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Quite Simply Madam, I'm Afraid

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I am paralyzed by fear. I think it fair to say that fear is the defining emotion of my life. It is what is responsible for my ghostly existence, my distancing of myself (whoever that is) from myself and those external, from the world, in short. Freud postulated that our psychic makeup is rooted in war, the univocal self, the ego having to constantly battle, negotiate, or otherwise defend the conscious, emergent self from the demands of the always warring id and superego. Our psychic makeup is also rooted, if the notion of defense mechanisms, a concept given its most seminal explication by Freud's daughter Anna, are to be granted validity, in mystery. Know thyself, so goes the imperative... where is the key, the door is locked.

It is probably not an uncommon phenomenon, one comes to discover that perhaps he might escape death by refusing to live. Rocks don't die, do they? I might be a rock. What a lovely existence. Just hangin' around, free from the pains of Sisyphus. Cowardice! (a voice cries out) I think this voice is the voice of my father, but not my 'real' father, rather, a kind of idealized version of the man of flesh and blood. But the armor surrounding this image of the man, this voice, is beginning to crack. It's an empirical matter. I am beginning to see, perhaps for the first time in my life, manifestations of fear in my father. They are far from obvious, in fact, they are very subtle, only a keen eye would catch sight of them. He's getting older. Mind you, he's still in his forties, but he's taken a beating. The long hours year after year, raising six kids, marital struggles, the loneliness, stress, the motorcycle accidents (yep, that's plural) that have fractured ribs, snapped his collar bone like a twig, fractured his humerus, etc. Is my father afraid to die? The thought inspires a certain level of anxiety in me. My own death is rendered a more real reality, one demanding confrontation. I AM GOING TO DIE!! I AM GOING TO DIE!! Someone help me! Grant me immortality quickly, where is the elixir so that I might drink? Such is the response of a being the product of millions of years of evolution. This is not the response of the ghost, the rock, the being who does not affirm his existence as a positive value.

Did you just learn the news today? Yesterday? That you are going to die. Maybe it's not such a big deal. Old news. There are times when I tell myself that it's really not all that important. I might even think of what a pitiful, pathetic image it is of ole Ray Kurzweil taking 200 supplements a day, with an i.v. in place infusing chemicals, drinking alkaline water, all in order to stay alive until the 'singularity.' Pathetic. Such a judgment, in my mind, presupposes that his central motivation for such measures is fear. Stupid coward, (I tell myself too) learn to die like everyone else. Maybe such actions strike me as ungrateful somehow. I also consider the following possibility, to quote C.S. Lewis: "Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours." Perhaps death is a gift, assuring us our own being.

Infinitely greater than any fear surrounding my own death (a death that I am always, it seems, on the verge of wanting to embrace anyways, and I even sometimes experience self loathing over the fact that I am too cowardly to cross the veil) is the fear of loss. The loss of persons that I love. The loss of their innocence. I'm afraid that one day they might suffer immensely. I'm afraid that this world will break them down. Destroy their dreams. More concretely, I'm afraid that one day my daughter might be raped, consider Irreversible. I'm afraid my son might be attacked by my neighbor's mean dogs. Are these fears irrational? My father was a paramedic in the Air Force, he once told me, as a young man, a story that haunts me still. Car wreck. Young married couple, so full of life. The woman was killed, her flesh mutilated. It is the image, as reported by my father, of the young husband (who would go on to die), covered in blood, looking over at his mangled and deceased wife. And that's it. A moment frozen in time.

Dysteleology. The greatest culprit, playing the role of detective, for my godlessness. My ghostliness. Forlornness. Horror. Anger. Fear.


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Posted

Your post reminds me of the story in Lucian's Charon:

CHARON I can't see anything plainly from on high. What I wanted was not just to look at cities and mountains as in a picture, but to observe men themselves, what they are doing and what they are saying. For instance, when we first met and you saw me laughing and asked what I was laughing at, I had heard some- thing which amused me vastly. HERMES What was it? CHARON A man who had been invited to dinner, I take it, by one of his friends for the next day replied " Certainly I shall come," and even as he spoke a tile from the roof which someone had dislodged fell on him and killed him. I had to laugh at him because he did not keep his promise — I think I shall go down a little, so as to see and hear better.
Charon thinks it is comical that any man would wonder about without keeping in mind that he is a man, and by nature destined to die. One might say that your reaction is most appropriate. At any rate, it does seem better than to have this awareness of death than to be a ridiculous character like the man in the story.

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Posted

You've hit the ball out the park! Icnedrible!

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Posted

That saves me. Tahkns for being so sensible!

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