“To look life in the face, to always look life in the face, and to know it for what it is, at last, to love it for what it is, and then to put it away.”
~ Virginia Woolf
Sometimes I have epic nightmares about the end of the world. There are three or four mental movies that are replayed in my dreams every couple of months: a tsunami, a zombie/alien attack, a world pandemic and a second ice age.
In them, I’m always with someone whose face I can’t remember when it’s over. We’re running away, hiding, whispering behind closed doors, looking everyone in the eyes, speaking gravely to each other, making quick life-or-death decisions and trying to be among the survivors.
There’s a sort of quiet desperation building up in my lungs like smoke, and every kind of feeling that ever passed through me is now present playing its tune in crescendo. My chest is an auditorium with a full orchestra and the conductor is not me. The air seems to be made of bricks, and just when it becomes impossible to breathe, I wake up.
I’m surprised then to see that the world is still here—untouched—and no one or nothing is trying to kill me. Yet something is taken away with each dream and replaced with the unknown; and for a few seconds, between my sleeping and waking, I’m suspended over the void like a puppet.
I have no control—during that brief time—over the strings that are pulling me. All I can do is stare right into the black hole of my being or not being and shiver, like any inexperienced ghost.
I guess everyone’s a bit afraid of disappearing. Even as you spell “impermanence”, your heart’s still beating and you can’t really tell what it’s like when it stops. But they promised you at birth that it will, it’s written all over your face (don’t look in the mirror, we’ll be ok); and it’s funny how everything we know about death is somehow still alive.
I’m wondering though, if we could remove death from the dictionary and replace it with a different word. ‘Cause what is death really, if not change? Aren’t we dying all the time?
Isn’t my world ending every night and doesn’t it take me all the muscles of the heart, mind and body combined to wake up the next day and start painting again on a white canvas, with my bare and tired feet as if nothing had ever happened before?
(Abstract if I’m postmodern, tired and empty. Impressionist if I’m composed, romantic and well-rested.)
Let me ask you then, dear me, what if the zombies in my dreams are just an expression of my own mutant life; a life that’s never ending, but only shifting shapes and DNA alignment?
If change is the key to eternity then you and I have all the time in the world. Maybe this is the only formula to live forever. (Even if I don’t want to be eternal.)
So here I am waking up in a new, old place 28 days (or months, or years) after the end of the world, a little naked and a little scared with messy hair and puffy eyes as if I’d been raised by wolves in Siberia (or by a Computer in Virtualia).
It’s that time of the year when winter isn’t fully gone and all the snow you used to love two months ago is now but shitty, melted white; sweet spring with bird eyes and warm feet, still playing hard to get.
“Sustained by a breath, trembling and brief. If only my heart were stone.”
~ Cormac McCarthy
You’d think this raw, unscripted human condition would go away at some point, and it’d all finally turn into the epic movie it’s supposed to be; a movie that doesn’t end right in the middle, leaving you wondering, always wondering about its heroes and lovers and villains.
But the streets are empty, and it’s still too cold for a jacket and too warm for a coat; and all the things that used to mean things are not things anymore and after so much howling, we forgot how to speak.
Are the closing credits also part of the movie? So… be still, life, be still, until you’ve read them all?
Over the years I’ve noticed how my heart gets a cold right before a world ends and another begins. It swells, it drowns, it breaks and it makes infernal, creaturely noise as if it had a mouth and that mouth was me and I was painfully opening against my will. And I’m just leaving bite marks on everything I touch.
But I’ve also managed to keep a suitcase with me at all times, so I don’t walk into the new world empty-handed and without any kind of history (unless the past should be contagious, in which case, wash your hands!).
It’s lonely enough to have to relearn yourself again. And it’s terrible enough that no life comes with a manual. So it’s only to be expected that you should bring your backbone along. How will you know your North without a compass?
I don’t have much to lose or take with me to the other side of the world, or this side, or the underworld; it’s all the same, equally new, decaffeinated and undressed. Only a few imperishable items…
A book – because imagination is better than knowledge but they’re both contained in a page.
A song – because it’s the most effective and cheapest medicine for fear.
A lover – because it’s the ice cream in your summer.
A friend – because the world has to be shared in order to exist.
A pen – because I have to let you know about it all.
A mission – because who else will save us from ourselves, if not us?
A vision – because meaning is not something to be found but something to be created.
A memory – because I used to be a child not long ago and it was easier to forgive.
A scar – because brokenness is a door in a room full of mirrors.
A heart – because it sees all things, even when it can’t see anything at all.
The world as we know it is constantly ending. You can’t resist, only exist. You won’t survive unless you die. There’s no escape other than through your own veins. You can’t run away, only along. And a frost-bit, old, birdly voice sounds better than a trumpet.
What’s in your backpack, stranger?
They say it’s the last song,
They don’t know us, you see?
It’s only the last song
If we let it be.