When somebody you know dies – Garry Shandling, Garry Marshall – it’s been a bad year for “Garrys” – it inevitably shakes you up.
After you grieve – in proportion to how well you knew them, how old they were when they went, the specific circumstances of their departure and their proximity to your own age – you can’t help but start thinking. You don’t want to. But “The Issue” is glaringly “front and center.”
Understanding death’s finality – that, for example, I can write blog posts and they can’t – yes, you may initially feel grateful that, although their time has sadly arrived yours thankfully has not – you’re in the foxhole and the guy beside you was picked off. But how exactly do you respond to that?
Two disparate alternatives:
“Wow. I just dodged a bullet.”
“Well, I guess it’s just a matter of time.”
The initiating source of these alternatives:
“Comforting Relief” versus “Fatalistic Resignation.”
Eventually, you stop thinking primarily about them – for some the process takes decades; others “move on” driving home from the cemetery – and you begin thinking primarily about yourself. The common denominator of these ponderings is this:
There is still time. How much time, we’ve just been starkly reminded, is capriciously up in the air. It could be a while. It could be… you don’t finish this sentence.
The question is…
What will you do with that information?
Again, depending on attitude, there are differing outlooks:
“Carpe diem” appears the sensible approach. Our life expectancy is finite. Do not waste a second of it.
But then, grounded in an opposing perspective, there is “Don’t waste a second of it doing what?” Building sand castles that are inevitably washed away? Keeping busy for the sake of keeping busy? Making a name for yourself that – probably sooner than you think – will almost certainly be obliterated?
I realize that’s a “downer” perspective, but remember, you’re upset. Plus, “downer” perspectives are necessarily incorrect.
With these the diametrical alternatives, what path do you finally proceed down?
Two ends of the continuum:
Fueled by your attitude, you take surrenderingly to your bed awaiting “The Grim Reaper” to show up. Or you explode into “overdrive”, knowing the clock is inexorably ticking and that there is no precious time to waste.
So you conquer that mountain. (Literally or metaphorically.) You eat that second – or fifth – macaroon. You intensify your relationships. You see Victoria Falls. (Possibly all in the same week.) Everyone’s list is different. But underscoring them all is the driving imperative:
The person who took to their bed says:
“You do. I’ll wait here.”
(Rationale: If we all destined for the same outcome, why tire yourself out?)
Contrasting responses to “There’s only one way out of here and it’s not standing up.”
And that’s the end of it?
Sooner or later, you get exhausted always “doing”. And you get bored to tears lying in bed. So what happens? The “doers” do less. The surrenderers eventually do something.
All managing “The Inevitable” by forgetting there is one.
It’s not a glamorous solution. It’s not heroic. (It actually is, though not dramatically so.) There is no box office blockbuster based on
“You put one foot in front of the other.”
But that ultimately, it seems, is all we’ve got.
And it works. We commit to our chosen activities, the “Bad Thoughts” hovering harmlessly on the periphery, and we’re covered – the status quo of blissful obliviousness.
Then somebody else you know dies.
And it’s “Here we go again.”