Death is ever-present and life is ever-shrinking. For some, death is an obsession, for others, barely an afterthought. To most who contemplate it, the concept of eternal non-existence, of life book-ended by oblivion, is unfathomable and horrifying. We are programmed to “rage against the dying of the light.”
Death is life’s greatest motivator, for good and evil, fueling our futile quest to ‘matter’ – futile, because the people we seek to matter to are themselves reaching out to us to give them meaning. Picture two jumpers hurtling to earth, each reaching for the other, but neither with a foothold and both doomed to the same end. Some try to matter by helping others, some by hurting others, all with the desire to be remembered, to bridge an unbridgeable gap, to leave some kind of a mark, to prove that they existed.
Humans are impossibly lonely creatures, staring forlornly into time and space, without an anchor or a reference point, probing the depths of physics, philosophy, psychology, poetry, but forever bumping up against the unknowable.
My father, who I lost over a decade ago, adored Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat — this quatrain in particular:
And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help–for it
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.
Searching for the light behind the black curtain, we turn to religion, to faith, to drugs, to music, to love. We get a glimmer of hope with near-death and other paranormal experiences. We meditate and pray. We look to nature and art and beauty. We dream.
And sometimes we do get glimpses of the light behind the curtain. In the twilight before sleep (hypnagogic states); in moments of transcendence when our thinking brain is suspended; in vague remembrances of a home, a place of origin whose location is timeless and dimensionless; in the sudden opening — and closing — of a portal during moments of intense fear and love and pain and pleasure; in the stillness of night and nature; in strange confluences and coincidences; in the inexplicable faith that somehow, somewhere, there is an answer.
It’s amusing that science, in its quest to deconstruct and debunk, has reaffirmed the ephemerality of the physical world, painting a wonderful and mysterious picture of a universe that is merely thought and potential. Just imagine that when you look out across the horizon, everything in your sight is energy, nothing solid, and that it’s all a thought in your mind. And that you are a thought in someone else’s mind.
We see the black curtain looming and it gives us pause, as it should. Still, we have reason to believe that behind the curtain is something even more real, more awe-inspiring, more beautiful than the world we know.
As a resident of lower Manhattan, I am surrounded by the spirit(s) of those who gave their lives on that defining day. Like all New Yorkers, the awful sights, sounds and smells of that day are seared into my mind. I flew back to New York from London on September 10th, 2001, casually admiring the majestic towers on the drive into Manhattan. The fact that those twin icons would vanish 24 hours later was unthinkable.
On that crisp and beautiful morning, I was scheduled to meet a colleague at 7 World Trade Center, when a family member called and told me to turn on the television. I did. And everything changed, forever.
- Tobacco Kills: Grim Stats on Smoking
- The black curtain
- The Clinton Media Script: 12 False Anti-Hillary Themes the Media Love Most
- The Pervasive Oppression of Women and Girls
- Threats to Justice Everywhere
- The torture of disabled children in American schools
- Patton Oswalt, I’m sorry you’re so wrong about Boston
- “No more hurting people”
- The top ten list you shouldn’t be reading
- Climate change compendium: tracking our planetary calamity [UPDATED]
- Is the progressive blogosphere dead?
- Fearing death and facing death
- Climate change is here
- The Global War on Women
- The silence of the left: Obama, Bush and extrajudicial killing
- Islamic State committing 'staggering' violations in Iraq: U.N. report
- Islamic State presses assault on Syrian border town, Kurds warn Turkey
- U.N. nuclear watchdog pushes for headway in Iran inquiry: diplomats
- Third American held in North Korea appeals to U.S. for help: report
- Prolonged Hong Kong protest could harm financial image, says envoy
- Report: North Korea Upgrades Missile Launch Site - Voice of America
- Bond King Bill Gross Departs for Realm of the Unknown - Businessweek
- Shares in German startup incubator Rocket Internet fall on first day of trading in ... - Fox Business
- Pepsi Launches Stevia-Sweetened Soda Through Amazon - I Know Today
- Doubts undermine stocks as ECB faces 1 trillion euro question - Reuters
- 35000 Walruses Stranded on North Alaskan Beach; Plight Blamed On Climate ... - Chinatopix
- 'Ghost Gunner' Can Facilitate People to Make Homemade Semi-automatic Rifle - iStreet Research
- Windows 10: 12 things you need to know - PCWorld
- Twitter Inc (TWTR) Invests $10 Million on MIT Social Media Research Project - StockWise Daily
- Facebook Changes Real-Name Policy After Uproar From Drag Queens - Wall Street Journal
- Pentagon orders changes for deficient military healthcare facilities - Los Angeles Times
- Thousands of children orphaned by Ebola abandoned, stigmatized - CNN
- Could Enterovirus D68 Be Causing Polio-Like Paralysis in Kids? - Mother Jones
- Hospitals brace for patients with Ebola worries - CBS News
- Elizabeth Hurley supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month in New York - Daily Mail
- UN, Liberia assessing food security impact of Ebola outbreak, planning response
- On International Day, UN encourages full participation of older persons in society
- Increased pension coverage key to future global development agenda, says UN agency
- In West Africa, UN launches strengthened response as Ebola shatters lives, orphans children
- Head of new UN Ebola emergency response mission arrives in Ghana
- Colombian bill on military criminal justice ‘major setback’ for human rights, say experts
- Eritrea: UN expert to investigate pervasive rights abuses as part of ‘historic’ inquiry
- UN expert urges European nations to rethink policies as migration-related deaths rise
- Perpetrators of extra-judicial killings in Mexico must be brought to justice – UN expert
- Not a single child untouched by recent Gaza conflict, says UN rights expert
- Improving health of women, children ‘moral imperative’ – Ban
- Despite ongoing crisis, UN hails ‘significant progress’ in helping Syria’s children
- UN experts urge real dialogue with children about their rights, decisions that affect them
- Thousands of children at risk of starvation in South Sudan, UNICEF warns
- Global film industry perpetuates discrimination against women – UN-backed study