Saturday, June 19, 2010

Last Days

In the quest for life's meaning, people are often asked - or ask themselves - what they would do differently if today was their last day to live.
It is a romantic idea, supposedly a shining and fabled example of humanity's great and yet latent capability, but this is all wrong. It is a myth, incommensurate with life, unachievable. If you were really going to die tomorrow, how could you "eat, drink, and be merry"?
My phobia draws this inconsistency into sharp contrast. Every time I fly, I am convinced - utterly and unconsciously - that I will die. I may as well see biblical visions of planes drenched in blood and licked by fire, for the way I react. It is an illegitimate fear, I know, unfounded and overblown, but this is the nature of phobias. They are not something one can be "talked out of." An airplane of any shape, size, make or age is, to me, nothing more than a guaranteed death, in true catastrophic, claustrophobic and no-heroes-no-survivors fashion. I am not, and perhaps will never be, well enough acquainted with my own mortality to be calm or reserved at this prospect. In the days, even weeks, leading up to a flight I must take, my brain attempts to do everything in its power to absolve me of this certain horrible fate. Considering that I should be "getting the most out of life" during these last few days only makes matters worse, because I am completely incapable of enjoying whatever I do. Everything is tainted with the stench of decay, as it were. I can in no way "eat, drink, and be merry" during these periods - I would vomit everything back up, my psyche so overwrought with fear that even watching others "be merry" becomes an insult.
If this was your last day to live, would you be satiated simply by doing whatever those things are that you enjoy? Or would it admittedly be more frantic? If you were sick, would you let it stop you? Would you bother to sleep? Could you afford to waste time traveling to some favorite destination? Would you allow your self-seeking behavior to harm others?
I think that, ultimately, the reason the question is nonsense is because it is already implied; in asking it, we force it to the forefront, the same way a phobia does. In making the question too important, we make the answers irrational. Deep down in our most ancient memories, we know, as does every living thing, that tomorrow may be our last. That fact is the framework within which we were all built, the code in which we are all written, the boundary conditions to our mathematical solution. Applying extra boundary conditions (by asking the question again) creates nonsensical solutions (in forcing us to "live" as though we weren't already living).
In two days' time, I fly out to the US, and though I desperately need what awaits me on the other side, the fact that I must travel there by plane prevents me from looking forward to it. And so, oddly enough, it is this phobia - ultimately, a fear of dying - which prevents me from truly living.

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