I have a friend. His story is a bit tragic. After dealing with the stress and strain of fatal illness, he lost his mother. As if to add insult to injury, she passed on Mother’s day.
In fact it happened to two friends. Both around the end of their twenties. On the same Mother’s day. Kinda makes you want to throw the hand you’ve been dealt right over your shoulder and storm out. That’s not fucking fair. That’s not what is supposed to happen to those who try to live a good and just life. It kind of makes you want to spit right in God’s eye. Here we are a year later, and they both took to Facebook to sing the song of Mother’s day. It happens every holiday, a culture takes to the fashion of celebration of the time and sings a song to show their love and gratitude to the powers we attribute them to. The main body of the song is built on the voices of those flaunting their pride in their mother and all claiming to have the best mother there is. There is a sombre group, in their mourning garb, that stands to the back reminding us of mortality and to be grateful for these precious, finite gifts. And of course the chattering chorus of critics who only wish to point out parts of the song they don’t like.
But something one said in his status update (that reads as a journal entry) struck something in me. Something I’ve been meditating on. He answered a question that I hadn’t even figured out how to ask yet.
“A year ago this morning, like a cruel Mother’s Day prank, I woke up in a pullout couch bed next to my mother in hospice care — she was no longer breathing. I remember the shock vividly, that nightmarish feeling of the woman who brought me into this world slipping away overnight, just a few feet away. A year ago this morning, I gently wiped my hand across an ice-cold face and physically closed my mother’s eyes.
I then spent the fastest year of my life isolating myself, pushing away those I love, and trying to get a grip on what I thought was a completely independent existence. I’m still having trouble adapting to this change, and I know parts of me never really will get through it with the iron fist I was hoping to, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been, and that counts for something. I’ve accomplished a lot over the last year, many of which I could never have done without my mother. She was my best friend and my greatest ally.
There is something I’ve learned about the human condition: I still have trouble reacting when people make remarks to me about where my mother is now and how she “watches over me.” I’m sure those comments help plenty of people get through these kinds of challenges, but it will always sound like bullshit to my ears. We don’t know what goes on in the cosmos, no matter how good it makes us feel to predict that we do. Broadcasting what you believe happens after death is almost like voluntarily spoiling the twist ending to the greatest movie we’ll ever see before anybody has even seen it (including you). As for me, I have found a hidden thrill in the mortality question. I like not knowing where the dead go when they die, and I love how terrified the idea of losing our physical presence seems to so many. Without mystery, we have nothing. We have nothing to pursue and, frankly, nothing to live for. So the next time you are consoling a loved one experiencing loss, really ask yourself if predicting the metacosmic post-process of somebody’s death is actually helping…or are you burying life’s greatest mystery behind a delusion under the guise of self comfort? Only you can answer that. Or nobody can. That’s the mystery.
That being said, this Mother’s Day, find a mom and hold her tight. It doesn’t even have to be yours. Find somebody who has created life and remind them how special that is. Remind yourself. We don’t have forever, so seize the day. Carpe diem.”
His words sound like many a sad “dead mother” status that I’ve read a million times before. He sings of the pain of loss that one only experiences when they lose a partner. There is the pain of having to offer the hollow gratitude that one must show to those who try to offer comfort like trying to press a bandaid to a 3rd degree burn. And the crescendo is one of strength, like the triumphant cry of a warrior who knows the battle is won. But a particular note struck my chords, like the painter finally finding his muse.
“As for me, I have found a hidden thrill in the mortality question.”
You see, my whole life I’ve been struggling to understand the meaning of life. I wanted to know why we’re here, what we’re supposed to be doing, and just what the fuck is the point of it all. I’ve never found an answer I liked, I never met a teacher that could explain it in satisfactory terms. I never closed a book that didn’t leave me opening three more to find the answer. But he’s found it. He’s got it right there. The meaning of Life is to live; not just exist or to avoid Death for as long as possible, but the meaning of Life is to find the meaning of your life and fulfil that. We all have purpose, every last one of us. That purpose is specific and can only be known in your heart. From there it’s just details. We fulfil our purpose through our choices, and you can make choices of virtue or you can make choices of sin, but at the end of the day the only person you must answer to is your own heart. The struggle of life is to keep those choices in balance. And that’s when we start to get lost in semantics of what is right and wrong, of what happens if you make a different choice than the ones we think we’re supposed to. Gods and heavens and hells, we invented all of those. Is there some greater power out there? There is as long as we believe in it. Well then how do I believe the best? Oh well there’s several handbooks and clubs you could join, find the one that fits your needs and purpose best.
We’ve gotten it backwards now. We created a world of possibilities but when the borders of tribes could no longer be seen, we lost sight of what those possibilities meant to us. I know I feel like I was born in a culture that does not fit my needs. Who I am and what I want to be doesn’t exist any more. I grew up in a world that promotes sin in excess but then shames those who collapse due to lack of moral fortitude. It doesn’t make sense, why lead someone to temptation if you’re only going to beat them if they give in? The cognitive dissonance of our world has become blinding. Even the virtuous are infested by Pride, never noticing that their spotless soul is rotting from the inside out. So instead of seeking what is my purpose in life, I sought what was the purpose of all life. I desire to understand all the possibilities to boil it down to the point of everything. It’s a narrow search through mortal eyes and there is no way for an organic mind to understand all of the infinite possibilities because you will fucking die. Not that looking upon the face of eternity will kill you, but the physical form will give out long before the spirit that guides it. We can build a machine that will go on forever as long as there are people to maintain it, but the calculations will never stop. That’s kind of the definition of infinity. We keep climbing mountains to see the curve of the earth but you’ll never truly appreciate it until you leave this plane entirely.
We all die. There’s no point in avoiding it and certainly no use in fearing the reaper. Death is simply the cab drive that comes for you when it’s your time. When your number is up, it is up and it’s damned arrogant to think mortal hands can stop it. Where Death takes you is into the infinite. Don’t give up yet, Sloth is a sin just as much as Pride. Nor do I suggest going and calling upon Death unnecessarily. Our taught fear of Death is different from the instinct of survival. Instinct is simple. It says run or stay. That’s it. Fight or get the fuck out. All the rest are semantics and fear does a damn good job of disguising itself as instinct. No, the message is simple, Live. Go out there and ask questions and listen for the answers. If you don’t get an answer you like, or none at all, what good does it serve one to get mad? Or upset. Or depressed? Simply keep trying, keep listening. It also helps to keep asking questions. The answers you find might be saying “Ask a simplier question”. It’s complicated to be a good American, but it is very simple to be a good person. Or make your question more specific. What is the meaning of life? You’ll get millions of answers. What is the meaning of my life? Only I can answer that. To find those answers you must find yourself. If you ask how to be a good lion, what use is that if you’re a mouse?
The meaning of life is what you give to it. We can waste our lives fighting over the answer, we can kill off everyone that doesn’t agree with what the masses think is the meaning, we can use up all the air on the planet on the planet debating the subtle nuances of god’s beard. But without the ability to confirm or deny what we put our faith in, what’s the point in killing each other over it. So cherish our time on this physical realm. Pursuit knowledge, not political rhetoric, if you must have answers to your questions, but applying emotional energy to unprovable speculation seems like a pretty useless thing to do.
So go hug your mom.