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9:32 AM - Thurs 5.05.22

This Is The Thing

Having a hard time getting started...

(But I guess I just did.)

This is one of those times where not much is really going in "my world", but a great deal is going on in my head...

Like a lot of thinking about death.

I mean, a lot of thinking about death...

(And by "a lot", I mean almost constant thinking about death.)

Fears about my own mortality ramped up exponentially in the past decade or so.

I still remember the atheist meme that got it all started - a drawing of a cosmic scene with the caption, "I don't believe in an afterlife. Because I'm not so egotistical I can't imagine the Universe without me in it".

Something about the wording of that hit me hard, giving me the closest thing I've ever had to a panic attack. I suddenly felt like I could imagine "The Universe without me in it", mentally fast-forwarding to the end of my existence.

I've gotten past the panic - mostly -but I've never shaken the obsession with my pending death.

(Suddenly, I really find myself wishing I'd get a text or something about an audition or whatnot...)

(But since that wasn't seeming imminent, I decided to text my commercial agent, to let him know my birthday is coming up - more on that in a bit - and now I'm back.)

And that death obsession is ramping up again, caused by everything from three comedians dying in their sixties (I'm about to turn sixty-one), to getting notice that I've qualified for a couple of union pensions, to my friend Jane's recent flurry of health challenges, to the (probably) imminent demise of someone I know from back in my Lansing theater days.

It's something I am now addressing in therapy (Oh yeah - I'm back in therapy again, albeit remotely), and in frequent conversations with Mark and Jane Z., and Jane R.

And it struck me recently that part of my fearfulness regarding death is that I can't imagine it, not really.

And when I talk about death/being dead, I'm talking about "ceasing to exist" (I don't believe in an afterlife...though when I tried to discuss the idea of "heaven" with Jane R. yesterday, we couldn't make heads or tails of that notion either. But more on that in a moment).

When I think about not existing, it strikes me that the reason I can't imagine it is because I can't get "Me" out of the picture - When I try to imagine being dead, what I typically end up with, at best, is imagining myself being kind of a "ghost", hanging around, but without any ability to affect things or make myself known or felt in any way (And at worst, I envision a nightmarish Black Mirror scenario where I'm in an inky black void by myself for eternity).

Basically, I'm either watching things go on from a distance without me, or I'm in an isolation tank for eternity. Which are really more examples of hellish notions of an afterlife than "non-existence".

I remember seeing something years back where someone was trying to get across the idea of non-existence - It was something along the lines of "You know how, when you're in your house, you're not in New York or Paris or on the Moon or anywhere else? Well, now just imagine you're also not in your house...".

The closest analogy I can make to non-existence and the idea of "not being anywhere", is being anesthetized for surgery - They put you out, and when you come out of it, you (hopefully) didn't have the experience of "existing" for the length of the surgery.

So death is just like being put out for surgery...but instead of coming back in a few hours, you're going to be "out" for good (I imagine its similarity to death might be why I've always had the thought, as I'm being put under - no matter how routine the surgery - that "What if this is it...?")

(I remember the last time I had a surgery having that thought, then thinking, "Well, if that's what happens, I could hardly ask for a better death - Easy, painless, and I'll be none the wiser...")

(Which reminds me of a meme I like, that goes, "When you're dead, you don't know it. Only the people around you suffer. The same thing when you're stupid".)

Was talking with Jane R. about this stuff, and we transitioned to trying to wrap our heads around the Christian notion of "heaven"...and we didn't really get very far - From feeling really dubious at the notion of our being deliriously happy singing God's praises all the time - and why does God all this praising? Wouldn't he get bored? How needy can one omnipotent being be? - to wondering just how being "happy all the time" in heaven would work (Especially since a lot of happiness on Earth has to do with overcoming obstacles, or having lovely surprises, or having circumstances you're feeling anxious about go your way)?

If everything is perfect in heaven and you're happy all the time, how would you ever have an exceptionally good day? A "great" day? If you're having a great day, isn't that in comparison to a lot of days that were less good, or even "bad"?

And to me, the fact that we don't really even have the capacity to think about this stuff coherently suggests either it's not there, or if something is, we're not going to know till we know (Another notion of an "afterlife" - that to me sounds New Age-y/Eastern Thought-y - is that when we die, we return to some "Universal One-ness" or the like. I guess it's comforting to feel like, when we die, something of us remains in the Cosmos, but I just don't get it - to me, it's so vague and amorphous as to be meaningless).

But, until and unless someone can prove otherwise, I think we just "go out", like the flame on a candle.

There's not another thing after this that's a better thing - This is the thing.

Good, bad, or indifferent.

And on that existential note - I said I had loads going on in my head, and I do, but I've been at this on-and-off for hours, and I absolutely have to try and nap (I also have to save something for my next podcast).

Till next time...



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