Saturday, October 04, 2008

4 October 2008

I was at a 60th birthday party last night.

These events used to be abstractions. Certainly something that happened to somebody else.

Somebody else I would feel vaguely sorry for, feeling that for all intents and purposes their live was mostly over.

But all that has changed now I know that in two years time the sixtieth birthday I will be celebrating will be mine.

(and suddenly, with a pang, I remember that another sixtieth we would have been celebrating this year would have been Susie’s)

I’m present at these celebrations now with a certain heightened awareness, a kind of anxiety. I wonder: will I want to celebrate mine this way? Or that way?

I’m not sure, but I suppose part of our reluctance to think about these events has to do with our reluctance to think about death. Someone had asked me politely what I was doing just now, and I was talking about my new play. “Every One”, I told them, “is about death”.

And I told them a bit of the story, and I told them that I have been exposed to a lot of death the last few years, one way or another, and that although it was painful it wasn’t altogether a bad thing. That I have been left with a reverence and appreciation for life. That our culture’s utter reluctance to accept the fact of death is very unhealthy and actually causes great unhappiness.

Another conversation: someone talking about watching a TV news item about a new set of wind generators in the countryside and the difficulty they seemed to be having to find someone cross about it.

And it’s true that “RESIDENTS’ FURY AT NEW WIND TURBINES” is a story, whereas “RESIDENTS ACTUALLY QUITE HAPPY WITH NEW TURBINES” is not.

And maybe the relentless negativity of our culture is death’s revenge, somehow, for being so ignored. To be sure, we seem obsessed with, and hell bent on, our own destruction.

I was thinking of all this, and my heart started to beat uncomfortably loud. As it does at least once or twice every day. The Middle Ages used to value these moments when you became aware of death. “Memento Mori”.

Because one reason it is unpleasant to be aware of the beating of your heart is that it also makes you aware of the fact that one day, some time, perhaps now, it will stop.

And I don’t need to carry around a skull to remind me. It’s built in to me.

But then that’s not the whole story. Because one thing I am continually reminded of is how amazing and wonderful it is to live. And how life simply offers us all these infinite possibilities.

In that sense, this is not a Memento Mori. Neither the party nor the uncomfortable beating of my heart. It is a Memento Vivere.

Remember to live.
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