I wonder who you are, you have taken the time to read the thoughts of someone you will likely never meet. Will you read to the end? Curiosity getting the better of you as you wonder what kind of person leaves letters for strangers in a cemetery, half hidden in the hollow of a tree? Will you crumple it up, thinking it is some kind of joke. It is not, I assure you, but I cannot account for what kind of person you will be. I do wonder though.
If you are still with me, bravo, I thank you for your time and kindness, these thoughts I share in just this one letter, out in the world, vulnerable and frail. The words may die unread, that was always a risk, but I will write them anyway. Practice, practice.
I wonder why people worry so much about what happens to the body after one has expired. After all, life is just a window of opportunity. Once that window closes, the required equipment really becomes obsolete.
Now, you may think that this is about death, but really its about life, or rather existence.
A life that has a clear beginning, must also have an end, those are the rules, but I think the real question is does life have more meaning if there is an after or not.
Imagine for a moment that there is nothing, what would that really be like? The unknown of course is the scariest thing but really, to me, it almost feels like nothing does not seem so scary. Not compared to the alternatives.
For example, nothing, sounds a lot better than an eternity in hell. I have been there, you know, we all have. Not for long periods, no, more like snippets from time to time. Have you ever done a task so meaningless, boring, and repetitive, that you wondered if you hadn’t died? That maybe this is hell, but you just keep forgetting about it? Like, maybe, this moment of utter misery is actually eternity, and you will never break free?
Yes, this usually occurs just before the end of the day before the clock strikes the right hour, and you get to flee, your freedom from that awful moment feels like sheer heaven. That is hell, and heaven too. Both right here, right now. Usually closely related I might add, but I digress, let me get back to the point.
Why are endings so damned scary? I mean we do it over, and over again, throughout our lives, as though in preparation for this final test. Can you let go? Are you ready? Can you say goodbye?
We begin as children, a time of wonder, vulnerability, the time that we decide the shape and texture of our adult shells. Will we be spikey and aggressive? soft and malleable? Flexible? Durable? Stable? These are the real questions, ‘who are you?’ feels too much like a cop out. In choosing that shape we lose who we were as children becoming something else, and so we let go.
Then, in adolescence we outgrow things like magic, monsters, and make believe. Oh, they stick around, in comics, movies, books and games, but that belief, that loyalty to the unreal evaporates over time. It is a subtle change not felt all at once but some day you turn around and realize the unicorn can never see you now.
And then, the ever-fateful broken heart, and every one that follows. Be it big or small, it leaves us changed. Our views expand, our hearts become a different shape to the one before. The window of your previous existence closed forever, viewable as photos but never to be touched again. Practice, practice.
Then death comes to introduce itself, we all learn in different ways what others think of death. Countless rituals, books, practices. First, we lose loved ones, then eventually pieces of ourselves. We grieve, we mourn, but we live. The dead, I do believe, are quite beyond that.
Maybe that’s why of all the things to frighten girls and boys its ghosts who terrify me the most. Not because they can cause damage, or are frightening in themselves, its their existence at all that upsets me. To be trapped, in such a small snippet of existence, a snapshot of a moment, built on trauma or pain. Forever chained to the moment of transition, unable to let go. I get shivers just thinking about it. In a way it is a kind of immortality. Note, that I did not say a way to live forever. The whole world moves on but you as a ghost are stuck, stranded, untouched and untouchable. Unable to influence the world forever, rejected and left on the outside. Who wouldn’t choose nothing, compared to that?
And so, we spend our lives, leaping from window to window, one closes another opens, and we have to let go. In the end time marches forward and we have little choice in the matter.
Yet we fear the last and final thing we let go of. Ourselves. This meaty package that got us around on this beautiful planet for the short time we get to visit it. We age, we get sick, our minds begin to wander, and one by one we let go. I think of dandelion fluff in the wind. We simply drift away on the breeze and not much else matters anymore.
I know, I know it sounds like I have become obsessed with the idea of death but this strange time, has really got me thinking. Why do we care so much what happens to our bodies when we die? If there was a soul, it has gone, and if not, then the body is dead, no bioelectricity keeping the meat sack on its feet. Did that come off cold? Honestly, I don’t mean to be insensitive, when my loved ones die, I cry like everyone else, but eventually I let go.
When old age, disease, death take me I will have no choice in the matter, so why worry about it now? Why not dream instead? Fill your head with stories, adventures, ideas? Instead of demanding more time use what you have instead.
So much of our time wasted worrying about things that are inevitable. Of yelling into the wind, “No! I don’t wanna!” Meanwhile the wind will still back you to the ledge, it will still push you forward, you will still have to fly, eventually.
So I guess my point is this, let go of the idea of heaven and hell, those are here, and now. Instead focus on the idea that if there is an after, bring to it every scrap of love, laughter, and experience that you can squeeze into this vacation to the real world, and if not, then you will never know because oblivion means no memories to remind you of what you can no longer have. It's not really a curse if you think about it. I sure do.
Tell me what you think? How would you respond? Write a letter back and leave it in a tree, perhaps I will find it, perhaps not. Perhaps a stranger will come along and pluck the letter, read it, write a response and keep the tradition going. It's really up to you.
In the meantime. I remain, as I have always been and never shall be again,
Your stranger in the Cemetery.