Tuesday, August 03, 2004


This summer has weighed heavily, dragged down by the death of my grandfather and the mental deterioration of my grandmother who survives him. I admit, to my detriment, that they feature far more prominently in my thoughts now that they each labor under their respective difficulties than ever they did when well. I am, it seems, a foul weather grandson.

Aside from drudging up some guilt, recent events have brought death to the focus of my consideration. As an atheist I cannot find the same refuge in it as might a religious man. Indeed, it is a reluctance to accept such an easy way out which fuels, in part, my rejection of modern spiritual options. The release of a suffering person from their burdens is a matter of some appeal, but even then I think that death is, at best, a marginal solution.

People like to speak of death as though it were some sort of celestial pit stop, someplace where a driver shakes off mortal coils to finish the rest of the race. It is a primitive defensive response, one that I do not begrudge them, but even so I can find no solace in it. To me, it seems reasonable to view death as an end. Like the credits following a movie, it's a finale with no more or less to it than what those whose names appear can make of it. For my own part, I find death a distasteful eventuality. Though I have seen yet only a small part of its charms, life has been an entertaining diversion. More unsettling than the simple fact that I will, at some point, vanish from the Earth is the thought of all the things I won't get to see.

I was born into an incredible time. This is an era of such boundless potential, uncertain struggles, and miraculous complexity that I think its like has never before emerged. To those who come after, though much of what we are and what we do will no doubt seem quaint, it will nevertheless remain a compelling time. It is an age of wonders, and it has been my good fortune to have been born into a time and place of such opportunity. Even so, I know that my life has begun, and will end, in what is only the dawn of a new day.

Who can say what marvels might be found in the future? Technology, modest for all her allure, has only revealed the barest flashes of possibility. In my life, the Internet has risen from a convocation of the nerd to the most powerful information exchange ever seen. In my life, great literature, music, and film have been converted to ethereal combinations of data. In my life doctors have implanted electronics to overcome disabilities, scientists have mapped the human genome, and NASA has sent robots to Mars. I am only twenty-four and yet all these things I have seen. In the long expanse that, should I be of such fortune, will span this time and that of my death, I expect to witness even greater spectacles. How much better, then, will those of the far future seem?

That is what bothers me most about the prospect of death. I think about my late grandfather, and how marvelous he thought these new developments to be. At the twilight of his life, he was able to see a new dawn, and it was a bittersweet revelation. Someday that will be me, should I flatter myself to think I shall do so well, looking eagerly at what's to come, even as my time runs out.

I'm not really sure what I'm trying to say in this post. I guess, when it comes down to it, I am left with a conclusion as inevitable and undeniable as the premise.

Death sucks.

No comments: