Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Don't Fear the Reaper.







There have been three moments in my life when I thought I was going to die. When I was fifteen I was run over by a car while walking to school, (unhurt despite bouncing off the windscreen and into the gutter).  The second time when I was a crane driver in a saw mill and a two ton stack of wood toppled over onto me (broken shin and gashed open thumb only, miraculously) and thirdly when a female police officer drew her gun on me in Boston, Massachusetts (I might tell you about that one sometime, but today I am on other business).

None of these were bad news from a grim-faced doctor telling me how my body was broken down and giving me a time limit to face the inevitable.
These were instantaneous, adrenaline-flooded moments where the vague, far off notion of death that most of us normally have was suddenly cold, hard and looking at me with its big bony face.

It was like suddenly being crash-dumped into my own body, I had a few seconds of being suddenly aware of my own mortality and could feel the weight of my muscles and bones and my heart pumping blood through my veins and the realization that I might suddenly lose all of this.

The point I am trying to make (apart from trying to make myself sound cool and tough) is that for most of my life I seem to be cruising around on auto pilot as though I’m watching a movie of my life rather than actually living it.  I’m aware of my body and the people around me but always seem to be, I don’t know, distracted or something.
We walk around talking into little electronic gadgets, listening to iPods or pratting about on Warcraft. We take substances to alter our physical and mental states, we invent various gods in an attempt to make sense of what we don’t understand.

But very occasionally, while lying in bed or sitting on a train I suddenly become aware of the shape that my body makes in the world and all the people around me and how everything is made of the same stuff, how connected and yet how fragile life is.

It’s like a light bulb going on in my mind that fills me with happiness and sadness at the same time and feels like I should be this way all the time, not sleep walking though the only life I’ll get.
It reminds me of something a Russian cosmonaut once said about looking through the window of a spaceship down at the Earth.  He could see cities and rivers and farms and forests and deserts but he could also see the infinite blackness of space all around it and he realised that from the surface the Earth seems huge but from up there it is tiny, it took only minutes for him to orbit this little glowing rock.

 I try to hang onto this awareness but inevitably the mundane starts crowding out the sublime and I find myself worrying about the mortgage, what I am going to have for dinner or Jennifer Lopez’s cellulite. The reality filter is switched back on..

Time for bed.

56 comments:

YeamieWaffles said...

I'm awestruck by how awesome this writing is man, seriously, I loved this.

Rek said...

That's how most of us live our lives. Not all of us can find the Zen like state of mind, the rogue finds ways to supplement our nervous persona with a thousand stressful and sometimes mundane thoughts.
Even empty rock caves, ideal for meditation are hard to find with the tourist season in progress.
Nice meeting you. :)

Sub-Radar-Mike said...

I have similar moments sometimes, just the strangeness of everything and how I'm being kept alive by unconscious mechanisms that pump my blood and regulate hormones and whatnot. Like you, it makes me happy and sad at the same time, but each time it's a reminder not to be idle, as we only have one shot at this wonderful little life.

SkippyMom said...

Incredibly thought provoking my friend. In the scheme of things it really does make you realize just how inconsequential some things [or even we] are.

Hope you have a good sleep.

Stephanie D said...

Loved this post, very well written and a great message for all of us! Inspiring.
Thank you.

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah sometimes it truly does his us, but most of the time we do go of in la la land, great post!

My 2 Pesos said...

You're like superman,

MRanthrope said...

wow, 3 times? You most be part cat or something. I bet you still have 6 more lives up your sleeve huh? ha. looking forward to that Boston story as well.

Belle said...

Because of something that happened to me in my childhood, I've been acutely aware of death most of my life. I used to think I would die young, but nope, I didn't.

To me, your life has been saved for a purpose. I would hate to think this is the only life I've been given.

Zap McBlowfist said...

great read mon frere!

Al Penwasser said...

I'm with Yeamie. This was a great post. But, by the way, next time you're in Boston, don't wear a New York Yankees shirt. Then the cops won't draw down on you.

Tony Van Helsing said...

Matthew: Always a pleasure hearing from you.

Mike: Nicely put, we are an incredible machine.

Skippy: I always enjoy sleep.

Stephanie: Thanks love.

Pat: We would probably overload if we were at that level of conciousness all the time.

Pesos: I have an S on my chest.

MRanthrope: I never thought of it like that.

Belle: Wow, what happened?

Zap: Mon brave!

Al: I think I was in a Halifax Town F.C. shirt.

Britta said...

