We — all of us — live on razor’s edge between endless abysses.
We sometimes praise those who ”are not afraid of death.” Why shouldn’t a person be afraid of death?
Along with the fear of the dying, comes the knowledge that our bodies will one day deteriorate, perhaps quickly, perhaps over many years. We speak of “fighting” this decay. We do what we can, but we also know there’s only so much we can do; death will have its day. We may think that we can will our bodies to stick around. To an extent, it’s true: We can certainly hasten death and deterioration by abusing our bodies. But nothing we can do can prevent the end that awaits us all.
We live in times of peril, of anxieties large and small, of fears that civilization itself may be on the brink, that it may crumble and disintegrate in horribly painful ways. I wonder if it’s always felt this way, if civilization itself always rides the thin edge of existence just as our individual human lives exist by a thread.
For all the apocalyptic visions of fiction, we know that we cannot know the shape of things to come. What will words written now mean in that future? Will there be electricity to power computers and internet? Or will new technologies so outstrip those we use today to make everything previous seem totally irrelevant?
There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that Bob Dylan wrote A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall during the Cuban missile crisis feeling that we were close to the apocalypse and that he wanted to put everything he could into a single song.
I’ve heard it said that all writing requires this sense of urgency.
We know, as certainly as we know anything, how tenuous consciousness is. We know as we know the sun will come up in the morning, that one day we will not, that our consciousness is “on loan”, temporary.
For some, this is cause for despair: That life is transitory implies for them that it is meaningless. But that is the challenge of life: To create meaning, despite our limitations, despite our finite existence in the infinite universe.