I have been playing with my death recently. Actually, it has been playing with me. Now I am in my fifties, and it’s a step less romantic, more chilly. Anyway: it’s coming.
One of my responses to dying is fear. I would like some security against it. Or a lively distraction. Unfortunately, I can’t think of what I would like to horde until then. And I can’t think of what I can collect that might give retrospective satisfaction: “THIS is what I spent my life doing”.
When I give up on the fear, and give up on collecting, another impulse arises and in a language new and awkward to me; to spend the present moment of the rest of my life, giving love and care to myself and whomever I am with 1 . That impulse feels right. It feels like the right intention for every moment, and the best resolution to look back on.
Until this point, my thought walk a straight road, but then two voices appear;
One voice is delighted,
“Finally, Desmond! Love and care! I can’t wait!” This voice sings Hallelujah like a gospel choir. In character it’s like a Labrador seeing the coat going on, about to go on a walk.
The other voice is very slick.
It says, “Well! Desmond! Love and care, eh? That’s hardly been your specialty, has it?” It’s a more bitchy, feline voice.
The first voice, while it brings great joy, is also uncomfortable 2. It is not ‘me’. Or at least not my familiar me. I can keep the voice alive, like bouncing a balloon on my hand but without attention it falls into the other voice.
The other voice I dislike. But I find it very comfortable 3. When this voice has taken over, I feel regret after a guest has left, “Why did I spend so long arguing a point that doesn’t matter?“
The metaphor of the balloon isn’t satisfying, implying constant effort to keep an unstable mood afloat. There is also a pun about gravity: love and care aren’t grave enough. Couldn’t love and care be a plant, growing under good conditions? Like Blake’s sunflower, “Who countest the steps of the Sun” 4.
As long death as is an appeal to love, it isn’t an appeal to fear.