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Thursday, August 5, 2010

I was taken aback when I read the following quote by Norman O. Brown, who wrote LIFE AGAINST DEATH: "The war against death takes the form of a preoccupation with the past and with the future, and the present tense, the tense of life, is lost."

It never occurred to me that, unwittingly, we really do act as though we are at war with death, pursuing anything and everything in our power to conquer death. It matters not that any undertaking along these lines is inherently futile. Warring against death ironically results in a deadening or numbing. The truth, however, is that when it comes to death, there is no "winning." Gaining fame and fortune doesn't defeat death; it doesn't confer immortality. The body still dies even if a monument is erected or a play is read for hundreds of years in high school English classrooms.

Why should I be interested at all in what doesn't exist? What sense does that make, if I am trying to defeat death? Neither the past nor the future exists. If I cherish life, then I will turn my full attention to the present and stay right here. This is where all the action is. I said to a therapist who was anxious about not getting to all the issues her family was coming to her for help with: Everything that needs to happen is happening now. She told me afterward it helped ground her. I don't know where that came from, but it still rings true in this context too.

train whistle
please... just... hold... my... hand

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