On Death, Firing Squads and Alien Abductions.

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To: Ash
From: Crecente
Re: Dying 24-7, Thinking About It 24-7

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was six or so, I was told I had a really good chance of dying, 50 percent to be specific, during an operation. They even gave me my last rights. That’s the sort of thing that changes the way you think about everything. I remember clearly, days before leaving for the hospital, walking to elementary school and trying to imagine what it would be like to not exist. It was fall, in Maryland, the sidewalks were covered with dead leaves and as I walked, the leaves crunching under my feet, I closed my eyes and pictured space. Then I tried to remove everything, the planets, the stars… myself. It really scared the crap out of me.

I, of course, survived, but it really got me interested in religion, all religions, at a very, very young age. After that I become enthralled with philosophy and physics. I read, voraciously, and still do. But it wasn’t until I read Slaughterhouse Five, of all things, and a short story by Jorge Louis Borges that I found some sort of inner peace on the subject.

In Slaughterhouse the protagonist is captured by aliens who see in four dimension, the fourth being time. They go through life as if it is a magazine they’ve already read. They can flip back and forth whenever they want. To them their entire existence has already happened, so death isn’t just coming, it’s there, right next to their birth and the time they first kissed a girl. In the Borges short story, I’ve forgotten the name of it but I believe it was in the Garden of Forking Paths, a soldier is lead to a firing squad to be killed. He is desperate to finish writing a story he’s been working on. He’s so desperate that when the guns fire time slows to a near stop and he has an eternity to finish writing his story as the bullets continue to fly toward him.

That’s how I view life, an amalgam of those two ideas. Life isn’t just what we are doing now, and what we’ve done. It is, I like to think, a beautiful painting or book, one which we will always be able to enjoy. I like to spend an awful lot of time lingering around the bit where I met my wife.

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