“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone…” “OR ANYWHERE IN THE UNIVERSE.”–Blaise Pascal, Pensées
Is there anything worse than dying alone?
Fuck yeah, there is. How ’bout dying of 3rd degree burns, or falling in a giant vat of sulfuric acid? How about being ran over by an 18-wheeler? How about having your throat slit and bleeding to death?
What is dying alone? To know the answer to this question would be different for each of us. Most people don’t know when or how they’re going to die and it’s terrifying. Maybe it’ll be today, maybe tomorrow?
According to DeathClock.com, I’ve got about 11 years and change.
hours minutes seconds
Maybe I’ll die when I’ve had enough of this life, but that’s doubtful because there is so much to enjoy about life. And I know this seems contradictory to everything I’ve already said, because if the universe truly doesn’t care and if it’s all meaningless then what’s the point? The answer to this is something we have to construct for ourselves-in this midst of this overwhelming burden of existence and death. As a metaphysical middle-finger.
Life may be shitty sometimes, but it’s not as terrible as it could be and it’s important to appreciate this. It’s important to love the small things in life.
The time and place of my death is, at the moment, uncertain and, it’s important to acknowledge this. The bar may be low for what I need to make me happy, but that’s a good thing. What exactly do I need to make me happy? Let’s see…
- My best friend, and sole beneficiary to my estate, my canine confidant.
- A day off from work (I think everybody can agree upon this).
- Dunkin’ Donuts French Vanilla Coffee. It’s amazing.
- Tobacco. Bad habit, but there are worse habits to have.
- Snacks. Something light.
- Good Music.
- Peace, Quiet, and Solitude. .
That’s pretty much it.
So the answer to the title question is, without a doubt, a personal one. Clearly, I hope that I don’t die anytime soon, because there are a lot of things that I’d like to do between now and the final moment. Maybe travel the world, build something, create, take care of my dog, have more dogs, write, and also to enjoy the experience of being alive.
Death is a weighty topic for most people, including myself. For example, when I’m at work, or shopping for groceries, or doing any functional task that requires attentiveness- having ruminations about death is somewhat of a hindrance and incredibly annoying-especially if it’s a Monday. Death discussion, no doubt, brings lamentations and tragedy. Whereas, mundane normal day-to-day tasks help us not to dwell on it. There’s just no resolve when considering death. It can leave behind a verklempt haze.
Definition of verklempt
informal: overcome with emotion : choked up.
Hunched over my tiny screens lately, I’ve found myself … verklempt over an old video I posted of my son blowing bubbles in the bathtub.— James Poniewozik
Death talk brings doubt and uncertainty. Discomfort. Terminal awareness.
When I think of my personal experiences with death, to be honest, it’s quite limited (even considering that I’m approaching middle-age). I’ve never seen any person die in real life (thankfully). I have, however, witnessed animals die. Is there anything to conclude from actually seeing someone or something die? If one looked close enough, could they see God?
My gut feeling is a ‘No.’ In this scene from the 1999 film American Beauty where Lester Burnham is killed and Ricky Fitts stares into his eyes, he peered deeply in a manner of having a metaphysical encounter with God. To be honest, if I were in the room at that moment, I would’ve been creeped out more than anything. But everybody is entitled to their own opinion.
To witness death is to see the state of mortality arise. It stirs about an aged-old fear and anthropomorphizing of death as a kind of tax man that visits to collect it’s due. Typically, we see death portrayed in media as a tall, brooding, dark, cloaked grim reaper. The first recollection I can rouse is from the 1988 Bill Murray film Scrooged…
But I digress.
It’s worthwhile to note the title’s juxtaposition of the two words and consider the title fully. It really isn’t all about death. Death is inevitable, so what? People usually don’t want to think about it, gotcha. Dying alone is really more about being alone than in it is death. So what is it about being alone during death that’s frightening?
Being alone is like a drug. Anything is like a drug, really. My point is that a little bit of being alone can be beneficial, or instructive. Perhaps rehabilitory. Or even peaceful and calming. On the other hand, solitude can be punitive and against one’s will, and this is more commonly known as doing time. In America, a prisoner may be allowed to interact and converse with other prisoners, but they’re still cut off from the larger population outside of the prison. Still worse yet, doing time in solitary confinement is known as hard time. So is the ‘dying alone’ fear centered on solitude without necessity?
It’s not just that, though. It’s not only being alone without necessities, material things, loved ones, friends, or creature comforts. No, still not really. Take away all of these things and then add a person who absolutely needs one or more of them to not be pushed over the edge. For some people would agree that humans have simply evolved as social creatures and this is an innate craving for interaction. Now we’re talking true mortal fear from the depths of the psyche. These are dangerous waters.
Speaking of waters…queue Donald Crowhurst in the 2006 documentary Deep Water. I won’t spoil it (the trailer already does that). I’ll just say this man went sailing and it wasn’t as nice as the Christopher Cross song ‘Sailing.’ Let’s take a moment to appreciate how wonderful that song is.
With this mention, I would be remiss not to allude to the lighter side of the 1969 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race that the documentary centers on. Where one man descended into utter psychotic madness, another man discovered a profound sense of spiritual oneness. Bernard Moitessier, was the sailor who defied the odds and transcended the competition completely, out there in the impossible, to become a kind of mythic god-like being. On the vast, infinite waters, completely alone, he thrived. And also wrote a book detailing the events of this experience.