Nobody likes to talk about their own, utterly, utterly, absolutely, hilariously unavoidable death. But I want to discuss it with you for a little while now because it feels healthy to be aware of it; to avoid hopping through life blissfully unaware of my mortality, one day to be smote by a falling tree branch and, my consciousness obliterated, rendered a floppy assortment of blubber and bone. No; I see you, Death. I see you there, hanging around with your head down and your skeletal fingers thrust nonchalantly into the infinite pockets of your ghastly black shroud, whistling and kicking celestial pebbles waiting for me to cark it. Yeah, I see you. Bugger off.
Now, there’s a chance I die young, maybe next week, maybe even later this evening, and that will make this article seem very poignant and strange and painful. If that’s the case, I’d like to assure you I am fine and you shouldn’t worry. Look, if you’re reading this and I’m dead, think of it this way: I had a jolly good time alive, and laughed a lot, and was even lucky enough to get laid every now and again. So don’t worry! I’m good!
Unless I died by contracting Ebola, in which case, FUCK.
I’m not really afraid of dying. I was, for a while, when I was younger and sillier. Note: I am still very young and very silly. My granddad on my mum’s side (he has a big moustache, that tells you all you need to know about him) once said something to me in a passing comment when I was far too young to understand mortality and time and the infinite and all that boring adult stuff. I asked him what happens when you die, back when I was in primary school where, despite the vast majority of the country being atheist or at the very least agnostic, we still have Christianity shovelled upon us. I asked my granddad about heaven, and he said it was hogwash. ‘There was nothing before you were born,’ he said, ‘so why should there be anything after you die?’
I remember mulling that over for a long time as an eight year old, trying to remember what life was like before I was born. And of course, there’s nothing. Nothing at all; no yawning blackness, no sense of anticipation, no intergalactic voyage, nothing. But less than nothing – because nothing is a human concept. We invented it. Without us here to interpret the universe and impose rules and structure upon it through our viewing of it, what would it be? It’d just be… meh. Using human language to convey a sense of language not existing is a bit of a non-starter. Let’s just say this: the experience of not-yet being born is, essentially, fine. I have no complaints.
There’s no comparable concept, no language, metaphor or equation to summarise the experience of being not-yet born. And I’m gunna take a wild stab in the dark and say that death is the same (it’s not like anyone’s going to reanimate and sternly correct me). You’re not gone, because gone implies a lack of something that was once there – and to have a concept of what is present and what isn’t, you need to be alive. Because death is the absence of the self, it’s surely the most irrelevant concept imaginable to each individual. The next breeze you feel on your arm, the next bird song you hear, the next dog shit you step in will have had more of an impact upon your mortal soul than your own death will – because it’s the one event in your life that you won’t be around for.
You’ll be gone for infinite after you perish, which, let’s level with one another, can sometimes seem quite scary. But then, you’ve been gone for infinite before you were spawned. You’ve already been through the savage maw of the infinite once, and you were just a floppy little useless baby back then. When non-existence is considered this way, it seems a much more natural state of affairs than actually existing; altogether a far more alien and silly concept. What’s infinitely more bewildering than the fact we have to die is the fact that we exist at all. It’s actually kind of a relief that it’s only for a short while. Phew.
SPONTANEOUS DEATH HAIKU!
Absence of the self
Is scary until you ask
What came before birth
In the end, I think we put a lot of gravitas around popping our clogs and existing and whatnot. But then, the same inexplicable sudden consciousness that has us, one and all, collectively doomed to stare down the barrel of an apparent infinite also gave us Furbies, blow jobs, rubber chickens and Beyonce.
Yes, Death is ever at hand, mooching around on street corners trying to look inconspicuous despite being an 8 foot tall skeleton carrying a very big scythe, but also in this wonderful existence we have dildos and pizza and Terry Pratchett, we have red wine and mozzarella and stuffed olives, we have rock n roll, golden retrievers, surfing, Wes Anderson and hammocks. We have hot chocolate and thick, woollen socks. In this great, weird, majestic existence, we can experience the smell of fresh cut grass, we can ride bicycles on summer afternoons, we can shiver when someone massages our scalp, we can kiss one another under a cacophony of stars and we can sprint naked over football pitches cheered on by thirty thousand topless men, jubilant and jiggling.
Death may at the end of the road, but KFC is just around the corner. So go have fun.