an essay that will most surely disappoint you, on the fear of death and sleeping masks and my total, abject failure to reference the GREAT SIGNIFICANCE that surely resides in the symbol of the sleeping mask and its relation to my fear of death, OR: an excoriation, a vituperation if you will, of a certain form of Caleb who needs to get smashed to bits.
The idea of a sleeping mask became pretty appealing to me after I tore the shades out of my bedroom window. I made this rash decision, because they were very dusty, chipped, and looked bad. I couldn’t stand looking at them—and they were all lopsided and spiders loved to make their little pasty homes in the corners of the window behind the shades. And the shades reminded me of the terrible shades in a house I once grew up in, shades that always housed a buzzing wasp. I’ve been using a sleeping mask to sleep for the past few nights. This has been the biggest decision in my life. Joking! The biggest decision in my life was not to plan too much for the future. Now, all I have to do is decide this every day for the rest of my life. I will not consider the end specifically. I will consider my end each day, as it presents in the day. There is nothing tragic about my life, because every time I renounce myself and give myself freely, I have learned that the rewards always far outweigh the rewards I get when I hoard, plan, am careful, try to write out the foundations of the world in my essays and fiction. Ha! What a joke! Haha! Trying to make sense of things, trying to say the words most fittest placed, most fittest than all the other fit words, is about as futile as going to McDonald’s at midnight and expecting to wake up feeling satisfied at 6am the next day. Thanks, Hans von Ur Balthasar—you’ve reminded me of this eternal truth. Establishing myself=futility of McDonald’s.
Ah yes, but this is an essay about my fear of death, right. And my solution to it! But I cannot really bear on how, exactly, I fear death and how, exactly, I have just been moved not more than forty-six minutes ago after reading a chapter from a book I borrowed from an acquaintance. I don’t want to tell you what the name of the book is, because I feel like keeping you wondering about it, craving it, might put me in a position of superiority. And the higher ground is, after all, what I have taken here with you. Thanks for coming.
Ah, maybe I’m too emotional, or sentimental. Actually, I know this for certain. The overly sentimental person is the one who thinks the unique texture of his memories are deliverable without them first being translated into a different set of textures unique to the receiver (check out <<that<< thought I just had that I won’t understand tomorrow). I can drone on and on with such sincerity about the self-inflicted burden of nostalgia. I can color the picture with flowery language about time and how it’s a heavy burden, but it’s all been done before—and besides, if you really want to know how I should feel, you might as well just pick up the book of Ecclesiastes. Anyway, I cannot really write an essay about my fear of death without first apologizing to all my friends who might be reading. They are painfully aware of this in me, especially recently. But a few months ago, back in October, it manifested itself as a strange tightness in the throat, an intense nausea that sometimes drove me to the violent solitude of emeticism, and a fear of driving in the car. I also could not stand, for months, being in a hot room. What brought the feeling on, it seemed, was coffee! No, wait, it was milk! Yes, milk, surely, milk it must have been, yes. No, wait, here we go…migraines in my abdomen. But…what is this throbbing in my right knee? Does my right knee feel hot to you? It does? Oh, good God, it’s not just in my head!
Friends, forgive me! I promise that if you have come here to enjoy a good one-sided conversation with me (like usual), about me (like usual), I can guarantee you that I also hate what I have let myself become. I have become reduced to a small size, like all the aging in my life has chosen to concentrate itself in this year of Our Sluggard, 20. The only things I am capable of talking about these days is my fiction and my fear of death. The secret is out, though; I talk more about my fiction than I live it and my fiction I have been using as the medicine to my resistance of being in the flow of time and love within me. Instead, I ought to be profligate.
I want to ensure you all, that I am writing here so that I can demonstrate to everyone watching what it is I would like to leave behind and what, it is, that I would like to take up again. I want to leave behind that fear of all death, suffering, and disease. It’s quite simple, really! Now that I know what has been causing my physical ailments (whether *actually* or not), I am now free to set it aside. Gentlemen, it’s been anxiety. Anxiety, gentleman—and behold, the box I’ll put it in. I will put the address of your home on the top of this box, tape it right *here*, and I will not provide a return address. Thanks for taking it off my hands, suckers!
The entire thing that I have overlooked in this fixation on death, this constant awareness of the end (“A Biblical principle!” you cry!) is that Time and my dwelling in it is exactly as it should be. My body, Brother Ass, usually discovers truth before me. My body, though I refused to let it be known, made it quite plain to me that I was suffering from the constant impulse of hoarding, trying desperately to clear out the brush, to establish myself in time, to write my book (If I can just write this book, I will establish myself!), to always be compelled not to make the most immediate movement, but constantly the best one. I am a harsh taskmaster and I am his eagerly lazy slave. What does this produce? This produces guilt with a religious pallor. It comes up to me in the form of the Giant Get-Some-Writing-Done-You-Slug, and says, “God says you’re nothing if you don’t write! If you don’t make headway into the production of that Great Statue of Your Future Self! That glorious idol, you are not who you believe yourself to be! O, beautiful persona of Caleb, let it be known that I have always been a fan, that I have been so in awe of your work, that I am extremely compelled to usher you into the court of kings, Great, Beautiful Future Caleb, you are so good at saving money, you are so good at writing when you need to—and how is your writing oh-so insightful? And you live with such confidence and courage. You, when someone asks you why you believe what you believe, you, you are the one that blows their mind with understatements! Your face never gets red! You are so good at not believing people when they compliment you, you have amazing powers of avoiding your image in the mirror, you dress such causally—oh, but you’re such smartly clothes! And, dearest Caleb, tell me how you conquered death? How did you overcome that final enemy? Oh, to hell with it! Enough of this revelation! It’s a revelation of a point of yourself in time and none of it is always true—just give me your autograph!”
I kind of lost track of where I was going.
And that’s—the point! Don’t you see? Because I don’t really. Uh, let’s see here. *Shifts hands through papers* *cough*
So, the point of this essay is something about death and how I’ve learned to deal with it. Let’s just get some general-profound-sounding conclusions out of the way here, because I want to go and hang out with people—when I am afraid of losing something, whether it is an idea I get before bed, or an insight, or a word fitly placed, or a possibly good story not yet written, or good health, or a mental space, or a memory, I can rest assured that it has all already been lost. So, whenever you fear losing something, know that you have lost it already. You live in time, don’t you? The assurance in this is not how true it is, how brutally true it is, but that whenever you have lost something before, or given it away, you cannot easily say that the loss was without any gains. Some people are capable of seeing no gains, but others who see the world as it ought to be seen, see in all losses eternal gains. These gains don’t just happen afterwards, after life. Death is, of course, the greatest loss—but our bodies know before us, know intuitively, that there are gains in loss. But before death, we are prepared for it, because to be in time is to lose, to always be slipping from one place to the next. And we cannot rebel against this, because it is us. We go from one moment to the next and if we are in love, we delight in it. So, I will lose all that I have ever gained, I will lean into it, and happily I will die.
I have never been more alive. It is the greatest decision I have ever made.