on the surrender of our heartbeats.

by aslightbreeze

quick poll.  how often do you think about dying?  not in the general “someday i’m going to die, and won’t that be weird” sense, but in the very specific “what would happen if i just jerked the wheel of my car right now so that i collided head on with that combine?” sense.  now, i don’t consider myself a morbid person, and i CERTAINLY don’t consider myself suicidal, at least not to the point where i would start planning my release from this mortal coil.  my fliratations with death teand to be slightly more objective.  if there is a sentiment between “what if?” and “i wish…”, therein would lie my interest in the end of my life.  i don’t want to die, but the narcissist in me finds it incredibly intriguing to know how my death would be taken by everyone i’m in normal contact with.  who would cry?  how would people react?  would my friends pool together in their collective sense of loss?  would everyone have their perception of who i am/was changed, either so that they have a more accurate view or that it becomes MORE convolluted and surreal?  i find it fascinating how someone’s death almost always changes how we perceive them.  sometimes it becomes the lens through which we can better examine their life, but more often it becomes a stained-glass window that distorts everything into glowing colors.
the thing i find ironic about death is how we grant the deceased immortality, and this is particularly true when it is the death of a celebrity.  this is the one thing that we ALL experience, regardless of race, age, socio-economic background, favorite beatle, etc.  sooner or later, we all die.  but what is intersting about the act of dying is, while your mortality is never more evident to you than that single moment, the opposite usually becomes true to maybe 68% of those you leave behind.  especially celebrities.  especially rock stars.  had kurt cobain not shot himself, nirvana would have never transcended from “most important band of the 90’s” to “the definition of life for everyone born between 1968 and 1984”.  if ronnie van zant of lynyrd skynyrd hadn’t died in a plane crash, would rock venues and seedy bars all over this country reverberate with the semi-joking calls for “FREEBIRD!” every night?  would jimi hendrix be the guitar GOD he is considered now if he hadn’t od’ed on sleeping pills just a couple years after finally making it?  
its a ludicrous irony that, sometimes, it takes the most mortal act we can undertake to make us immortal.  we become symbols to everyone else, even those of us who aren’t celebrities.  my grandfather, who died when i was 11, REPRESENTS to me a symbol, rather than the (ultimately far more complex) person he ACTUALLY was, and i hardly knew.  he is a character in a fable, the archtype of an emotion or a feeling, pieced together from the splintered memories i have of visiting him, and the stories my dad tells of when he was younger.  kurt cobain isn’t a really good musician who shot himself, he the epitome of unwanted success leading to terminal self-loathing and depression, and the singular manifestation of an entire generation.  john brown is more than just an example of radical, crazy passion for a singular cause, he IS ZEALOTRY.
which brings me back to my own theoretical premature death.  maybe i’m the only one, which i suppose would worry me, but i think about dying pretty much every day, mostly in a car accident, usually when i’m driving by myself.  and it’s not for the benefit of how it would feel to die, and only sometimes its to think about what, if anything, comes after “life”.  i mostly think about how its would affect those whom i know and interact with and love.  depending on my mood that day, this little thought exercise slides on a scale between the aforementioned questions of “what if” and “i wish”, but it never is 100% one or the other.  i want to  watch how my family, my friends, those whom i love, react to the news.  i want to see how the guy with the weird hair in my 9th grade english class who talked about sex all the time would take it.  co-workers, roommates, ex-girlfriends,  babysitters, cousins, professors, drinking buddies, church members, everyone.  this is so very selfish and egotistical, but i AM human, and these things DO occur to me.  and i know that i won’t commit suicide, or even seriously consider it, ever.  and i shouldn’t give a damn about how others perceive me, really, and sometimes i don’t, but very often i do.  i’d like to think that it’s not some sick sadistic desire in myself to make those whom i love miserable, but rather a survey of who really matters to me.  i don’t know.  maybe it wouldn’t prove anything.  i probably wouldn’t benefit in the slightest from dying, and my life would be boiled down to a paragraph in the obituaries of the local paper for most people.  then i would take on whatever character that person needs me to be. 
 i think that no matter how much we know someone, no matter how close we come to really understanding them, we still “filter” their memory after they aren’t with us, down to a more manageable concept of who they are/were.  we forget those things we don’t want to remember.  we forget the minute factoids, the insignificant details.  and this goes beyond how we  lionize the deceased; we do this for EVERYONE, mostly for the people we don’t see everyday.  we create the “form” of that person, which tends to have a little more luster than the reality.  this can cause disillusionment and depression in regards to the living, but for the dead it means that they become immortal, even if it isn’t really them we remember.  that’s life, and i hope it makes it much easier to understand this.  i’ll get back to you on that.