the most crazy thing is how total and how final the change of state from alive to dead is, when it happens. however you think you are expecting it, it is always a surprise.

6 thoughts on “instant

  1. “Life cannot be cut off quickly. One cannot be dead until the things he changed are dead. His effect is the only evidence of his life. While there remains even a plaintive memory, a person cannot be cut off, dead. And he thought, “It’s a long slow process for a human to die. We kill a cow, and it is dead as soon as the meat is eaten, but a man’s life dies as a commotion in a still pool dies, in little waves, spreading and growing back toward stillness.” [John Steinbeck, ‘To a God Unknown’]

  2. “The peasant sees life as an interlude because of the dual contrary movement through time of his thoughts and feelings which in turn derives from the dual nature of the peasant economy. His dream is to return to a life that is not handicapped. His determination is to hand on the means of survival (if possible made more secure, compared to what he inherited) to his children. His ideals are located in the past; his obligations are to the future, which he himself will not live to see. After his death he will not be transported into the future – his notion of immortality is different: he will return to the past.” [John Berger, ‘Pig Earth’]

  3. Thank you for your responses, Nik. Honestly, I often find Berger’s determinism condescending, pessimistic and off the mark. There are a myriad ways to be larger than our circumstances, however they frustrate us, and to pontificate vaguely on the limited aspirations of “peasants” and “handicaps” is a bit presumptuous, in my opinion.

    What I was referring to by “death” here is about embodiment: the spirit/life force’s physical vacation of the body. There, then not. There is no moment, to an outside perceiver at least, where the occupant of a body is both there and not there. And when not there, they are suddenly never coming back.

  4. I think it’s the ‘suddenness’ that I want to qualify a bit: I think this ‘suddenness’ is a misperception of a process that is necessarily much larger that our consciousness can survey and comprehend. We may feel forced into a realisation (which includes the act of being shocked and of grieving and denying etc), because we have (generally) been living with a cushioned, bolstered, distracted and fragmentary consciousness, in order to exclude fears and feelings of loss. I think I know why you might read Berger that way, but this wasn’t my focus in citing him here. I just wanted to propose a couple of alternative perceptions to this proposed ‘instant’ – something I don’t deny existing at all in perception.

  5. When your aunt has her usual chat to you on the phone about what her parrot is getting up to, and about the food processor she found at Cash Converters that she is going to bake a cake with, and then a couple of days later, you find out that she has just had a massive stroke and is gone out of her body, that is instant and final. It is. No more conversations with her, ever. That’s pretty much an objective fact, in our time-bound bodies. It’s not really helpful to the process of accepting death to try to argue against that. And, of course, I am writing only from my own earthly perspective. We cannot know with our finite intellects the noumenal truth about everything that happens when passing out of this earthly reality.

  6. There is not a day that passes that I don’t think about my parents dying. Each and every day, I think, Mom is still here, Dad is still here, what if today is the day. It’s a method I have, trying to avoid the surprise. No matter how I try and prepare myself, the suddenness will strike me, because, just like your chat on the phone with your aunt, I would think about how (just yesterday) Mom picked up Armanda from school and told her how her shoes need a polish, how (just yesterday) Dad made his famous rice for Sunday lunch. Even if it’s a long battle with cancer, or some illness, the moment when it happens is always sudden.

    When my baby died inside me, it wasn’t sudden. I was still convinced she was moving. When the doctor confirmed her death, it was still not sudden, because I still had to give birth to her. And when I was in the hospital, I never saw her body, so it was still not sudden, because I couldn’t imagine playing with her, or bathing her (just yesterday). Maybe the suddenness has to do with our own physical experiences (with our five senses) of somebody.

What do you think?

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