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Mortality has been on my mind lately. Perhaps that’s due to the constant reminders, in the ubiquitous masks that I see everywhere I go, that something deadly is in the air.
More likely, though, in these my latter days, when death awaits just down the road apiece, it’s natural for my mind to turn to thoughts of my own mortality
I can’t think of my mortality, however without being gobsmacked by the weirdness of it all. My tiny spark of consciousness — which sprang to life 82 years ago and then grew as the years have passed, touch by touch, book by book, sorrow by sorrow, and love by love — will be snuffed out forever. It seems right and proper that you would disappear. But me? That’s just too weird.
From a larger view, of course, extinction is the order of the day, the most common and natural thing in the world. Things are born, they live, and then they die. That’s the way of all flesh. From dust to dust, as the Bible tells us in its very first book.
It’s just that I seem terribly important. But the universe, in all its implausible immensity, snickers in reply. In fact, it tells me that I’m about as close to a zero as one could imagine. I will die and the universe will go about its business. And some billions of years after I die, the universe will collapse upon itself, falling down to an infinitesimally small point (the Big Crunch), then expand rapidly (the Big Bang), then collapse, then expand — forever and ever, all the while taking whatever remains of “me” back and forth with it, being rocked by the immense pulse of the universe itself. Now is that weird, or what?
So there it is: Oblivion for trillions of years before my birth, oblivion for trillions of years afterward my death —and an infinitesimally small period of consciousness in between. Each second that passes during our lifetimes, then, is precious beyond belief. (I know, I’m beginning to get repetitive, and I’m also beginning to sound like Carl Sagan. But it does boggle my mind. Total boggles.)
So those are my existential thoughts as I go about the business of living in my eighth decade. None of this worries me much. It’s all beyond my control, and I’m just along for the ride.
Postscript: My post is, of course, written from the perspective of one who doesn’t believe in supernatural religion or an afterlife. For believers, one’s consciousness goes on past death, so it’s an entirely different story, a much more rich and satisfying one. But I come from a secular family of Okies, and I’ve never been able to make that leap of faith that belief in a supernatural religion requires. So I’m left with an entirely corporeal universe that cares not for me.Published in