Thursday, 18 September 2014

Thinking of Death

Walter White

Watching the fourth episode of season one of Breaking Bad called Cancer Man and pondering my own ferocious addiction to tobacco smoking which is known to trigger lung cancer, among other diseases, in the long term - the main character Walter White's condition at the start of the series - the thought of death crept up on my mind.

Granted, the above is not how I envisaged death. Coughing up blood like Walter White and the prospect of hair loss as one side effect from chemotherapy, not to mention breaking the news to my loved ones - provided I have loved ones when some terminal disease makes its presence felt - was closer to what went through my mind as I, for the fifth thousand time, contemplated confronting my smoking addiction once again.

After rolling a cigarette

and smoking it,

the following thought came to mind: the moment of death, of passing away, takes but a moment although many years, months, days, hours, minutes of pain, agony and reduced ability and increased closure from the world of human beings may precede that moment when the body gives up the ghost.

In a sense one could say that one is alive for most, indeed, all of one's life. The moment of passing away is but a moment, whether it be recorded electronically or not (the long electronic beep noise comes to mind courtesy of film and television). Death is momentary although not necessarily instantaneous. One's whole life ends at the moment of death, the whole long or, as the case may be, short haul of ageing (or dying which is in effect the same thing) ending in that still mysterious moment when... the animating principle returns to nothingness and consciousness becomes oblivion.

Thus life is the rule in so far as passing away takes but a moment and people who have indeed passed on - whose bodies (remains) become inanimate, i.e. deprived of the animating principle which the Romans called anima - are preserved in the memory of other human beings who knew them (often not personally as in the case, say, of American actor Philip Seymour Hoffman)

 or who will come to know of them because of their place in history.