I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Kind of morbid, but it’s been on my mind. I think I’ve concluded that the vast majority of people don’t really think about death really. I mean, everyone kind of intellectually knows that they’re gonna die, but they don’t really know, don’t really feel it, that they’re going to die someday, you know? Just like the Christian faith, it’s one thing to intellectually understand it and another to really know it. The first is just a kind of assent, whereas the second is true understanding. I feel like regarding death, everyone just kind of lives by the first way, just kind of understanding that we will all die, but not really thinking about themselves dying.
And when someone does face death for some reason, I mean, death becomes really imminent to them, it’s just a total shock. Or at least that is what I have seen. Everyone that really faces death as a real, imminent possibility always seems to react with some degree of shock and disbelief. Which is curious, because we all must die. Why is it that when we find out that we really are going to die, we react that way? I think it’s because we all live with some sense of delusion regarding death, that while we acknowledge it somewhere in the recesses of our mind, we don’t really, truly think about our own deaths, believe it even, even intellectually. When we find out that we are going to die, all of a sudden it becomes real for us, and that’s a shocking thing. I think we find that wow, we haven’t really thought about ourselves dying at all, and now we have to, and that’s shocking to us. Because we haven’t really thought about it, and we’re not really prepared for it, even though we’ve known our whole lives and had that long to prepare for the fact that we will. How is it then that we’re so not prepared. My bold claim is that most people kind of live in a state of semi-denial, and if we are all really honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that we really haven’t thought about dying at all. Not really, at least.
But I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. And I’ve thought about my own death. And it’s honestly a scary thing. So scary. But the weird thing is, unlike other fears, it’s not something you can avoid. I mean, we all know that, but do we really? Like fearing getting your house robbed or getting assaulted or something or losing all your money, those are things that don’t have to happen to you, and you can protect yourself from those things at least a little bit. That’s how we cope with those kind of fears – we try and avoid them. But you can’t do that with death. But I think we often try and use the same strategy, and kind of avoid it. Mentally and emotionally. Or even physically. Just trying to prolong life as long as we can. Which is good, I suppose. Well it is good. Unless it stems from denial.
And the sad thing is, to me, since we don’t really think about death, we don’t really die that well. It’s just so sad how we die nowadays. Often in pain, often not really useful to people, and the family decides it’s better that they die. How depressing is that. There’s this guy, George Soros. He’s this billionaire who made his fortune speculating in money. He was once known as the man who broke the Bank of England because he speculated heavily against the British Pound and despite the nation’s efforts, the Pound fell significantly. Anyway, he spends a significant amount of time doing philanthropic activity, and although the subjects of his philanthropy is sometimes misguided, one thing I do think is good is he is interested in knowing more about death. So that death isn’t a subject that’s kind of swept under the rug, but openly talked about, researched, and dealt with so that we can die better, more peacefully. With ourselves and others.
I hope I’m not depressing anyone who’s reading this too much. But I think now I’m ready to die. I think if I got the news, it’s cool, and I’m ready. I still haven’t worked out those personal issues of why I was put here, what’s my purpose, did I live a good life and stuff like that, but in terms of dying itself, I’m down with it. I hope to live longer, but I will die someday and I’m chill with that.
Somewhat related to this subject is memories. My guess is that when we are faced with death we immediately go into a review of our lives and think what if. Lots of regrets and what we would have done differently. But it doesn’t take death for us to do this. We do this all the time. Like every time I talk with friends at the end of a term or summer or whatever, it’s always like, yeah I should have done this and this or if I could go back again I would do this. So many regrets.
I think that a lot of us are slaves to memories. We hold on to past ones too much and with our present, we act so that we can have memories in the future. I mean, I could never understand those people, well I do understand those people, and it’s not bad, just not my style, who carry around cameras everywhere. Well maybe not everywhere, but we’ll be somewhere random and they will pull out a camera. That always blew my mind. And it’s kind of cool. I mean why do we do that though? I think I do it because I’m somewhat a slave to memories, and our existence is really about keeping memories. I mean, if we can’t remember the happy times we are having now in the future, how can we be sure that we had happy times? Maybe I’m being a bit too cynical, but honestly, I’ve really come to this view, that many of us are slaves to memories (STMs).
I say this because I’ve realized this about myself. I’ve spent a couple of the past myminds kind of reminiscing about the past, and it’s been good for me. But I remember there was a time when I really wanted to write everything I remembered down because I was afraid I would someday forget them. I don’t know why I was so afraid, except for the fact that memories were so important to me. And this STM syndrome is still a part of me. I don’t think I’m articulating myself too well but who cares.
And I don’t want to be that way. I’ve really come to believe that being a STM is a sin. Just my opinion. Because it affects how and why you do things. And you shouldn’t be a slave to anything, right? I think Paul says that. He will not let anything rule him. I think that was in the context of the law – wait maybe not, maybe it was in regards to sin. Whatever. I don’t have my Bible with me. But I don’t want to be a slave to memories. And I think the test for myself (at least the one I’ve been using recently) is that if I were to lose it (the thing I might be a slave too) how devastated would I be? Like if I lost all the pictures I have ever taken, every momento, etc. in some massive housefire, how devastated would I be? Am I being a slave to those memories? I think besides that the thing I struggled with most was being a slave to music. If I lost my CDs, I don’t know what I would have done. But now I think I’m at the point where if I lost all my pictures, if I lost all my CDs, it’d be OK. Of course I had help with this. So, I would like to thank those people who borrowed my DC Talk Jesus Freak, Out of the Grey self-titled, Geoff Moore A Friend Like U, Charlie Peacock Everything That’s On My Mind, Ray Boltz Moments from the Heart, Michael W. Smith I’ll Lead You Home, Michael W. Smith The Wonder Years (2 of them!), Hosanna Bethlehem’s Treasure, Hosanna Christmas, among other CDs and never returned them. You helped me get over my materialistic slavery to my music! Thanks!
