Sunday, April 09, 2006

Meletus

I don't know if you come here anymore. I hope you're doing better things, but perhaps you check us from time to time.

Anyway, if you see this: not a day goes by that I don't think about you. I wonder how it goes, in both mind and body. I think of you fishing, walking, spending time with your wife. I think of you writing, and feel some disappointment I can't read it. I can't help wondering whether you are receiving any treatment, and thinking hopefully that perhaps it could hold pain and death off for a long, long time.

As I've indicated before, my own mortality is a lifelong preoccupation. Maybe "obsession" would be a better word. Some will criticize me for it, but your story gets mixed up in that. It feels to me like a step or stage I must pass through before my own death comes. There have been a number of those steps, some of them the deaths of people I love. Each step brings me closer to my own death, not only in the temporal sense but in the relationship sense, i.e., a close relationship, or holding something or someone close. I don't know why, but all these steps have a "fated" feel, like a line connecting dots. Curiously, that I don't understand what the picture is, what point is being made, does not seem terribly important, at least yet. It feels more like putting one foot in front of the other than like studying a map.

This feeling is, I think, one of the reasons I can't find any fear of death in myself. Never have. When I was six years old my parents took me to see The Ten Commandments. In one scene the old pharoah, Yul Brynner's dad, is dying, and he says, "Death is part of life." That line struck me so forcefully that the memory is one of the sharpest of my childhood. Not only did it inaugurate my lifelong preoccupation with death and my perception of it as a needed consummation of life, I think it began my gradual separation from Catholicism (in which death is a dreaded portal to judgment), and maybe even sparked my interest in philosophical questions generally.

I realize that I'm making myself the focus of this post. I don't see how to avoid that. Your living and dying is important to me, not in the abstract, but because it's important to me. It makes a difference in my life. It refracts and complexifies things that have been on my mind since I was a child. Not simply because you're dying. Everybody is dying. But because of your thinking, your writing style, your personal style, the way you shared your news. Those things (however imperfectly) make you an individual, and the kind I let into my life and hope has an influence on me. It seems so fated that for me see you in this strange, dreamlike light. And I wonder whether I will ever stand in that light for someone else.

However things may have been or may be, sgras, I hope they are well tonight.

But as you left us, there broke upon this stage
a glimpse of reality, shown through the slight
opening through which you disappeared: green,
evergreen, bathed in sunlight, actual woods.
Posted by Fritz_Gerlich. To reply to this post, click HERE.

RE: Meletus

Thank you for this post. I don't have friends who can express themselves this way, and if I may be so discourteous to them—because it feels like a discourtesy on my part—reading a post like yours is more like reading while looking across rather than reading their consolations while looking down. As disembodied minds in this dream-like light, you and I are like kindred spirits, in some important ways moreso than my real-life friends. As real and dear as they are to me emotionally, I don't hear the echo of their ideas as deeply in my mind as I do with yours. Especially on living and dying. So make your posts as much about yourself as you like, my friend. I hear them in my own mind as well.

I do check in from time to time, and I wish I could motivate myself to post more, even read more. But politics and current events no longer interest me (and to be frank, most of the political discussions here never did). I am finding that at the end of my life, the passions I found at the beginning have stayed with me. Philosophy for the most part, but also fiction. I am working on projects in both that will hopefully live beyond me. Toward that effect, I am trying to channel a lifetime of knowledge and experience through a tunnel of concentration; hopefully that way I will reach one small piece of reality that has never been reached in quite the same way that I reach it. Then people will read what I wrote long after I'm gone. It's a foolish dream, at some level—I know this. That is probably why I never put forth this presumption until near death. Now that time is so much shorter, though, it feels like I have nothing to lose. This might sound like I've finally found my pride, but in fact it feels more like I no longer have a pride to be found. This lack of holding on to pride discounts the price of humility, so I buy. (Tell Gregor I was a rational maximizer to the end.)

As for my mind, it is more sound than ever, even as my body decays within me. My focus is stronger, ideas crystallize more easily, and that mix of self-strangulation and self-expression that I call writing is more balanced now that the future has shortened before me. I look forward to the effort every day, and I grieve a little when I have to devote myself to more mundane tasks—which thankfully occur far less frequently than before. Strange to have found my calling so "late" in life. Or rather, I regret that this calling is so compelling and rewarding under the circumstances of dying. One mystery among the many with which I'm left is why my self-realization should occur this way. Looking back, I'd like to think I lived an 'authentic life'—as philosophers use that term; so why now, now that I'm dying, does my life appear to me as a whole—a whole that I can take up in reflection and live upon again? My off-Fray writing is that living upon. I feel alive as I write. Aside from spending time with my wife and fishing in the spring streams near my home, writing is now how I live—again.

I am home for a week, then my wife and I leave again to visit our favorite vacation spot—an inn in the mountains of North Carolina. As far as our plans go, that is the end of traveling for the foreseeable future. As wonderful as it is, traveling does take its toll. In no small part, we are visiting this inn because it feels like our second home. We both agree that ending our travels there is like unwinding from them, and I plan on unwinding every morning by waking up to a roaring fire, clean mountain air, and some birds who just barely beat me out of bed. Maybe while there I will write postable material, though as I think about it, excerpts from my real-life work are probably postable because once I'm gone, I have no identity to protect. Still, I protect it out of reflex. I'll have to think on it. Part of me is tempted to run drafts by posters here on the Fray, but another part of me wants to maintain a (mortal) sense of privacy. Which will win out I cannot say, but keep your eyes open on the main board. I'm still around.

Posted by Meletus. To reply to this post, click HERE.