“Are you ready? Are you ready to be changed, to receive this truth and to embrace it within your very existence?” My dad had grinned at me, and more a little maniacally. “Could I have a drum-roll, please?” he had asked theatrically, and for a couple of seconds he had beat the table top with his index fingers, increasing speed rapidly until he stopped suddenly and with a flourish.
“You …” he had said,
“…will …” he had continued
“…die!” he had finished, and for a wild moment remained wide-eyed in a dramatic pause.
Above us, the sky had started to dim as the light bled from the day; the air had begun to feel cooler, in some way thinner; the pink tinge in the clouds had imperceptibly faded to nothing as the sun sank into a thick miasma of sponge-cake yellow light that banded the western horizon behind the still, silhouettes of trees, while to the east the deeper blue turned ever darker shades.
“Now,” my dad had resumed, “I must make it very clear that I’m not talking about any fairytale kind of a death, some magical gateway to another plane of existence. No! I’m talking about ‘lights out, goodnight Vienna’: the complete end of your existence and being! The total and infinite annihilation of your one and only consciousness! You can’t hide behind the thought that it won’t happen to you; who was it who said: ‘everybody has to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case’? I don’t recall, but I do know the bugger’s dead now! Although the urge is to believe likewise for ourselves, to live as if life is endless, the evidence is stark and right before our eyes: everything living dies, ergo – You. Will. Die!
“You must tell yourself this, over and over again until you have utterly dispelled the vain and baseless fantasy of otherwise: you will experience no heaven, no after-life, no reincarnation. You must say it over and over again until the icy hand of realization grasps your very heart and makes you catch your breath in pure horror that there actually will be a time when you simply will not be; that all your potential, all your possible futures will end, as all your past futures, in oblivion, and that you – not some future you who is in some way other than you, but this very real you who experiences life now – will be utterly and irrevocably no more!”
“I first had that thought when I was a kid,” I had said, “I mean, exactly as you say. I could think myself into the clearest awareness – the closest thing I’ve had to revelation – that there would come a time when I would not be, and the instant reaction of my mind was as if flinching at a blow. I’d immediately have to turn and flee from the thought in the most abject terror.”
– the total emptiness for ever,
the sure extinction that we travel to
and shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
not to be anywhere,
and soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
“ – I’d turn on the telly, or run downstairs and talk to you or mum: anything to shake it off, to escape the hideous, unbearable, flint-hard truth of it.”
“Escape it! That’s exactly what everyone tries to do, to one degree or another, even those who never quite so acutely feel the freezing touch of actual and impending death on the very pulse of their warm existence. Everyone turns their face from the real fact of their death and acts as if their ‘me’ will go on forever. But they won’t.”
“We refer to certain human psychological issues as ‘delusional’ but humans are, in them-very-selves, quite the most preposterous unsupportable delusion!” My dad had chuckled. “So, don’t be fooled, don’t be a fool; don’t continue to deny it through ignorance; proclaim it out loud: we are all – I – am going to die! I am going to vanish from my self as if I had never been. Paf! Gone for good!”
“So, great sage,” I had smiled, “What is the fucking point of it all, then? What is the meaning – ”
“ – of life the universe and everything?” he had cut in. “Well, the two qualities of existence that we have identified must lead to one simple, unavoidable conclusion. Recall, on the one hand, we have futures of practically infinite possibility which we are biologically and psychologically programmed to be ever-analyzing, and ever-seeking to bring to actuality; remember also that whatever futures that we do bring into actuality must count for nothing because our final futurity is to die an everlasting death and pass into oblivion –
“The inescapable conclusion, then?
“There is no point in life!
“Ha!” my dad had grinned, checking the coffee pot and finding it empty. “It’s utterly pointless and without any meaning at all! You will only be completed as a being by your death and the annihilation of your awareness! It’s all one massive cosmic joke played upon each and every one of us, and the truly awful thing about being duped so absolutely, so monumentally cruelly, is that there isn’t even a prankster! There isn’t even a God laughing at our surprise and discomfort!” My dad had laughed gaily. “Ain’t that a kick in the head?”
It was. “And this is meant to be cheering me up?” I had asked.
My had dad had smiled widely, “No!” he chimed happily, “Aren’t you listening? It is meant to cause you complete and utter anguish, such irredeemable distress that you will be forced to break through the pernicious lie of the world in a furious effort to deliver yourself from it! We must end our appallingly toxic urge to cling to easy comforts; it’s time to deal with true reality! There’s no lasting ease from our condition in delusion, delusion only fuels the fires of our torment, even if the alternative seems on the face of things to lead us somewhere even worse.” He chuckled. “There is no such thing as cheap grace.”
from ‘The Damnation of Fist – a Tragedy’, by Andy Meehan
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