Life is always full of things to do, places to go, and people to avoid. I never seem to have a moment to stop and to think, to pause and to reflect on the passage of time. I am constantly finding myself transported forward in time, as the days and weeks slip from my fingers while I am not looking. Someone wise once said: “Life is yours to waste”.
How much more time will go by before I next realize how much I have missed? When my life is over, and my breath is nearly gone; will I then understand the whole story? Will I look back upon my past -my life that I chose to live one small insignificant decision at a time, and understand that I did something meaningful? Did I raise good kids who became wise adults? Help my fellow man? Live my life well? Did I have a goal and a purpose? As the small grains of sand that are moments slip through my fingers; I wonder if they will add up to anything of value, or merely fall onto the dust pile of the ages?
A year ago, I lost my brother in a car crash, he was younger than I, and I have had the thought many times since: as my memories of him fade, and time crawls by that life and memory and time are temporary; that the powerful play goes on, and that I may contribute a verse.
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer. That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
― Walt Whitman – Leaves Of Grass
I know that no matter what happens, I too will one day die as well…
I don’t fear death, I am indifferent to life and death, I was not consulted at the beginning of life, and I won’t be at the end, so I don’t feel particularly attached to either state, but I do not want to live so that I have regrets when it comes time to die. In all estimations of average lifespan, I have about half of my life left, so I wish to life like Marcus Aurelius.
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
― Marcus Aurelius
Forget Me Not 1918
These pressed flowers were in a book I bought many years ago at a garage sale. I have kept the worm eaten book and these flowers for many years because they are special. I don’t know the story, I don’t know if this was a funeral bouquet for a fallen soldier, or an influenza victim, they may have been grown on the front and sent home to loved-ones, they may have nothing to do with the war: they might be a lovers bouquet, or just some flowers gathered in the springtime….
But I know that they have survived the years and were waiting for me to discover them. What years have passed into the dust of history, great men have risen through the ranks, to command despotic empires that have fallen crumbling into forgetfulness, and these small blooms have waited pressed between the mouldering leaves of a novel on a shelf.
Nations have risen in hope from the turmoil of revolution and then dissolved in chaos back again to rust and neglect, all while these little fragile spots of color waited for someone to notice them. What secrets could they tell us about the frailty of human lives and the short sharp pain of loss, if we would only listen? Someone picked these little springtime flowers and carefully tied them with string, and dated them. They pressed them between the pages of this book, and then time came swirling by and took all the meaning and memory away slowly and with gnawing blunt teeth.
No one knows now why they were picked and preserved, no one knows their story. What whispered lovers secrets were told in their presence? What fleeting kisses stolen on a secluded hillside awash with verdant springtime rainbows? These little flowers have a story to tell, but no lips to speak them with.
I will keep them so that they will outlive me, and their next discoverer can ponder the abyss of time also.
This is my Cuneiform Epitaph.
Scratches on clay the remnants of lives, tiny sparks that winked brightly and then went out; time consuming the present moment by moment, Langoliers following closely behind, watching for scraps and pouncing on wasted time.
When flesh grows cold, and entropy consumes blood, bones, and essence leaving nothing for the dusty shrines in the desert. Perhaps some would-be excavator will unearth or draw up from the bog and weedy rushes some ancient oxygen deprived preserved mystery. Some brine soaked encrusted memory devoid of identity. What sharpened flint points of logic and rhetoric will be discussed in papers of those learned and versed in the unknowable?
As Ötzi mulled over pre-stoic ideals and post-grazing utopias while munching roots and mushrooms, I am hunched before this scrap of plant fibers mashed down, boiled over and pressed out. I grasp my blunt tool and bleed dark Voynician prayers to the Old Ones still hidden in deep cold abysses of time and dark water.
Sawgrass riptide, silicate crystals smeared across my toes,
the pressed down deepened holes in the burning white,
where I run down to the harder pressed darker expanse of shallow sea.
There are gulls on the edges vision, screeching, diving, salty spray of feathers,
darting, running, scattering sandpipers leave tiny scratches on the hard-packed sandy horizon.
crushed bits of shell, tossed up to my cool twisting toes by the urgent surf, a gift of shattered pearlescent debris.
That is the cause that drives all of us; we meat-puppets, bio-piles, self-motivated obsessed carbon life forms that we are. The reason we do everything that we do is because we die. The meaning of life is that it ends.
The scrawled hearts on the park bench, the scratched names under your desk are cries from the past; reaching yearning, calling from that abyss where all things must go. We build cities and businesses, and lives because they are graffiti to the gods, and we want them to be hard to scrub off the walls.
Think about laborers under the beating sun dragging blocks for the great pyramids, think about the lives that were spent to turn great blocks of stone into a massive tomb for the ruler of a sand patch at the end of a muddy river. Thousands and thousands of hours of back breaking work, of lives spent like devalued currency, and for what? So one man could have a glorious tomb and take his riches into the after-life? Yet ten thousand, thousand men and women and children were buried in shallow graves in the sand. No embalming for them, no hope for an afterlife for them.
You think we are any different today? We work and sweat and labor to build high-rises that will be used, and then neglected, and then dilapidated, and then razed. Gone. Cities rise, cities fall, ruins fill the landscape and the flesh-toned tide of humanity rises and falls, ebbs and recoils, fades and though it is always dying, always being born, it is a continuous thread that stretches back into history, one meager life at a time.
Do you really think you are going to make your mark on the world?
Time is death, death is time. Eventually I will be gone, you will be gone, and perhaps if we are fortunate, we may be remembered by our descendants, or if we have done something famous or infamous we may be remembered long into the future, though that future does not really matter much to those still trapped like a fly in amber locked in the past.
I look at those scratchings on a park bench, and wonder at our own mortality, the great mystery that is death. What deep scratches are you trying to leave behind?