Dear Tony,
I think it is a lot you got when you get this for a moment:
"It’s like a light bulb going on in my mind that fills me with happiness and sadness at the same time "(...) Often such 'enlightenment' happens in an unspectacular moment - when we come to a halt and are able to really look and feel that it is a wonder to be alive at all (as it is, a wonder, compared by the chances that one manages to come into this world). "(...)and feels like I should be this way all the time, not sleep walking though the only life I’ll get." One longs to - but being attentive (and grateful) all the time is darn difficult.

Workingdan said...

Well written and quite thought provoking. I know what you mean. I often find myself just going through the motions of life, but not really living it.

I struggle to find a different perspective, to see the grand picture and the meaning of it all. There are brief moments of clarity and happiness but it is short lived and I fall back into the pattern of just existing rather than living.

I would like to hear more on the Boston incident!

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

You definately sound cool and tough ;)
I was hit by a car once when I was 5--it sucked, but after reading this post I've decided ALL of the really cool people either get hit by cars or run over by them LOL!

Seriously though, this is such a good reminder. Life is so short. I really felt this after my son died. I remember telling myself to never forget, but the mundane always seems to take over. So wild how that happens. I need to be better at remembering.

dirtycowgirl said...

I was once in a car crash, with no seatbelt, and my head hit the windscreen.
The windscreen shattered - all I got was a little bump and a headache the next day.

I think I might just be immortal.
But joking aside I have felt like that too - going through the motions, but sometimes you need life to get a little mundane so you can appreciate the times when it gets exciting.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Thanks for the reminder. I prefer your subtle reminder verses being hit by a truck. :)

Belle said...

Well, my father abused me and I'm pretty sure he threatened to kill me if I told. My memory is fuzzy about that part. I was always thinking people wanted to kill me. Difficult, to say the least.

Heaven. said...

Wow.

Margaret said...

Very thoughtful, and yet still so tough.

The Angry Lurker said...

Stunning prose my friend...

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Tony, are you sure you aren't a writer?

Bart said...

i almost die on a regular basis, but u probably already know that. and tell us about bouncing off the car some more. i bet its hilarious.

aliciamarie911 said...

I do agree with your comment on my post. While I believe true health is something that must be maintained, I do believe there are things that can help with the maintenance of one's body. (i.e. "the pink drink")

Although I lost 3 pounds in 2 days from just taking the drink (I wanted to see how my body reacted first), I have since worked out every day and have completely stopped my caffeine addiction and purely drink only water.

Any results that I get from here on out are solely based on my hard work and dedication to a better, healthier me. :)

Kristjan said...

Great writing, mate. Really. I mean it. Following for more!

Choleesa said...

great post, Id love to hear about that female cop......
You must be destined for a great purpose...what with cheating death so many times and all....
I actually do NOT like those moments when Im aware of my mortality.....

Sujana said...

I really enjoyed reading this! Great post

Tracer Bullet said...

thats a very scary thought! we are all lucky to be alive
I've had a few near death experiences but never like yours

Tony Van Helsing said...

Britta: We'd probably go insane if we were that aware all the time.

workingdan: We are doomed to a life of drowsiness.

Elisabeth: You create things of beauty all the time with your writing.

Dirty: What the hell is your skull made of?

Stina: Being hit by a truck can be refreshing.

Belle: I don't know what to say.

Heaven: Exactly.

Margaret: Tough as old boots.

Lurker: Cheers Lurks.

Lindsay: Positive.

Bart: I actually got up and waved at the driver, not being cool though I was in shock.

Alicia: Good for you.

Kristjan: Thanks, likewise.

Choleesa: they can be a bit overwhelming.

Sujana: thanks love.

Tracer: I wouldn't recommend them.

Jax said...

Life is way too short to not live it. I'm glad that you survived all 3 close calls. It's important to be reminded of all these things. Thanks for the reminder.

Following :)

Copyboy said...

Wow! That first paragraph shocked me.

Padded Cell Princess said...

I've only had one glimpse of death but I also don't feel like I was really living much until about 3 years ago. It might sound odd coming from someone living in Ireland during all the 'world issues' but it beats living a mundane and boring existence back in the small town America where I came from.
We should never take life too seriously, nobody gets out alive anyway.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I bet most of us have those moments where we think about those things greater than ourselves and get lost in that, but reality has a way of calling us back to the mundane and, often, unimportant. I've had a few close calls, too, moments where I knew my number was up, though they ended better than expected. I was surprised how calm I was each time. No panic, not time for regrets. It gives one an amazing view into themselves, but I'd rather not try it again.

2Peeeps Health and Fitness said...

like a song Don't Fear The Reaper, a song by Blue Oyster Cult on Spotify. lol

Tony Van Helsing said...

Jax: I'm pretty glad about it myself.

Copyboy: It did it's job then.

Princess: What glimpse was this?

Shannon: Exactly! I didn't have time to feel fear.

