Postcard from the Void
Invitation to the Danse Macabre; Admit One
Hello old friend,
Death here. Just thought I’d remind you that I am here, because you seem to have forgotten, and it’s really not doing either of us any good.
What happened between us? It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when we were friends, when we lived together, ate together, even went out dancing; remember? Remember when I sat at your side through the night as you wrote your epic poems? Remember when you used to depict me as walking with you through your life, at your side at every step? I do, but slowly you pushed me out of the picture, until you had me just wafting in at the end, hovering over your death bed, doing battle with your stupid doctor and then clocking you out at the end of the shift.
Ha! ‘death bed’… as if there’s only one! As if the world itself isn’t a death bed! As if, right now, you’re not all asleep in it!
These days you find me morbid, depressing. You don’t have time for the darkness any more; your life is a brightly lit waiting room, a brightly lit television screen, all clear and known, the mystery out of mind. You push the shadows away; unaware that they are created by the light you fill your life with, just as you push the silence away, and the solitude, and the nothingness, when this pushing away is the only pain you can do something about.
And how quick you are to push me away. I know you know I’m here. I know when you feel an odd pain in your chest, when your old mum doesn’t call for a few days (not like her!), when you glance over the edge of a cliff, when you read about the felled rainforests and the poisoned rivers and oh dear the future’s not looking so good these days is it? I know in those moments, when the night slips through the cracks of the day, that you can feel me… but how quick you are to give me the cold shoulder! I’ve got feelings too you know.
‘Morbid’ you say! ‘Depressing’! You don’t call me ‘morbid’ and ‘depressing’ when you’re intoxicated with joy, dancing wildly, at the point of a phenomenal, unbelievable orgasm, when you sink into the depths of dreamless sleep, when your mind shatters at spectacular natural majesty or when an achingly, longingly, beautiful work of art stops your restless mind, and makes you weep in stillness. Oh no! Someone else it was who killed you then was it?
Yes, killed you — don’t you see? in those moments of clarity, and release, and blended intimacy with the present moment that you — the ordinary thinking, wanting, worrying self you carry around all day — dies?
And who else, I ask, could be killing you, but me?
I know, I know, total obliteration, the end of the world, the annihilation of everything you hold dear, all your values, memories, possessions and valuable position; all gone forever. I know that gives you the willies. I know it makes you cling to the catastrophic known, fall in line with anyone who says they’ll protect you, do terrible things to keep the fear away, blot it all out with your trivial addictions. It would me if I were mortal. And I’m not saying it’s not painful to let me completely into your life, of course it’s painful! But sooner or later you’ll have no choice, and the longer you wait, the worse the pain becomes.
So let me in. I’m sitting next to you even now; drifting through the space between things, strolling slowly through the crowds and smashing my bass drum in the library. I’m behind the slebs, gurning on the cat-walk, I’m moonwalking with the freshest and sexiest young things and I’m laughing my bony arse off at all the awards ceremonies. I set a table for you, amidst your enemies, and my rod and my staff are here to comfort you; at the most surprising moments. Stung by weirdly unfair criticism from a colleague? Lost chance through foot-in-mouth-micro-catastrophe? Nothing but artistic excrement oozing from your brush? Can’t stop worrying-wanting-worrying-wanting? In a big blousy state of ‘not faaaair, don’t liiiike it’ or ‘that’s so offensive!’? Sinking into a sick slough of utter pointlessness and futility?
I can solve all these problems, in an instant, if you’d just let go and let me in.
Let me in and I’ll slowly let you in to my secrets. I am the heart of originality, for a start, the dark root of the absolutely unique creature you know yourself, deep inside, to be. I am the soul of genius, the poetic brilliance you enjoy reading and listening to — but which gives you a twinge of regret, that these great people are giving voice to your greatness, that you’ve betrayed. And I am the ineffable centre of a life free of care; free of yesterday and of tomorrow. All that worry — oh God the worry — is founded on an illusion that I can take away in a click of my bony fingers.
Have you ever met someone who was genuinely free of this fear, who was really at peace, who seemed to have something, a presence, a quality, like nothing and nobody else? It’s unlikely, because such people are very rare today — they used to be much more common — but sometimes you will meet a genuinely impressive human being, and their secret, in every case, is the same. They carry their death inside themselves. The free man lives with his death. This is why he is a solitary being; because you die alone.
And I’ll tell you something else. That death is like a secret passage into everyone else’s death, connecting all of them together, in an unspoken underworld. The free live like that; their existences don’t pass unseen to each other. They recognise each other, even across the centuries. Most people are no more aware of the inner world of their fellows than they are of shooting stars in the daytime, but he who carries his death inside… ah! That man can be a companion.
What I’m saying is that I’m surprisingly good at sorting out relationship problems, or rather the problem — loneliness — if you’d just be a bit more honest about me, not sweeping me out of sight the minute I appear in the flesh (so to speak), not putting on that ‘serious respectful’ face you do when I appear in conversation (I can see you you know), not pretending I don’t exist (Quick! Hide the body!) or that nothing dies (What? He died? Thought he was going to live forever did you?)… If you’d face up to me, talk about me with your loved one and let go of yourselves I can bring you closer to one another than you ever imagined possible.
Still not interested? Still more interested in your so-called life? The life that the experts tell you needs saving, the life that appears in all the graphs and tables, the life that is ‘precious’? Still got plans have you? Hahaha! Alright, how can I put this delicately? The thing is, old friend, I don’t care. I’m going to kill you anyway; you and everyone you know. And a lot sooner than you think.
Why? Does that question interest you? Have you ever seriously asked yourself about the unbelievable injustice of death? Have you ever asked yourself why young people die, sometimes horribly, their whole lives before them; cut short? Have you ever wondered why it is that we live in a world in which thousands, millions, even billions of ‘innocent’ people can be wiped out at a stroke? I’ll tell you what I wonder; why none of you ever think to ask me, the one person who can answer these questions.
Well, in any case, you’ll find out. Everyone does. Sooner or later everyone discovers that everything they live for is already dust, that their families and their reputations and their ambitions and their conquests and their personalities and everything else they value in this world, have got no future. Everything crash, everything fall apart. The discovery is liberating, but it’s dreadful and tragic also, because why did you waste your life clinging on to these things? You called that clinging ‘love’, but it was really the opposite of love; fear.
That’s why I’m writing to you now, because that fear is keeping us apart. Let me in now, before it’s too late. The deathless system is going to hell, and nothing you can do can stop it. So let go now. You’re running out of energy, you’re running out of world and, look, now you’ve run out of tomorrows. Even if this hideous charade plays on for a few decades more, you’re still mortal. So face it; and by facing it, free yourself of your fear, and your anxiety, and all your silly trying. Face it; and let me in.
Because I am here now.
Your oldest, and closest, friend,