At The Door
Nobody parting at the door ever says to their loved ones
— in case I never see you again . . .
If such a thought did bubble to the surface it would quickly be smothered with a hug.
The biggest of all elephants in the Life-shaped room.
Death is no big thing, but only to those without imagination.
Everyone who came in has gone out, or will.
Estimates—One hundred billion (100,000,000,000) have come before us.
Those first people controlling fire, the cave painters, wheel inventors
— the tens of thousands of pyramid builders under that same sun that is still overhead
— all the gladiators and the spectators cheering them on at the Colosseum
— the defenders of the Great Wall of China and the invaders who marched through
— all the friends, Romans, countrymen of Marc Antony
— tinkers, tailors, soldiers, sailors; the rich and the poor, beggers and thieves
— those preserved for centuries in ash at Pompeii
— every Crusader who tortured a wrong-believer
— the Vikings who got lost at sea and settled in Iceland
— every sailor on the La Niña, the Pinta, the Santa Maria
— all those abducted into slavery and their so-called owners
— all the participants of the Boston Tea Party
— all who heard Ned Kelly say ‘Such is life’ before his gallows drop
— hundreds of millions in what they call the World Wars to end all wars
— survivors of the Great Chicago Fire, San Francisco Earthquake, and Titanic
— all the residents of the Hotel New Yorker on the day Nikola Tesla died there
— the crowd who watched Babe Ruth call and hit the home run in 1932
— drummers for Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey
— every one of the people walking the streets in those silent film newsreels
— all the Daughters of Bilitis and members of the Order of Chaeronea
— the casts of Birth of A Nation, Metropolis, and The Ten Commandments
— many of those in the huge crowd photos at Woodstock
— my parents, many friends.
Parlor Game: Make your own list.
“We die so that the world may continue to live. We have been given the miracle of life because trillions upon trillions of living things have prepared the way for us and then have died — in a sense, for us. We die, in turn, so that others may live. The tragedy of a single individual becomes, in the balance of natural things, the triumph of ongoing life.”
— Sherwin B. Nuland, “How We Die”
Best bet at an afterlife: your occurrence in someone’s memory.
There are those for whom I am the last rememberer on the planet.
Well, there is the hereafter in DNA, and the collective unconscious.
So, step right up and take a ride on the Routes to Immortality illusion.
Paint, make music, become a political leader, write a novel—or somehow pull off a previously unachieved goal. Most-eggs-crushed-with-head-in-one-minute and most-t-shirts-worn-at-once are just two records begging to be broken. Guinness and a momentary touch of the Eternal await.
Outside, the rain is slowly wearing down all mausoleums and monuments.
“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”
—Julius Cesar — William Shakespeare
If you have it, you can resort to money to extend your stay on the planet—foundations, museum or hospital wings, park benches—money can always get someone to put your name on something, and that’s a sort of remembering.
But here we are for now, splashing each other in this digital ocean. Lots of flotsam and jetsam bobbing all around.
Even though it won’t fade like old photographs, this new history, constructed with ones and zeroes—winking suggestions of eternity—is just pretending not to hear the knock.
And yet there it is.
As enormous as an earthquake, as insane as a terrorist bomb, as tiny as a bacteria.
At the door.
“You start to think, when you’re younger, how important everything is and how things have to go right — your job, your career, your life, your choices, and all of that. Then, after a while, you start to realise that — I’m talking the big picture here — eventually you die, and eventually the sun burns out and the earth is gone, and eventually all the stars and all the planets in the entire universe go, disappear, and nothing is left at all. Nothing — Shakespeare and Beethoven and Michelangelo gone. And you think to yourself that there’s a lot of noise and sound and fury — and where’s it going? It’s not going any place… Now, you can’t actually live your life like that, because if you do you just sit there and — why do anything? Why get up in the morning and do anything? So I think it’s the job of the artist to try and figure out why, given this terrible fact, you want to go on living.” — Woody Allen
© AleXander Hirka 2019. All Rights Reserved.
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