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I feel, in a way, more at home in times like this.
Times of quarantine.
Times of death.
Times, even, of trauma and extreme difficulty.
Of course, there is privilege in this—the privilege I have of soft self-refection.
I have always had the comfort of relative safety to hold me. I haven’t experienced the types of trauma found in war zones, for example. I haven’t lived shrinking in fear of death, day-to-day, with an abusive spouse or oppressive regime. I can sip my latte comfortably and pontificate about death.
But that’s exactly why it’s important to think about.
Death is a teacher for all of us, particularly those of us who are privileged to live lives where it can be comfortably brushed under the rug, where it can be comfortably denied, like the choice to put Grandma in a nursing home.
During these times of COVID and quarantine, however, the existence of death is palpable. We are forced to make choices and decisions that feel quite close to the bone. We have the opportunity to see what’s really underneath, waiting for us at every turn—extant and waiting, save for our own blindness.
Perhaps, that’s death. And perhaps, it’s just the terrifying notion that we aren’t, ultimately, in control. It’s the death of the idea that we’re able to forge our own destiny, build a fence around “our land,” our family, and call it a home, to go on defending some notion that we own anything at all—or that we can take it with us.
In times of difficulty, the awareness of our own mortality separates the wheat from the chaff like almost nothing else. The true nature of each human being comes to the fore with a clarity that can knock you senseless.
Are you a hero? A humanitarian? Or will your brokenness bleed into marbled cracks while your soul is supine and vulnerable? Will your mask be rendered useless and your true cruelty come to the fore when others are as weak as you, glinting like a fresh kill in the sunlight?
An uncomfortable truth is that much of what we base our lives upon is a lie. We deny death and impermanence to chase daydreams that aren’t even our own: they’re fashioned and spun out of a daydream factory that isn’t manned by anything graceful. We forget that none of the people, none of the clothes, cars, homes, whores, boats, swatches, or watches will go with us when we die. We forget that much of it truly matters not at all.
During dark times, we can, perhaps, palate the texture of the darkness, and choose to set our roots into a substrate more honest and, ultimately, more nourishing—to ask ourselves, who am I without the daydreams?
And what—really and truly—matters?