Thursday, June 25, 2009

“The question is not whether we will die, but how we will live.”

It happens and in every case, we are all shocked. No matter the situation, no matter if we are prepared for the inevitable, no matter if we knew it was coming, death always shocks us. It is always sudden, always enduring, but in both instances, there is the shock.

We lost my grandfather four years ago. 80 years old, a smoker all his life, and he died suffering, drowning in disease and infection. At the end, he didn't know us. At the end, after weeks of suffering, a blink, it seemed, from the initial diagnosis, weeks of my mother's frustration, sadness, and utter grief, he closed his eyes and then...just wasn't. There would be no more tall tales, no more laughter, no more of the same stories being told over and over. It divided our family. It overwhelmed my mother and left her the responsibility of being care giver and designated mother to her own. Life had begun 80 years before in a bright roaring thunder and ended in a an exhale and whimper. Death came to my grandfather but left its mark on all of us.

What did it teach us? Many things, it turned out. It taught us that he was the anchor steadying our very turbulent family. He was the core of the family unit. He was the most beloved of us all and with his death, that was torn a part, the anchor unequivocally dismantled. It taught me that smoking, obviously, is a very stupid thing to do. It's a time bomb ticking through your body, exploding with absolute precision.

But death, it should be understood, is always inevitable and should be anticipated.

We mourn for our loss. We feel the shock, the shattering well of sorrow not for the loss of a loved one,but for the absence constructed in our own lives. We are all selfish creatures, all focused on what a death will mean for us, whether it is intentional or not, it is our own self awareness that affects us. We cry, we moan, we shake our hand at God because this 'lost someone' will be missing from OUR lives...from OUR realities.

Rather than understanding, accepting that the loss is certain, that it is the departed that has been most affected, we reel against what death will mean for US and in the process, we ignore the lesson that we should learn: That tomorrow is as uncertain as the true agenda of a politician and that not one of us can predict when our turn will come.

So, what
should we learn? What should be the final lesson? Today we are here and tomorrow is not meant to be a moment of reflection. Life happens quickly and death is a selfish creature, it wants us all, it wants us when we are unprepared and unwilling to bend to its will.

Live today.
LIVE. It's all any of us can do. Do not mourn for the passing of a loved one, of a stranger, of an enemy. Do not reflect on their failings, their misgivings, their sins because, eventually, we all take the same path, we all end our journey at the same destination and the road we walked to get there was our own making, our own choices. Live while you can, while you are able. Tomorrow only exists on the "calendar of fools."

“Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why writers are cooler than rock stars

Who takes you 'there?' Who delivers you from the mundane, from the ordinary and frees you from your abrasive reality? Is it an actor? Is it a poem? Is it a musician? None of us can define definitively what makes us tick, the incessant part of ourselves that we pretend isn't there, doesn't encompass every molecule, every cell that makes us run, jump, scream or cry. But sometimes, we have a clue who we are, what makes us, if not tick, then function. For me, it isn't a song or a poem or watching some pretty someone meander around dialogue and project who they think a character ought to be, that delivers me.

I can be moved by music. I have cried at films. Truth is, I've tolerated Byron to a level of finding him, 'pretty damn good.' But none of these things take me there. You know the 'there' I'm talking about. You've visited, I'm sure, in those predictable constants: prepubescent dreams, thoughts and ideas and imaginary ponderings that are born from long, wondering, looking-at-nothing stares. You've drifted there on occasion, your eyes have become unfocused and blank, you've skipped across the universe, through the cloudy void when reality, that dull certain, has become too much to bear. It's the 'there' that is created when you want to escape, when too much responsibility, too many plans, too-consuming life lumbering has forced you away, has made you drift.

Where 'there' is, of course, differs from individual to individual. My personal favor is a
large castle. No. A small cabin. Well, no, not really. Let's see, a lonely cottage on the tip of some nondescript, unassuming village in Scotland. See, mine changes so often that I can't keep track. the point is, the 'there' for me isn't always the same. The method of getting 'there,' however, is. I don't listen to music when I write. I don't need the inspiration of a chick flick, period drama or a 'let's remake, for the fiftieth time, a story that should never be touched' film. I don't need them, they aren't required. All I need is a good book. No, not just a good book, but a damn good book. the kind of book that leaves you gobsmacked. (I make no apologies for using that word...I love it and think it is used far too infrequently).

So, the book. It can't be just any book. I won't get to my little village reading about idealist lawyers, determined accountants, faultless doctors or some one's recount of tragedies and horrors visited upon the underdog, the young, the frail or depraved because, really, aren't all our lives depressing enough? Don't we all suffer through enough tremendous struggles, endless monotony already? Getting to my 'there' won't be accomplished by reading about suffering when my reality is, sometimes, punishment enough.

Give me the unbelievable. Give me magic. Give me surrealism. Give me vampires and wizards and gypsies and Gods, both with the little and big 'g's. Give me a monster, a zombie, oh please give me a zombie, and a good guy discovering his hidden, mysterious, magical parentage. Give me every Campbell cliche
. Give me a town invested by psychotic, hungry vampires, give me a rabid dog trapping a woman and her child in a car. Give me a boy with a scar and his impossible responsibility. Give me a man searching for a fallen star.

Give. Me. Shadow Bloody Moon.

Give them all to me and I will jettison to my 'there.' I will be among the wizards, flying on broomsticks, akin to a dead woman, watching un-seeable Gods and Goddess fighting in the last good fight. I sing with drunken Highlanders concealing the whereabouts of an English Outlander. I dance at a wizard's ball and fly next to a not so innocuous bat.

You see, it isn't the fantasy that takes me to my 'there.' It isn't event eh descriptive setting planted next to all those beloved characters.

It is, simply put, the words.
They are magic itself. And who can we thank for such intoxicating descriptors, such bespelling prose? I can give you a list. Trust me, I could utterly exhaust you with it. We must honor the sires of the surreal, the makers of illusion. We must thank the writer. They are carvers of the most precious sculptures. They are God Creators of universes we could not possibly fathom without their They are magic itself. And who can we thank for such intoxicating descriptors, such bespellinginstruction. They are professors of wit and wisdom and all things incredulous. What actor can transform you, deposit you in that way? What song has ever been sung that could twist your mind so that you find yourself in the Middle of the Earth, in the Neverwhere of impossibility? Cobain was a genius, but he was still, at his core, only a musician.

So to my list I say, 'Cheers. Thank you and please don't ever stop.'

Thank you Jo for making the impossible brilliant and real and beautiful and scary. Thank you, Uncle Stephen, for all the 'well damn' moments and every single instance I had to sit on my feet to stop the monsters beneath my bed from attacking. Thank you Neil for spinning my mind so that I could barely remember my name, for teaching me without speaking a syllable, for weaving a tapestry that I could feel through every page. Thank you Kim and Diana and Charlaine and Poppy for proving that, yep, chicks can do it, and most times, better than any man could ever imagine. Thank you to the countless infinite other, to every Pratchett, Baum, Adams, Lovecraft, Koontz, Hill, Barker, Poe and Matheson.

Thank you all for bringing me, without fail, to my 'there' and never, ever apologizing for the abduction.