A death wish
Or about the ultimate hope
I hate to interrupt the previous series I was attempting to write. But today I went for a stroll at lunch time in search for food and was greeted with a sunny weather, as opposed as they heavy curtain of gray that have been heralding my days of late. It was an interesting change, because in was the perfect in-between between die-frozen or die-roasted weather that Berlin is known for. And with that niceness, all that food out there, the beginning of Autumn being nearer every day, and the lightness of a nice stroll, I couldn't help going all baroque and think of death, my time here on earth and what it means to be meaningless.
In case you were really hoping to read the second part of Why a good definition is a bad definition, I'm sorry. this just went into my head an I had to get it out. If it gives you any comfort, I can tell you I am still working on it and hope to publish it before the end of August. The article will focus on the futility of systems, in case you need to know.
Death as the happening
I find rather interesting that some people don't talk about death or even go as far as being upset when the topic comes up. I guess we all just have different personal ways of coping with death. And then again, there of course is a crucial cultural factor that determines what happens to our bodies, how it happens, what is done with our possessions, who does it, or, more interestingly, what kind of death is the more desirable. The cultural dimension of death and the consequences of breaking taboos imposed by it has always sparkled my interest and is, in way, present in my art.
As I have mentioned before (I guess), I was born in Mexico. Yes that country so obsessed with death that even throws a party every year in honor of the dead and the very same country with tens of thousands of violent deaths due to criminal activities yearly. I guess it is safe to assume that, under such circumstances, thinking a lot about one's death is something common. At least in my case it was one of my favorite topics to spend long evenings talking about when I was a teenager. Oh, those long gone days that will never come back, like the fume of an extinguished candle...but I digress.
Of all the possible deaths, for some reason I feel attracted towards the dramatic one. Not the happening, but the consequences. I wish to die peacefully, at a young(ish) age, able to take care of myself and decide how to meet it, proudly, self-controlled, fulfilled and, if possible, not due to a fucking virus or a bullet just randomly crossing paths with me. God, I hate bullets.
A natural death
This is probably top ten of the desirable ways to die in western cultures of the 21st century. I guess we have come a long way from the need of dying as a martyr for a God, a religion, a belief, a nation or...well love. Whatever floats your boat, I've gained the impression that the popularity of dying a violent death as a result of actively engaging in any of these has dropped dramatically during the past centuries. I mean, of course we would literally die for love, but not as literally as in drinking poison or stabbing oneself to death because of a broken heart. Nor have I met anyone that prefers being thrown to the lions or being mutilated than being ruled by the wrong leader, governor, president. But maybe this is just a result of me living in a wealthy prosperous country.
I'm sure eastern Ukrainians and Belorussians would be glad to prove me wrong. I'm sure the people of Myanmar and Lebanon are fighting ant potentially dying because of their convictions and I admire the determination of doing so. But that is not my point. I don't have any studies or numbers to prove any of this, I know. It is just my perceived reality that people nowadays, given the option of dying quietly or being killed, prefer the first. Maybe it is Hollywood, maybe just the Zeitgeist, but in these time you don't even have to die to be a hero, in case you wanted that. You don't have to die to change things. Sometimes you just die, trying to achieve them. Having said this, I don't perceive it as unnatural or contraintuitive wanting to die peacefully. In other times, in other cultures, this might have been frowned upon, dying the death of a coward. To me it is just dying the death of the rightful. No mutilation. No bullets. Please.
Ain't afraid to die
And I don't mean it a wanna be bad guy of a b-series movie nor like Dir en Grey's song (which, btw. I'm not a fan of). To me, it's not about not valuing or cherishing my own life, or about wanting to be finally done with it and be released from pain. And although I grew up in a religious context, I don't fever for death as a mean for redemption and definitely won't die in the hope of resurrection. I guess for me death has always been something less a a transcendental and more of a certain happening, more like Mammút's The Moon Will Never Turn On Me:
If one must live then one must die
Oh the truth must be funnier than this
Visions in my mind remind me of what could go wrong
That I'm afraid to die, afraid to die, afraid to die
Just I'm not afraid to die. I'm just curious. Really curious what will happen next. Maybe in a less esoteric way, because I think, I assume, I won't feel a thing. I will rot. And all data will be decomposed as the hardware is taken apart. Nothing more, nothing less, or at least that is what I'm convinced of. That is not what makes me curious about my own death. But more the "I won't see the sun collapse. I won't see the stars decay"(Even if that is absolutely not true. They do it all the time. I just remain ignorant about most of them). In any case, the question is a vain and egoistical one: what will happen to what I did, I owned, I made?
When I was very young, my parents used to listen to Joan Manuel Serrat. There are 2 songs that I often think of when I'm feeling what I feel today and contemplate my life through the perspective of knowing I will die: Cantares and Si la muerte pisa mi huerto. I would love to translate these songs for anyone not speaking Spanish and reading these lines, but that will have to wait. Let it suffice to say that they talk about the ephemeral in life, about walking a path made of one's steps, a path that can't be retraced, such as life. And once at its very end, there is nothing that remains of that path, at least nothing for us, the leaving, to be done.
What remains when nothing remains
As portrayed by Horacio Quiroga in his short story El hombre muerto, death might aswell be the happening of an individual and understandably frustrating to know that the world goes on without them, without us. This very fact makes the contemplation of one's own death so interesting. One of the things I love about Si la muerte pisa mi huerto is the calmness of engaging with the fact that the world doesn't end with us and that our own decease means relying on others to finish our pending tasks, like emptying our drawers, deciding what to do with our (are they anymore anyway?) belongings and taking care of our dearest ones in our absence (not that it would be always necessary, but still a nice feeling to have, we are not leaving anyone to suffer. Not that we would feel anything of it, right?).
I often ask myself what will be of the things I have done so far. Meaning, if I die today, what will happen to the artworks I have stored and haven't sold? Or what will happen to those that I started and didn't get to finish? And what of the sketches I was planning to use to create something new? Will anyone be inspired by them and finish the work I started? Maybe out of a feeling of guilt? Or thankfulness? Or even just obligation? Or will it just all go to waste? And is it a waste at all if nobody takes care of something as irrelevant as my plans? After all there are literally hundreds of us, especially amidst of the COVID-19 pandemic, dying every single day. Too much to take care of, no time to waste, no time to cry (Sisters of Mercy vibes).
In any case, I often ask myself what will live on when I die. And the answer I hope for is of course not about property, nor do I attempt to continue my family line. And thus I'm bound to continuously ask myself: why do anything? Is it hedonism? Is it carelessness? I don't think so. I would rather like to believe it is the ultimate hope. The hope that there will be something left that can grow new sprouts in those who follow. We die so others can live. And they live so we can live on. Let it at least be as flowers. Let it at least be in chants. in chants.