She Died Today

She died today but no one noticed

Her airy personality like a drone hovered

They came and took her body

Bagged her, and threw her onto her transporter

But she remained the same

 

She died today but no one noticed

Words like bricks bruised precious egos

And ravenous retorts dug her grave

But before her final departure waved a virtual adieu

 

She died today but no one noticed

Listen…those who despair…

You Only Live Once

A parable exhaustively announced as if something novel and true. Yes, yes, unless you believe in the transmigration of the soul whereby identity remains in tact (I don’t know about you, but if I’m somehow assured an afterlife with a prelife I have no knowledge of, sign me up for cremation!) you only live once. Got it. Mostly people advocate (insert long heavy sigh) “you only live once” to make a point about doing their utmost to live this one life. It is one of those thoughtless motivational ploys to get people off their asses and really live! I get that. I do. But really? Is anyone ever really moved to live life to the fullest beyond a somewhat transient, flippant, arms flying in the air, “take me now’ mode of being when making such banal pronouncements? There is as much oomph, as much gumption in these words as there is in the goo goo ga ga of mothers’ first words to their (presumed idiot) offspring!

This does more to obfuscate than illumine insights into the human condition. Only the obtuse would enjoin the thoughtlessness that accompanies this prescriptive journey. The reflectiveness of the conscious, or perhaps as Sartre rightly suggests, self-conscious, more brightly sways placating anxieties to turn their wavering heads from indulgences – even those requiring some configured determination, usually of the more physical variety – to festering inner struggles wherein the Subjective looms. Living life to the fullest is not something one simply does, it is an orientation of life that is unsettling as much as it is motivating, disturbing as much as it is enlightening, defeating as much as it is empowering, painful as much as it is moving, crippling as much as it is igniting. It is not a simple task, a monochromatic way of being. It is polychromatic, strangely infused with a cacophony with harmonic hues, which fall deaf on unassuming ears. Being-towards-death is a nonrelational, hence intimately subjective, if lonely, experience, and most importantly it cannot be outstripped, for death is the “possibility of impossibility”. Do the work, if you’re going to make the talk!

Fragile Me Postscript

Fragile Me is not clinically depressed, nor is she unhappy. Fragile Me discovers the alienating and self-annihilating experience of addressing oneself as a kind. Whenever one speaks to helsewhereow anything is, one immediately speaks in terms of kinds. Elly is munificent describes Elly as the type of person that exhibits munificence; so if I wanted to know what kind of person she is, I could get a sense (since this is only a contingent claim…though, some have argued that it is a necessary one! 😉 ) of this, knowing what it is to be munificent. This is unavoidable. To evade such utterances is to end up saying nothing at all! (A case in point is the philosophy of Parmenides who deduced Esti as the only truth-preserving utterance, of which nothing can be said.) That won’t do, of course. Why is this self-annihilating and how can it be avoided?

It is self-annihilating because it asks that I turn in unto self (Sartre, of course, has argued that all consciousness is self-consciousness, but that complicated philosophical story for another day – unless you venture to read my Between Shock and Awe) adopting a spectatorial view as a disengaged rational subject as championed by science, but in this scenario I am both onlooker and specimen. I literally become an object unto self (a Cartesian problem which Sartre aimed to address and resolve), so that in an attempt to better understand myself, I think of myself in terms of ‘a human being in x, y, z circumstance’, and thereby circumvent all internal and external inhibitions blocking my ability to properly assess myself in my situation. In effect, I consider myself as anyone who could befall the selfsame predicament and offer consult to oneself as anyone might. So, Fragile Me argued that,

an objective onlooker could identify causes of both the extrinsic and intrinsic variety; a trained scientist of the human condition – a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, neuroscientist, even psychologist, take your pick – could tell you all sorts of objective facts about your suffering. A psychiatrist, along with the neuroscientist, may tell you that there is a chemical imbalance in your brain – something about the neurotransmitters found in depressed people. A psychotherapist may tell you that certain cognitive and emotional (in the case that the emotions are not considered cognitive states) states are the cause. And all of these objective assignments may accurately illustrate your state of being. But none of them, I repeat none of them, can capture what it is to be uniquely in the throws of despair. These facts mean absolutely nothing to one in despair. None of these facts address me; fragile me. Looking upon this state of being, or any other, as one who suffers despair, is literally to supersede and cast as irrelevant the experiencing subject!!!! When invited to look upon my own anguish objectively, scientifically, if you like, and dispassionately, I can not be aware of myself as an existing individual. Indeed, I am asked to be an object unto self, and in effect, to forget myself.

The psychiatrist is no more in error regarding neurotransmitters (well maybe since no one is infallible, right?! 🙂 ) than the physician is regarding death, or even the psychologist might be with regards to the human experience of death. But nothing the psychiatrist or the psychologist has to say captures the existential relevance of despair or death for me. These are interesting assessments of kinds, namely kinds of experiences and probable causes (insofar as this causal framework adheres to accepted laws of movement and human understanding thereof). Indeed, as Elisabeth Kübler-Ross writes in her 1969 book On Death and Dyinghumankind can be described as negotiating death in 5 stages of mourning. I may even find myself somewhere amidst these stages. This too, speaks to death – my death, your death, John, Mary, and Jane’s deaths, indeed anyone’s death – as something that we all experience similarly or in common. But can we experience death by proxy? Isn’t it always quite distinctly my death which washes over me with utter confoundment and surprise! Do I lack rational understanding of death? Did I not know of my own mortality?  Rhetorical questions to be sure! “How could this be happening?  Why now? “, we ask. We look for reasons, but none are forthcoming! There is no reason that we should die, and that we should die when we do. There are causal events that lead up to this ultimate event, as with all others, but there is no ultimate reason for it – for any of it! It is in this primordial state of abandonment, and self-doubt that I comport myself to self in an existentially meaningful way. And it is thus that I may find myself in the throws of despair as described by Fragile Me. But though this despair is an inescapable mode of being towards authenticity, it is not without great reward.

