No Out-Swimming the Shark of Death - THE CATASTROPHIZER
 
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I am going to include a whole, unexpurgated poem below (but in tiny font, so that it seems slightly less important than my writing and so that it doesn't make this post look excessively long), both because it helps to establish my intellectual credibility and because it's the complete darn poem that scares me so much. Here it is:

Aubade - Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain edges will grow light.
Till then I see what's really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.


The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
- The good not used, the love not given, time
Torn off unused - nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never:
But at the total emptiness forever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says no rational being
Can fear a thing it cannot feel, not seeing
that this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no-one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can't escape
Yet can't accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Allow me to summarize the poem: we are all going to die. Everyone claims to know this, but if everyone really knew this, wouldn't everyone be rushing about, grabbing everyone else by the shoulders and crying: "Oh my God, we're all going to die!"

We spend so much time worrying about ways in which we can die prematurely. What if we are trapped on this sinking ship? What if we become inside-tummy-friends with that peckish shark? What if this monorail is unstable? We concentrate so much on potentially avoidable disasters that we forget that even if we escape that ship, out-swim that shark (highly unlikely, by the way), travel safely on that monorail, we are headed for death nonetheless.

Have you seen
Up? Don't. It's one of the most genuinely wrenching films ever made. In it, and this is in the first five minutes so I'm not really giving that much away, two people who love one another manage to avoid dying "too soon", spend a great deal of time together, and love one another faithfully and truly for many years. Until they are very old. What happens when we are old? Even if we managed to sidestep the scourge of the flesh-eating disease in our youth? We die. So death happens to one member of this couple, and do you think it's perfectly fine because they are old and have had "good lives"? No. This is one of the few films that depicts a romance between people who are now old, and it indicates that loss doesn't get any easier. 

Now I feel low. But that's how I felt when I began this, so I suppose I shouldn't be astonished. But wait...did I mention that Up also features a genuinely adorable dog? Who talks like a person? That's something.
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9/28/2012 06:04:49

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