will claim they've been able to truly live based on their past experiences and pre-conceived notions of what it means to live...but have they really?
I don't know. I write this an unenlightened fool, versed in the pampered prose of Suburbia, America, not having ever really known what it's like to come within a hairsbreadth of death. I don't know what it is to be desperate, truly desperate. I've felt depression before and am better off for it, but emotions are relative by nature. For some, every feeling and emotion is "the best," "the worst," "the most awesome," "the strongest" or "the weakest." While I think it is important to feel the extremes at various points in our lives, it's even more important to find Confucius's Golden Mean, or the Buddhist "Middle Way." So I can't really say that I know what it is to feel desperate or depressed, when others have experienced much worse times than I ever will.
However, one important quality I think we must have is the ability to recognize this perception of our personal experiences for what it is - REALITY. Realize that your own experiences are merely one minute perspective in this grand scheme we call life. To be able to identify with other perspectives, you can realize that, in Carrie Underwood's words, "that mountain you've been climbing is just a grain of sand." That's why I'm so laid back - many times to the point that others perceive it as not caring, or as a weakness within me, whereas I realize the strength of it. To have the ability to see a person's problems for what they are:
- something to be laughed at
- something to be appreciated
- something from which to learn
- something to make light of
- something to not worry about because, in the end, it is what it is, making the present moment the most amazing moment in our short lives
As a good friend of mine might say, Hakuna Matata.
Oh what a wonderful phrase!