Saturday, December 5, 2009

I.... am a Librarian

Excerpt from a neat book I found while working at the library. It's got a lot of crazy ideas and a couple good ones:

"Here’s an exercise to try at home….
Watch the second hand as it passes around the face of the clock. Picture the moment of your death, perhaps many decades into the future, or perhaps only a few years or months (who can know?). Wait for the second hand to reach the top of the clock face, then watch as it records the passing of one minute of your life. Now imagine the clock counting down the minutes of your life to the moment of your death. Try this exercise picturing this moment a few decades in the future, then repeat it picturing the moment next year. Repeat it picturing the moment of your death next month. Next week. Tonight. After all, you never know.
Now observe the minute and hour hands on the clock. What were you doing at this time twenty-four hours ago? Forty-eight hours ago? One month ago? What will you be doing at this time next week?
Imagine that the moment of your death is one month away. Consider- if you knew this was true, what would you be doing right now? What would you be doing at this time tomorrow? Repeat this step, imagining your death to be one year away. Does this make very much difference to your thoughts about what you would do today and tomorrow if you knew the date of your death?
Compare your activities over the last twenty-four hours to the activities you would have chosen if you had known you would leave this world in one month or one year. Compare your activities over the last month, the last year, the last decade, to those you would have chosen if you had known that on this day you only had thirty days or twelve months left to live. How different would your life have been if you had known the date of your approaching death? Would you be ready to die in a month or a year, having lived the life that you have?
Chances are… that most of the people who read this text and participate in this exercise will live for many more years afterwards. But, still, look at the second hand of the clock, and follow it as it records the passing minutes, counting down the minutes of your life that remain to you as they slip away. Are you living the life that you want to live? Are you living a life that, at any given moment, you could look back upon with satisfaction if you suddenly realized it was about to end? Are you living the sort of life that you would wish upon a human being, a life that is exciting and full, that is well spent, every minute of it? If the answer is no, what can you do in the time that still remains to you- however long or short that may be- to make your life more like the one you would like to live? For we all have a limited amount of time granted to us in this world- we should use it with this in mind.

...If you find, looking back upon your life, that you have spent years living without any consideration of your mortality, this is not really unusual, for our social/cultural environment does not encourage us to think much about the limits that nature places on our lives. Death and aging are denied and hidden away as if they were shameful and embarrassing. The older members of our society are hidden away in “retirement homes” like lepers in leper colonies. The billboards, magazines, photos, and television commercials that meet our eyes at every turn show only images of healthy men and women in the prime of their life. …When a man dies, the rituals which once would have celebrated his life and brought the subject of human mortality to those who survived him are now often regarded as mere inconveniences. …there is no time for death in today’s busy world of corporate mergers and record-breaking conspicuous consumption.
And indeed if we were to stop and ponder the subject, perhaps we would find that when we seriously consider the limits of our time on this planet, keeping up with the television comedies and having a good resume seem less important than they did before. Our cultural silence about human mortality allows us to forget how much weight the individual moments of our lives carry, adding up as they do to our lives themselves. Thus we squander countless hours watching television or balancing checkbooks, hours that in retrospect we might have better spent walking on the seashore with our loved ones, cooking gourmet meals for our children and friends, writing fiction, or hitchkiking across South America. The reality of our future death is not easy for any of us to come to terms with, but it is surely better that we consider this now than regret not doing so when it is too late.
Our denial of death has a deeper significance, beyond its function as a reaction to our fear of mortality and a selective blindness that helps us preserve the status quo. It is a symptom of our ongoing struggle to escape the cycles of change in nature and establish an unnatural permanence in the world. Our mortality is frightening evidence that we do not have control over everything; thus we are quick to ignore it, if we cannot do away with it altogether- a feat towards which our medical researches are working… it is worth questioning whether this would even be desirable.
Since the dawn of western civilization, men and women have hungered for the domination of not only the world and each other, but also for the domination of the seasons, of time itself. We speak of the eternal grandeur of gods and empires. And we design our cities and corporations to exist into infinity. We build monuments, spyscrapers, which we intend to stand forever as a testimony of our victory over the sands of time. But this victory can only come at a price, at this price; that though nothing passes away, nothing comes to be, either-that the world we create is a static, standardized place that can hold no surprises for us any more. We would do well to be wary of fulfilling our own darkest dreams by creating such a dystopia, a frozen world in which no one must fear death anymore, for everyone exists forever and no one lives for even an instant. "

-From Days of War, Nights of Love… Crimethink

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