The title for this entry comes from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Wakefield. This tale tells of a point in human history where mankind gets together and burns everything that has ever been created by mankind as to initiate a new beginning, a mulligan on a grand scale, if you will; and as you can imagine – this was a very large fire.
In the story, a man warns the spectators that they should be neither glad nor sad, because the fire is consuming only that which is consumable. The Devil then states that the organizers of this great fire have forgotten to offer to the fire the essential element as to allow humankind a chance to start over – the human heart.
It is this day, perhaps, that keeps me from being cheery about humanity. When shall we cease to be so avaricious and really evolve?
Death is a mystery. That death is a mystery brings life into the realm of the unknown because life and death are inextricably linked. The word mystery comes from mystes, ‘one who has been initiated,’ which comes from the form myein, ‘to shut the eyes’ as in, only the initiated are allowed to witness secret rites. Why are our eyes closed to the ultimate end? There are many things we can discover in a lifetime, and over the millennia humans have revealed much about their own existence, but no one can supply a definitive about death, except to say that it’s inevitable.
Most, including myself, have a fear of death. When faced with the possibility of it while climbing I think one must have some kind of personal philosophy about it. I’ve met other climbers that aren’t concerned in the least about dying. They are not careless, but carefree. I wonder if this is denial, or recognition of death.
Any religious person will give to you what they consider the correct answer to the question of death. For Christians, it is a simple matter of accepting Jesus Christ as your savior; after death comes everlasting life in heaven. The problem is, heaven is not a tangible thing, or you can’t go there on holiday and come back with a tan. One can think about heaven, pray about it, talk about it, believe devoutly in it but until you go, there’s just no way to know. Tibetan Buddhists believe that after 59 days of travelling through many levels of reality the soul is safely delivered to the afterlife where the spirit finds another physical form to inhabit. Spiritual adepts will tell you that they are intimately acquainted with these worlds. Once again, we, the living, stand on the other side of the blackened veil that does not allow us to see to the other side.
Examples are many and varied, but ultimately one must have faith in a religion, or another spiritual discipline to say they ‘know’ what awaits them in the other world. Who knows? Annie Dilliard, “trying to know anything is like trying to get a coffee ground out of a cup of water, you just end up pushing it around.” I don’t, and don’t pretend to know. Sometimes just thinking about being hundreds of feet in the air on a rock face with nothing but an inch or less to stand on or hold makes my palms sweaty. Thinking about climbing a rock face is not the actual doing. While climbing, I find my concentration so intense that there can be nothing else to think about except for what I’m doing in the exact moment. I would make the argument that we are all just like a climber on a rock face – though we may feel secure and sure that we know what is over the next peak, we really don’t know.
A famous climber dies in a car crash after being hit by a drunk driver. In Sweden a climber packs his bicycle with all he will need to ride to Nepal, and then carries all of his gear(solo), including his bike, to the Everest base camp, completes two solo summits on Mt. Everest (without oxygen) and rides back to Sweden. A short time later our Swedish climber is climbing in Vantage, Washington while on holiday, on a very easy climb, and falls to his death. No matter how skilled we think we are in living and avoiding our demise, death takes us on what would seem a whim.
The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, ed. Robert K. Barnhart, HarperResource,1995
Why should we honor only those that die upon the field of battle? A man may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself.
Ate a local peach today. Chances are the water/juice therein came from the river. I took one bite and suddenly I had juice careening over the back of my hand and down my arm. A river of juice from water that began as snow and before that rain/moisture sucked up from the ocean, a river, a lake; now I drink, and in turn it passes over my teeth into my digestive tract. Then moisture finds its way back to the atmosphere through my skin and my bladder.
In a horticultural setting, quick lime, lime that has been hydrated, is good for the soil if the acid level is too low; but, if too much is added, it can deplete the water within plants and other healthy micro-organisms, resulting in the death of plants; super-compacted limestone (ancient, ocean reef) asking for water – and will take it. Rock with a vengeance!
On a cool spring evening twilight after the first warm day of spring, I look out the front window and there I see my garden chair alone, quiet facing the now non-existent rays of the Sun. I was there earlier, in the warm part of the day; with my shirt off, blessing my skin with some vitamin D. I’m now standing at the window looking at the lonely chair; I could sit in the chair, but I’m inside feeling the effects of the Sun warming my cheeks. It seems to me now that it wasn’t me there earlier, how could it have been – the chair is empty and the Sun is gone?
Today I read, for the mega-millionth time, that the Buddha said life and experience are illusory. I’m sure that for as many times that I’ve read this notion, I have logged a different interpretation. Last night I stood next to my bed and realized I was separate from the person who all week had written, edited, taught and surfed. All those things – didn’t matter, don’t matter. It can be disheartening to put incredible amounts of energy into something, only to realize – that one hadn’t really done anything at all.
In that moment by my bed, I was rendered unable to get into bed or explain to Amanda exactly what it was I was experiencing – I was momentarily and slightly catatonic, I was depressed. In almost the same moment, I realized how liberating this epiphany could be. For, this meant that the author of my future works will be working and completing while I’m away and present at the same moment. I will be in two places at once. But, now I’m left in a quandary.