we’re all going to die

Page Eighty-two

Sunday 12 December 2010…  Turners twits

In 2005, I read the very popular book by Cathcart and Klein, Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: understanding philosophy through jokes. And in this book Icame across a short summary of one of Martin Heidegger’s most famous ideas, and for my money, one of his most trenchant. Heidegger was an existentialist, and this is the idea in question:  We are all going to die, and since this is an immutable fact of every single person’s existence, then the best thing we can do with our time to live is to spend our days doing whatever it is that gives our time meaning and purpose. How simple, and how true. It isn’t about making  money or being some kind of hero or publishing thirty books, at least, not as such. It’s about doing what gives you meaning and a sense of purpose, and therefore fulfillment. For some that might be making piles of money or publishing piles of books, but each one of us has to find what it is for ourselves.

And when I thought on this idea, I realized it was what I had been doing, or trying my damnedest to do, all my life, without ever articulating it. The things that gave me this meaning and this purpose were these: animals, nature, books, art, music, and good relationships with a few humans, in descending order of importance. But the human part was always an ordeal, and while I never completely stopped trying to find those meaningful relationships with humans, by the time I was in my late thirties, I was putting more and more animals and nature and books and music and art into my days. The things from which I drew meaning without pain, and purpose without cruelty, and fulfillment without abandonment. All my life I’d been doing what I could to practice being toward death, the phrase that names Heidegger’s idea, without even realizing it.

I would have found meaning and purpose from love relationships with people if they hadn’t always been so fraught with things I simply cannot cope with. Maybe all human relationships are fraught with these things, and other people are strong enough to deal with them and I am not. That’s certainly possible. I have Asperger’s syndrome, which makes me greatly subject to bullying and also greatly unable to understand or condone many types of human behavior. From way back in the toddler days, I’ve found animals endlessly fascinating and humans endlessly disturbing. And as badly as I wanted it, and as hard as I strove for it, I never could get that sort of relationship with a person that I needed and wanted, and in whose context I could have practiced being toward death. More and more I plunged into more animals and more nature and more books, etc. Where I was enriched and comfortable and engaged and unharmed.

From 2004 to 2007, three women came into my life who over the course of two years saw to it that my animals, the absolute center of my world, were taken from me and eventually killed. They saw to it that I became a vagabond with no apartment of my own for two whole years.  Three vicious, unscrupulous, controlling and vindictive women. Humans. They completely changed my existence, completely changed many long-held beliefs I had had, and completely changed what the words Being Toward Death now mean for me. They mean nothing, now, that Heidegger intended. They now mean this: to go through each empty, bereft hour of breathing and having a heart beat, to suffer through it every day, until the heartbeat stops. To write about my animals on the internet, to write about what was done to us and by whom, as a tribute to them, and to the love we shared among us.  To breathe every day without them, without even the knowledge of where and when they died, without the reading and mostly without art and mostly without music and going into nature still, but now with a cloud over it all and a sharp point wedged in my heart. To move every minute with loathing for every human creature.

I did not have the money for the justice a lawyer and the court might have got me when these women practiced their viciousness. The person who cannot afford a chance at justice, who has had their way of life willfully decimated by others, is left with only one thing. At least I am left with only one thing: the justice of vengeance. I’m not in a position to bring about this vengeance myself, but I hope fervently and daily, in my new configuration of Being Toward Death, that the randomness of living, the thing we call luck, will bring about that vengeance one day or another. That what went around, will come around.

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(colorwheel watch at www.whatonearthcatalog.com)

(this post is part of the book Being Toward Death)

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