The Skeptic Ink Network are running a little series on death, so keep your eyes peeled for some articles across the network from a few contributors (see our previous series on moral panics). To start the ball rolling, here is something that I have to offer on the subject:
I’m hopefully not going anywhere soon, but if I do, I would like to be prepared. Sometimes death just pops up and hits you, leaving you thinking, “I wasn’t ready for that!”…
I was listening to a great track by a group called James called Moving On off of their Le Petit Mort album. It has a truly beautiful video which can be seen below. The song details the death of singer Tim Booth’s mother in hospital, which he was there for and was a sort of lovely and emotional experience for him, as well as being obviously sad. Well worth listening to and watching.
I would like it played at my funeral.
I got to thinking about summing up how I feel about death, and particularly my death. So I tried, and perhaps succeeded, perhaps not (you will be the judge of that, for sure), in writing a poem of sorts to do justice to the ideas. See what you think and, well, be honest… In the context of performance poetry, the rhyming is unconventional, profiting form being read aloud. You know, maybe at a funeral…
(It’s a draft and will no doubt profit from further fine-tuning)
The Legacy of Life
I’ve packed my stuff and left the house,
the lights are off, the doors are locked;
And the key? It’s not under that little rock, any more.
I ain’t coming back;
I never had the knack
for that supernatural crap.
Whether I’d had enough
before the tap root of my tree of life’s sap ran dry…
What I ask is that you use my bricks, sticks and hay
to build something, starting today:
anything that can grow and foster hope,
anything to make this space we live in better able to cope;
a finer place.
No one likes to leave without a trace, after all,
so make this useful, embrace life and face it head on.
Whether it be taking some words I’ve written or said,
putting them to good use, making a pledge
or whether it be paying it forward,
not just empty words, but actions
(they speak louder, haven’t you heard?).
So how do you do this good?
you ask, spurred on, stirred.
Do three great kind things to people around you
a stranger, preferably, as a rule of thumb
so it becomes about the act and not
a bass drum announcing what you’ve done.
Keep schtum, and ask they follow it on,
and on and on – three times, not one.
We need to break the sad, the mad, the bad
and make this society the best we’ve ever had.
I know I’m just a cog in this mighty world,
this magnificent ticking machine,
a mechanism only partly seen
by our keen, marvelling eyes,
but together we can realise the opportunity we all carry
to build bridges between the haves and the have-nots.
Don’t tarry, leave here and spot that chance to mine the quarry
for the riches of goodness:
hey, it ain’t easy, but just act morally.
Don’t be sorry, pick yourself up and do better
Don’t just seek for glory
(take it from me, you get boring).
Now I’ve played my part in the lives
of my wonderful family who survive me
who would drive me
day upon day in their own different ways
and whose love is second to none.
Don’t worry, I won’t bore you; for them I’ve got another one of these-
suffice it to say that I hope we have moulded
a pair of boys, emboldened to challenge
and fight for what is right
and use the might of their minds
to carve out lives that remind others
of what possibilities can lead to:
strong and independent and finding their way through
life to knowing who they are, lit by the resplendent light
of knowledge and our love.
Now, I’ve done what I’ve done,
did some shit, had some fun.
Look, it’s there, on the map:
my journey laid out, unwavering, but I never felt trapped.
Perhaps there were things I could have done more of,
been more attentive to, or
not made a mess of…
no… for sure.
No regrets, I don’t like to keep the score.
As with you all, I’ve opened up doors,
played my part in the intricate universal jigsaw.
Yada yada yada, OK, stop that yawn.
What’s the point of what I am saying, of this plea?
I know that whatever is me
will die with your memories, which will fade, you’ll see.
I get it, that’s life, or death as may be.
In these words, and others, I live for just a little time
Perhaps a touch more than those on your lips
This is my legacy: your memories, my writing,
To do nothing now, after reading this,
well, that’s a moral crime.
Do better, be better,
remember this open letter
pleading for you to climb,
pulling humanity with you, though it’s no burden,
it’s a purpose, your purpose in life’s crazy circus,
daring to go on, together to mighty heights.
Is humanity the apex, the paragon of virtue,
an evolved organism of wonder, of truth-seeking
that nothing else is equal to?
I don’t know, to find that out
you might need a judicial review,
because it could be construed to be untrue
that humanity’s all that and a bag of chips right now.
Who cares what’s now, it’s already been and gone
All that matters is the course you’re on,
where you’re going, what goal you’re set upon.
Let this be the domino that knocks yours;
rocks your foundation, then sets out the floor
on which to build your bricks, sticks and hay
that create your edifice of betterment all the way
to somewhere new, somewhere great
of harmony with this diverse world of man and beast
which of late seems so perilous, but not yet deceased.
You’re a part of your fate, and my final thing to state
is that you own it; your life is for you to author:
think before you write
do it with a good pen, with clarity, and share your ink
because you’ll blink
and it’ll be gone.