Sketch from the “House of Tomorrow”

September 27, 2014

There’s an announcement when you arrive and an announcement when you depart, a life’s experience compressed into a brief understandable narrative. From one moment in time to another moment in time. The Nazi philosopher Heidegger defined ‘living’ or ‘existence’ as “presencing in Time.” Mark Twain was born and died in two passes or one cycle of Halley’s Comet, 76 years. An illustrious and adventurous life but also one of personal tragedy neatly enclosed by the parentheses of a recurring celestial event. Maybe the passage of Time is all we ever really do and the rest we make up, as difficult as that may be for some of us to accept.

After growing to adulthood, the body is always in the process of breaking down, but there comes a point at which you are “painfully” aware of it. You feel the body’s small failures: you have aches and pains; you grow tired more easily; you look in a full length mirror (or maybe not if you dread what you might find there). You’ve always been both tenant and caretaker of the dwelling known as your body, but over time the caretaker role becomes more prominent and busy so the dweller can continue to dwell. You avoid falls; you monitor your blood pressure and get annual flu shots; you eschew the vices altogether or cut down; you see doctors more often . . . these are all good things. When the dwelling is on the verge of abandonment, you may even try taking it back to church or accept the visitation and prayers of a clergyman at your hospital bedside, or finger a rosary or, eschewing Christian methods entirely, read aloud from the Bhagavad-Gita. In fact I will read from the Gita and finger the rosary, and read the Bible and the Quran, Jain texts and other sundry scripture, and allow a dozen holy men and women, mystics, and sages to occupy my bed before that terminal moment as a hedge on the afterlife. I need all the professional shamans I can possibly muster to bless and shepherd my spirit over the threshold to the other side, and I’ll take whatever they’re offering: wine and wafer, holy water, incense, lotus flowers, ashes, last rites, anything . . . it’s as if you’re climbing the first hill of an incredibly steep roller coaster and you kind of know but don’t know what’s coming so you hold on real tight to the bar, and once you have crested that hill the descent can be terrifying but by then you know everything will be alright for all eternity, so you loosen your grip a little on that bar and eventually you’re done with the ride altogether and no longer need to hold on

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