Yesterday I got a request emailed to me:
Glad to oblige.
When I read this I thought of Anaïs Nin, who wrote erotic and pornographic narratives in the 1940s for a dollar a page. The difference between her and me is that I pay for the privilege of writing on this blog. And my musings aren't nearly as stimulating.
Anyway, since I was thirteen I've loved to ponder nothingness. What we don't know, the vast darkness between the scattered stars of knowledge, exerts a powerful pull.
A guy sits in his chair on the edge of a cliff. His wife (I assume) says, "If you want a positive outlook, you're going to have to turn your chair around, Walter."
No Walter, don't do it! Stay where you are!
That void you're staring into is where it's at. (Don't pin me down as to what "it's" and "at" mean -- they're part of the void, so who knows?)
So much of everyday life is devoted to stepping back from the edge of existence. Religions encourage this, even though lots of people mistakenly consider that religiosity involves jumping into the unknown.
If someone claims to know what happens after we die, don't believe them. If they're alive and able to engage in claiming, they're not dead. So they've got no experience of what they're talking about.
Death is the deepest and most mysterious void each of us is going to dive into one day. Religious dogmas, like the guy's wife, do their best to turn us around from it.
They promise salvation, resurrection, reincarnation, soul travels, heaven -- all sorts of afterlife goodies to make us forget the empty plate that will stare us in the face at our last breath.
I used to eagerly imbibe those promises that this life is but a foretaste of eternity yet to come. But now I'm a lot like Walter: I enjoy looking into the void. I don't have much of a desire to fill it with imaginings anymore.
Death is real. Keeping this in mind doesn't feel negative to me; if I turned my chair around I don't see how that would produce a positive outlook.
Because the older I get, and the more churchless I become, the greater is my wonder, appreciation, and sense of awe that I'm anything at all.
So far as I know, I was Nothing before I was born and I'll be Nothing after I'm dead (nothing conscious or aware, at least). Yet here I am, in between a huge freaking mass of nothingness, Something!
It hardly matters what I am, or what I'm doing, or how I feel about my being and doings. Whenever I want to, and also sometimes unbidden, I'm struck by a feeling that this moment, right here and right now, never will come again.
Thus, it is infinitely precious. I've traded a promise of infinite life for the reality of experiencing this moment as infinity.
Which wouldn't be possible if I'd continued to step back from the edge of death's cliff and believed that I had plenty of time to experience life, because I wasn't going to die when my body did.
This is hard to put into words. If I wasn't me, I'd have trouble understanding what I'm saying. I don't expect you to. What I feel directly can't be transported through verbiage into someone else's psyche.
All I'm doing is pointing to something that seems not at all unique to me, because I've read many descriptions of similar sentiments in mystic, philosophical, and spiritual writings (Taoism and Zen being my current favorites).
It's astounding. Incomparable. Priceless. Fleeting. Never to be had again.
Don't look away from it. The seeing draws you to the edge of existence, where loose pebbles of so many kinds (head-on car crash, runaway cancer, sudden heart attack) could cast us into the void.
For now, we're in the easy chair of bodily existence. Staring at every moment at what won't be visible when our moments here on Earth end.
What a gift. There's no need to believe in a Giver to whom we extend our appreciation. Saying Yes! to each instant is thanks enough: to nothing.