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the beautiful destruction

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Death On Earth

How often do you think about death? And, how does it end for you? My mind conjures too many scenarios: Will I die in a fiery plane crash or slip away in my sleep? Will I drown in a strong undertow or will my heart just stop? I don't think about it too often, but when I do it makes me feels fragile, like things could just stop working at any minute, and the reaper would be there waiting, sicle (and boombox, I hope) in hand.

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Pictured: Reference photography from the always impressive morgueFile.

Death is on my mind for a reason. While toiling away in my cube here at work, I was reminded of a revelatory moment I had several years ago:

I had just left work and was sitting in traffic at a red light. It was summer, late afternoon, and very hot. The sun was glaring through the side window, my eyes were squinted, almost sealed shut. My mind was running rampant, as usual, pondering a scattershot array of things...

Wait, I should probably preface this story with some explanation as to why I believe this was a revelation. Or perhaps it was a moment of clarity, I'm not sure what to call it... anyhow. For as long as I can remember, I've always felt that I was working up to something big in my life. And by big I mean important, good, worthwhile, meaningful.

Throughout my life this sense of expectation has changed form depending on my interests and aspirations. As a young kid, I of course felt I would grow up to be super human, like Spider-Man, The Hulk, or maybe Superman. In junior high, there was a brief stint where I believed basketball might be my calling, but it was in stiff competition with music... and I hated having to focus on more than one thing at a time. So music won out. And it appeared, for quite some time, that this was indeed The Big Thing I had been preparing for since day one. But after high school, things kind of fell apart with the band, and the answer seemed to have slipped away from me once again.

Around the age of 18 or 19, I began tinkering with the idea that I could be a writer. It was creative, worked with my penchant for reading and useless as well as useful facts, and didn't seem as much a REAL job as some of the others out there. So I was accepted to a writing program and got to it. Somewhere in here, music popped up again... I was probably about 21 at that time. I now had two interests again clammering for my attention. And the battle ensued for me to decipher what path to choose, which way to go. So that brings me back to where I was... sitting at a red light in the hot summer sun.

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Pictured: Illustration by Tyler Stout for Poison Control's Young & Reckless.

The light was red, the traffic deep. I had the radio on, maybe it was a CD, but nothing stands out in my memory. And that's when my "working up to something big" theory popped into my head, as it often did, and still does, and I began to churn ideas and plans around in my brain... causing me to get lost in thought, as often happens.

And that's when it felt like my brain had been purged of a thousand interruptions, ideas, and daydreams. The air smelled strong of heated asphalt and fresh lush trees. I looked straight forward, staring at the traffic light and just beyond it, the onramp to the Parkway East, and I realized what it was that I had been working up to my entire life: Death.

It was odd to me, but it felt like I had been awakened. It was as if somebody shook me, like you'd see somebody shake a drunk in a bad sitcom to sober them up. And though this message my seem morbid, it is anything but that. To be shaken and told that death is looming, that it's the end of the line (even though I realistically know that) was so bizarre... but also beautiful.

It's kinda like somebody saying: "You're thinking about this far too much. Enjoy this now, while you can. Time is slipping away, but you have the amount you need, so get things done."

And while I felt somewhat disappointed that my lifelong theory had basically deteriorated on me, relegated to nothing more than a morbid almost obsessive fear of death... I also felt refreshed, freed of my own self-imposed burden.

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