“The real question is not whether life exists after death. The real question is whether you are alive before death.” Osho
I’m walking around the park this morning and noticed a dead Carp floating next to a small dock. I thought it would make an interesting abstract with the clouds reflecting in the pond so I started taking some photos.
I felt a little stupid photographing a dead fish but waited for the sun to go behind the clouds and tried different angles and compositions. I wasn’t really finished but when a mother, two kids and a tiny dog came over I walked away.
Not only did they notice the Carp but the mother took a photo with her phone. They seemed genuinely upset and the four of them stood for a moment of silence, probably pondering the meaning of birth, old age and death.
Then the boy asked; “Why did he die mom?” And the mother said; “Because he was old,” which was probably true. But then I thought to myself, I’m old too now! So after they left I stood there for a moment of silence and pondered birth, old age and death.
William Shakespeare wrote: “Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth.” I have no idea what that means but I’ll say that the next time I’m photographing a dead carp if anyone asks why. Yes.
Ernest Becker, the quintessential optimist and sometimes life of the party had a thing about worms. It’s possible that he was also an avid fisherman or gardener, although there was no mention of that in his biography.
One of my favorite of his worm quotes is from a book he wrote that won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1974:
“What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression and with all this yet to die. It seems like a hoax, which is why one type of cultural man rebels openly against the idea of God. What kind of deity would create such a complex and fancy worm food?”
Reflecting on this has got me through many hours at the lake when the trout weren’t biting. But I think David Gerrold said the same thing in a better way: “Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.”
Food for thought.
Sunday I read an article in The New York Times called Outing Death. It’s about an app called WeCroak that sends you reminders that we are only immortal for a limited time.
From the WeCroak website: “Find happiness by contemplating your mortality with the WeCroak app. Each day, we’ll send you five invitations at randomized times to stop and think about death. It’s based on a Bhutanese folk saying that to be a happy person one must contemplate death five times daily.
The WeCroak invitations come at random times and at any moment just like death. When they come, you can open the app for a quote about death from a poet, philosopher, or notable thinker.” Yes all this and more for only 99 cents.
I’m also rereading Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death, a happy little book that won the Pulitzer Prize two months after the author’s own death. As Becker says: “The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else.”
I hope the WeCroak invitations are a little less depressing. The example in the Times article is by W. H. Auden: “Death is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic.”
Tip: if you hear the sound of distant thunder at your next picnic, ditch the potato salad and run for cover. Avoid plumbing including sinks, baths and faucets, stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches. Or just hope for the best, if the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will.
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” Denis Waitley
“Autumn is the time of year when Mother Nature says, “Look how easy, how healthy, and how beautiful letting go can be.” Toni Sorenson
“The meaning of life is that it stops.” Franz Kafka
Smoke, smoke, smoke, that cigarette. Puff, puff, puff and if you smoke yourself to death. Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate, that you hate to make him wait, but you just gotta have another cigarette.
According to Ernest Becker in The Denial of Death, unlike the average person standing in a foggy field, horses think about nothing all day long. For example he writes this about the lower animals:
“They merely act and move reflexively as they are driven by their instincts. If they pause at all, it is only a physical pause; inside they are anonymous, and even their faces have no name. They live in a world without time, pulsating, as it were, in a state of dumb being.”
Tom Dorrance, who has been referred to as the horse’s lawyer wrote a book called True Unity: Willing Communication Between Horse & Human. In it he says: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse or cow being stupid; I figure it’s a sure sign that the animal has somehow outfoxed them.”
So you have to ask yourself one question, and its not do I feel lucky. How much does a lawyer charge a horse or a cow, and if they go to trial together can they get a group rate? From my experience with horses and cows, that’s gonna be one messy courtroom.
As I get older I find myself thinking a lot about buying the farm. There are two ways to do it: one is to quit your job (if you have one) and literally buy a farm in the middle of nowhere, the other way is to stop breathing.
I know that everyone will buy the farm sooner or later and to deny it is futile, but I have to wonder what it will be like. Will it be an endless succession of meaningless working days like Sisyphus rolling a rock uphill for eternity, or will it be more like Green Acres?
I like to imagine that being on the farm with my wife Lisa will be frustrating but there will still be good times. Mr. Haney will finally sell me a washing machine that works. Sam Drucker will eventually get those seeds I ordered, and the girls from Petticoat Junction will move into the guest house (Lisa is fine with it).
And one stormy day while sitting around the general store, Eb will ask me if I think the rain will hurt the rhubarb. And I’ll smile because I learned the answer to that question long ago working with a Polish house painter. Not if it’s in the can Eb, not if it’s in the can.