Monday, November 14, 2016

Sharp pin

The older I get, the closer I think I am to death.  I haven't tried dying before and I understand I will experience the whole thing only once, although there may be dress or undress rehearsals.  From what I have read and what I guess, it is a bit like being born, passing from one state to another.  Many of the ideas of an afterlife imply such a new state somewhere else.  

My wife hears me talk of the end of life and she is not always happy with some kind of devil-may-care attitude toward an event that is quite likely to part us and leave one of us alone to face the world. However, I feel that each of us is a total miracle and that anyone living past the age of maybe 70 or so is an extra miraculous miracle.  I have no intention of taking an early departure, planned or accidental.

Long ago, we read "The Tangled Wing" by Konner and the descriptions of the fetus developing the hoped-for brain connections, sometimes arching across the brain from one side way over to the other got my attention.  As my businessman-brother-in-law said, the whole process seems so unlikely and fraught with difficulties and likely failures that no sensible financier would invest in it or support it.  And all that is just getting to come down the birth canal!  Never mind facing microbes and murderers and climate change and homelessness and parenting and graduation and home maintenance and all the great books I haven't even started.

No, my current position is that I not only want to hang around to the bitter end and beyond, I want to use my waning energy and possibilities for whatever seems fun and profitable.  Depending on her feelings, if my doctor or any of his buddies explains some cockamammy idea that might work, I could see saying that it was ok to give me a pig's bladder and hummingbird's wings if doing so will help shed light on ideas and processes we want to develop and improve.

I recently saw Roz Chast's cartoon in the New Yorker of Sept.26, 2016 and thought it shows human life and death accurately and succinctly.  It shows a middle-aged man holding a smiley face balloon.  The well-known ghostly figure of death has come up behind our guy with a long sharp pin.  The pin is just about to burst the balloon. Here's to long-lasting balloons!

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