Sometimes I feel like a lumbering grouse panicked by hunters popping buckshot. Friends are falling all around me and I despair. When friends die we talk of them as having passed because we cannot bear the finality of their loss. It reminds us that we too shall pass, that everything passes. Heaped on top of the anxieties of making mortgage payments, managing credit card debt and earning enough money for present needs as well as for retirement-the loss of people we love seems grossly unjust. It feels tragic even though tragedy, strictly speaking, is reserved for significant lives and if we are honest, life has a way of making the best of us feel utterly insignificant. The news of death generates (sometimes briefly, sometimes for longer) an existential survey. We review our lives, measure our accomplishments; we try to quantify success and qualify our presence. We do this because in the rush of daily duties, lists, must do’s and have to’s we forget that we will die. We all seem to understand that the nature of life is the ever looming and implicit clause of brevity. What we struggle with is that a life lived in servitude to employers does not guarantee the fulfilment of dreams which have sustained the countless days, months, years on the treadmill of economic survival. It does not feel right that a lifetime of service is cut short with such indifference to the soul that has endured bending to the callous god of material sustenance.
Maybe we busy ourselves more from a desire to avoid such painful inventories of the soul or maybe because exhaustion makes us feel that we are accomplishing something? I don’t get more sentimental with age, I get angrier at what I am coming to regard as a fundamental flaw in the design of the human mechanism, the body that is at once capable of such grandeur and beauty is also susceptible to the degrading onset of decay, that we call old age. It’s not old age; it’s a catastrophe. Against the backdrop of this rage there is, ironically, the emergence of a gentler voice that looks at the absurdity of the human condition and smiles because there seems little else to do in the face of annihilation. This is what makes us so remarkable, so grand and so incredibly lovable and worthy of respect and admiration. With our backs against the wall, we humans do not give up. We go hell-for-leather into the abyss and I think for that alone, we are a bloody marvellous species. I am proud to be human. I am above all proud of my friends, grateful to my family; exceptionally humbled by the love I receive on a daily basis. Because of that, loser or hero, something or nothing, I don’t regret a second of my dappled existence. With every ounce of sincerity I can muster, I say these words and hope they are heard as true and honest, despite the obvious negativities of life, I am happy to be alive and to have lived. I try to reserve the anger and channel its energy into activities that are life affirming. Henry Kissinger once said: “nothing clarifies the mind like the lack of alternatives.” There is no alternative to death but life and therefore those of us who have it should make every effort to use it with conscious appreciation and if we can do that, the living of it may someday resemble elegance. We may be awkward buckshot-dodging grouse, but with a bit of luck, some days we may feel like swans.