But like I said, my peculiar notion of being a slave to a memory I think affects us. Like recently, someone I was talking to kind of judged his/her summer based on the activities they did. Well not activities, but special activities, you know? Like trips and stuff like that. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t do anything all summer, I just didn’t really do too many special things. And why is that so important to people? My bold claim is that it’s important because that’s the stuff of memories, and people need memories, since they’re slaves to them. That’s how you know whether a period was good or bad, based on the memories you gather from them. If in a summer, you had a lot of cool experiences that you can keep memories of, that’s a good summer. If there was a summer where you didn’t do anything particularly “memorable,” it might not be quite so good. Slaves to memories.
I might be totally whack about this, and I don’t think anyone really consciously thinks that way, like “I gotta do this and this to make me some memories,” but honestly, I think fundamentally, subconsciously, that’s what’s going on. But again, it’s just my opinion and it might be totally wrong. After all, I only know myself.
So we really value the good memories we have, and in some part, our actions are carried out so that we will have good memories in the future. We’re slaves to memories.
But then you might say, I don’t do things so that I’ll have memories in the future but because it’s fun, enjoyable now. So I really am living in the present and concerned with my present enjoyment. And that might be true. But I don’t understand still why it’s so important to do something special or out of the ordinary when I’m having a good time now. Like I enjoyed this summer the stuff I did, like “cooking,” cleaning, watching Simpsons’ videos repeatedly, and surfing the Web excessively. It was fun. Was any of it special? No. So certain people might say what a waste of a summer when you could have gone to the beach or gone hiking or taken a road trip or whatever. And that’s right, I could have, and I think I would have had a good time. But I had a good time regardless, so why is doing all that any better? It’s not about enjoyment, it’s about what’s memorable. Of course, sometimes the things I do for fun kind of get old and you need something different to break the monotony, but if that’s not an issue, why is doing something different better in any way? Unless it’s the memories that are the important thing to you.
I don’t like the memory thing because I don’t like living with regret all the time. Certain things of course I regret a lot, like not praying more, reading the Bible more consistently, reaching out to people. And that’s legitimate because it makes me change my behavior in a constructive way. Or at least it should. But I think a lot of us live with regret that isn’t so noble. It’s like we think we should have had a better time and done more fun stuff when we had the chance and now it’s too late. This goes back to the death thing. When I’m faced with death, I don’t want to be drowning in regret, wishing I could have done more things, or thinking that I haven’t really lived, like I’ve seen some people do. I say this because I realize that I’m generally happy with my life. Maybe too happy, and too content, but I am generally happy. And if I’m happy, what is there to regret? Not ever having gotten to hanglide or skydive or see France or something lame like that? Whatever. I’m happy, and all those activities would have given me some sorts of memories, but I don’t think they would have meant I was more happy. And in any case, it’s pure regret, and nothing you can do about. Unless you actually go and do those things. But I hate the idea that our happiness is somehow dependent on the things we do, because some people can’t do those things, and so are they doomed to unhappiness? I’m losing focus.
Of course, maybe you weren’t happy, and then that’s another story. But seeing how I am generally happy, I don’t want to live with regret when there’s nothing to be regretful about. I had a good summer. I took no road trips, never got to go to anywhere special, but it was good, and I’m happy about it, and am not regretful simply because I didn’t do anything memorable.
And I’ve also come to see that a lot of the things I remember most fondly are the mundane things. Maybe that’s just me, but that’s the way I feel. Like I do remember particular certain events, but when I think about what made me happy in my childhood, it’s just an overall general kind of thing. And I think I enjoy the mundane things. Like it was just such a joy to kind of cook and clean after ourselves in Mirrielees this summer. I really enjoyed doing the dishes. I dig that kind of stuff. And not just housework, but other mundane things, the things we do everyday that aren’t particularly special. That’s the kind of stuff I enjoy. When I’m old, I want to look back on my life and take pleasure in the mundane (but constructive) things I did, and not think my life was better or worse for the meaningless memorable purely entertaining things I did.
I think that’s one thing I’ve seen with my parents. I love both my parents, but they have taken different approaches to us. My mom never did anything special for us, I mean, she was kind of a non-emotional type mother. She just did the things she needed to, like taking care of our stuff, taking us to our music lessons, soccer games, cub scouts, etc. All that mundane stuff. She rarely did anything really special with us, but I don’t blame her for that, that’s just how she is. My dad was a bit different. He never really did any of those mundane things, since he never really had the time. But when he did have the time, he would take us to the movies, or to a restaurant or more fun stuff like that. And that was the way he was. So I probably have more memories of the doing stuff thing, but when it comes to appreciation now that I’m older, I think I really appreciate those everyday, mundane things that my mom did a lot.
I’m not making sense anymore and it’s getting late. I’m flying back to Stanford tomorrow! Yikes! I went to Galveston yesterday, and on the way, I saw the boldest car dealership. Gay Pontiac. In Dickinson, Texas. Just the way the huge sign looked, I just thought: Bold. There was another bold business name but I have forgotten it. Also, last night I saw a DVD for the first time. Dang that thing is fly. Very cool. We were watching a movie, and Bob had his Surround Sound system working, and near the end of the movie, someone knocked on the door of his apartment, and when he opened the door, there was this girl that said, “I don’t mean to be rude, but the pictures on my wall are shaking.” That’s one nice stereo system.
As I was leaving, Bob said, “It’s your senior year. Have fun, dude.” What does that really mean? Have fun? I guess we’ll see. Serra, here I come.