In another blog It’s the Little Things, Fragile Me, says:

It’s the little things. A penetrating glance. A stream of light. Preparing a meal. Writing a blog. A child’s smile. The joy experienced is owed not to the glance, the streaming light, the meal or the child’s smile. For just as words can fall on deaf ears, so too can sights fall out of focus. Everything that is anything is something because we make it so. You see beauty in the creases of the rose-pedal, are mesmerized by the droplets that like a suspended bubble sit indifferent to the raging wind on a leaf, watch as a child’s hand slowly fastens the outreaching arm of his mother. The world suddenly slows down and grows quiet. It is as with the reverence spoken in silent humility upon entry into the House of the Lord.

Beauty, joy, happiness don’t belong to the world for they can not be discerned by the spectator’s lens. I do not stand and face the world. I am always in-the-world. Here I become intermingled with the being of the “objectively present” not related as two separate and distinct entities, but affectively I take in the world with caring attention and personal investedness and I see everything that’s anything!

These little things are sensory data to which I am causally related; but they are only merely sensory data to which I am causally related when all that comprises my world is existentially irrelevant. Poetry, any art form really, may communicate the incommunicable individuality of that concretely individual experience that was my own, not science.

Fragile Me is a troubled being, but for all her trouble, she is finely attuned, and fully immersed in her world with others. Or more colloquially: all is good in her world! 🙂

Death Comes to Us All…

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

 

John Donne

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

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Death comes to us all.

As news feeds fill with the demise of Robin Williams the realization that even the most humorous suffer the toils of life overwhelms. I cannot know the preponderance of misery that befell this man, but I know of human suffering.

Have I had a bad life?

Has Robin Williams?

Money? Fame? Success? Family?

All of this wasn’t enough?

Maybe he suffered great trauma as a child?

Maybe.

Maybe.

But perhaps not. I believe it was Charlie Chaplin who said, “to truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it,” but I could be wrong. I think his point is that life is tragically comical. We invest time trying to answer the whys and hows, as if we could arrest the twists and turns of life events.

If somehow they could be contained by human – oh, so human – understanding, I could rest…peacefully.

What a great equalizer human understanding can be. To generate a playing field so ripe in reason must be the most laughable invention known to man! Accepting that things happen, happen to me, with no rhyme, or reason; that’s simply unacceptable!

He didn’t just leave me.

I didn’t just quit my job.

She was not just tragically taken (from me).

War zones don’t just occur.

Droughts don’t just happen.

Earthquakes don’t just take millions.

There are reasons for all of this!

There is the scientific variety.

There is the religious variety.

There is the psychological variety.

Whichever paradigm one gravitates to reasons are by default the method by which human understanding explains, justifies (category mistake!) the freak of circumstance that is otherwise unfathomable.

Why is this unfathomable?

Kierkegaard, Sartre, Nietzsche et al. They knew why.

If not for reason, then for what?

The answer? For NOTHING!

What??!!! NOTHING!

Where does this leave us?

The paradox? With human understanding!

What is the meaning of this?!

Finally a good question.

Immersed in self-doubt over this narrative, self-awareness is raw with potential.

God is dead, exclaimed Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. But you suspected this all along.

If God is dead who, what, will keep everything from falling a part? Will causal events no longer be ordered by His will? Is there no agenda albeit hidden from humanity upon which we can hang our moral hat?

Don’t despair. Well actually do. For in despair there is abundance!

No longer looking outwardly for cause and reason, the journey is inwardly enveloped.

No longer enslaved by reason – for some personified as God’s will, for others as the modern God, Science and yet others it appears as Justice – the freedom felt is both frightening and exhilarating.

For now there is an infinite stream of waters to traverse. Do not worry that the wind shall be your master. Cast your sails and chart you course. And on this voyage do not endeavor to look beyond what the eyes can see.

A passage from Blindness –by Jose Saramago – (fitting, you say?) comes to mind: “If you can see, look. If can look, observe.” (Yes, yes, this is out of context!)

And what then of human suffering?

Were it not for the flood of feeds regarding the passing of the beloved Robin Williams, death, rather her contemplation, would not have reached my consciousness.

Contemplating death, the finality of life suddenly appears like a spoiled child demanding attention.

Why must she cry so?, banging her little fists against the ground. Why does the ground disappear with each sounding blow? Why does she look out onto the world demanding that her suffering be taken away?

Here lies the tragedy of human existence!

The ultimate life affirming force is in despairing over the understanding of ourselves as castaways who must conjure meaning by planting invisible roots.

Those who suffer greatly, live extra-ordinarily. They laugh laudably.