2Peeeps: I know it, the post was going to be called Baby Don't Fear the Reaper.

Munir said...

Ten years ago, my family was worried for me as the doctor had found a big shadow on my lungs. Cancer? I guess not, the thing is that I never found out because I was not able to dish out between five to six thousand dollars for bronchoscopy ( besides the insurance payment). I put my foot down and told my family that they can simply let me die, because if my time came a medical procedure was not going to stop it. Next month I have an interview with the social security officer because I will be turning sixty two in March and I would like to collect my social security. If the bony guy wants to come get me he can, but I rather enjoy my hard earned money than spend on procedures that may kill me anyway.
However when it comes to younger memebers of my family I suggest that they follow the doctor's orders as they have not lived their lives. Me on the other hand have seen enough of the world.

Tonkow said...

But I do fear the reaper

Amy said...

The bittesweetness of that kind of depth of reality is too rich for most of us to handle on a constant basis. The scarcity of such euphoria is what makes each one so perfect.

Atley said...

your very artistic writing style is interesting, if hard to follow at time. I must admit, you take your writing seriously. The only time I am capable of such a fete is when I am all hawked up on RockStar and in a crazy mood. seems like this comes naturally to you.

I like it!

Janie Junebug said...

I have no fear of death because I know I'll go to Heaven. So if any of you need me to take your place, please let me know.

Tony Van Helsing said...

Munir: You outlook on life is admirable sir.

Tonkow: So do I.

Amy: True, if we felt like that all the time it would cease to have any impact.

Atley you like it. I try and stick to the point when writing and not meander too much but sometimes it gets away from me.

Janie: I'm not sure I like where that is going love.

Dylanthulhu said...

I was struck by a car at roughly the same age you were. Not even a scratch. Funny how that happens.

Rebecca Kiel said...

Never been hit by a car, but in my other life, I have spent time with countless people who were dying. What becomes important to them, what they try to pass on before THEY pass on is their understanding of the point of it all. Those are words to listen to.

Azra said...

So true. I've long advocated "living" life (living in the moment) instead of being a spectator in it. And I too find that reality has this tendency to invade that space in our minds where the "bigger picture" exists. I think about this a lot, more than most people, but then again I've always been the weird one :)

Vapid Vixen said...

It's good to be so introspective at times but it's also imperative that we remember her cellulite is not to be so easily dismissed. I don't even know what that's supposed to mean. I'm tired. And PLEASE tell us about the Boston cop??

Nicki Elson said...

Wow, you're so tough & cool. ;)

I think the best we can hope for in this world are moments of clarity & true awareness. We've still got mortgages to pay and cellulite to stave off, after all.

Padded Cell Princess said...

My one glimpse of death was driving on a two lane highway at night, coming around a corner and seeing two huge sets of headlights coming right at me! One semi truck was in the oncoming lane but another one was trying to pass him in my lane! I had not time to think so luckily I just pulled to the small shoulder instantly and instinctively in time for the huge truck to whiz past me, shaking my little tiny car as it did so. A second delay and I would have hit it head on and since we were both going over 60mph, it would have won. It shook me up!

Tony Van Helsing said...

Dylan: I know, I was more embarrassed than hurt.

Rebecca: What were you doing in this past life?

Azra: You don't sound weird to me.

Vixen: Ok, next post I'll tell you.

Nicki: We probably wouldn't be able to function if we walked thinking how big everything is all the time.

Princess: Jesus, that was close.

Bonafide Jones said...

love it! great post

Kelly Polark said...

Wow! You have had some Life Flashing BEfore Your Eyes moments.
Most days I just run through my life, but I do occasionally get sentimental and sit and think about it, usually after an ordeal with my kids or just realizing that they are growing up way too fast.

Susan Fields said...

Oh no - Jennifer Lopez's cellulite! :)

I like what Kelly said in the comment above me. It's mostly when I think about my kids growing up and leaving home that I realize how quickly this life is slipping away and how I need to live it to the fullest.

Tony Van Helsing said...

Bonafide: Glad you liked it.

Kelly: Time marches on.

Susan: We take it for granted too much.

Shockgrubz said...

This post also made me think upon mortality and the fragility of our existence. Each moment may be our last, so why not make it count?

Rockinrule said...

I saw blue oyster cult.

Electric Addict said...

hit by a car!? damn that's intense

Rob Z Tobor said...

I have had a bad time with cars. Having been in cars that have been hit head on by speeding motorists twice and run over by a car while walking across a car park. I also fell out of a moving bus once that took a hard right turn a bit fast. but I am still about, OK a few pins and the like and a bit scatty. But as part of the great Western society I am generally HUNKY DORY.....