There is no such thing as a natural death: nothing that happens to a man is ever natural, since his presence calls the world into question. All men must die: but for every man his death is an accident and, even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation.
I have thought about death for as long as I can remember. Not dying. Death. I have no desire to die although one day I will.
When my grandparents died when I was young I remember wanting to stay in the room with them. I missed the moment but I still wanted to witness the after. They had life until they did not.
Simone de Beauvoir’s “A Very Easy Death” has been on my to-read list for some time. Its reading followed “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines, which followed Julian Barnes' “The Noise of Time”, about an artist’s spiritual death. I still have “Grief Observed” (C.S Lewis), “The Denial of Death” (Ernest Becker), “Last Words, Variations on a Theme in Cultural History” (Karl S. Guthke) and many others to go.
There is a theme.
Religion could do no more for my mother than the hope of posthumous success could do for me. Whether you think of it as heavenly or as earthly, if you love life immortality is no consolation for death.
I remember listening to “Immortality” by The Bee Gees when I was fourteen. For some reason the lyrics in that song evoked a great terror—I had sleepless nights trying to reconcile the limits of time and the eternal. Even if I could live forever, would I want to?
The time scale of immortality became just as frightening as the opposite. What is there to do in an infinite existence? What happens when the universe tears itself apart? What do we become witness to?
I’m fixated on the idea that one day I will not exist anymore.
You do not die from being born, nor from having lived nor from old age. You die from something. The knowledge that my mother’s life must soon come to an end did not lessen the horrible surprise.
There’s been a couple of times where I have invited the thought of an early death. Its inevitability preyed upon an already depressed mind that (at the time) could only think delaying the inevitable was pointless.
I’ve never had the urge to act—the thought was frightening enough. My approach has been to think about death as often and honestly as I can.
This all led to me thinking about what I would need in order to die. What satisfaction would I need to let myself go. And this is what ultimately drove my decision to quit full-time work and focus on Paperchain.
The intense focus has, for now, steeled myself against paralysis and is forcing each foot in front of the other. Not looking back. There is a line from now until the day I die. I’m learning more about myself and what I would need to arrive at that point.
Be a better human. An inspiring son, brother, uncle, brother-in-law, founder and friend. An intelligent and interesting companion for my wife.
This informs my personal and professional work. It drives every relationship I make. It’s helped me double-down on sincerity. It’s behind every presentation. Every pitch. Every Paperchain success and every failure. It’s become a part of my worldview.
There is today and that day and all the days in between.
We were taking part in the dress rehearsal for our own burial. The misfortune is that although everyone must come to this, each experiences the adventure in solitude.
I know that I love living. Absorbing worlds and being aware. One day I will not.
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- The quotes featured in this article come from “A Very Easy Death” by Simone de Beauvoir.