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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Every year, at one's birthday, friends and family gather around the birthday cake after dinner and look on fondly as the celebrant silently makes a wish, then draws in a deep breath to blow out the candles. Of course, past a certain age, the humane and practical thing to do is not overload the cake with candles, but consolidate decades of life into one candle per ten years. After all, we wouldn't want the birthday boy or girl to suffer cardiac arrest and fall face first into the cake. How uncouth would that be!

Is it too macabre to suggest that, as one's final days approach--or maybe even earlier--loved ones might gather around a cake again as the celebrant makes a death wish? Of course, by death wish, I don't mean the same thing as Freud did (see previous post #28); that is, a biological drive to die. Rather, a death wish is simply a mirror of the birthday wish. Is this incongruous with being with what is--something I've been advocating in other reflections on death awareness? Perhaps. I leave that for the reader to decide.

There is one caveat or qualification regarding the death wish. Wishes sometimes get entangled with hope, and I don't wish to encourage such entanglements. Impending death signifies the ending of hope, which need not plunge one into hopelessness or despair. Death is inevitable and hope isn't needed to obscure this existential fact. So, let's make a wish but not tie it to hope. In this respect, a death wish could be a new, and different, kind of wish for a new and different kind of landscape.

death wish
a lone candle flickers
then steadies again

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