The countdown to my demise; who could beat up God; and something kinky involving a typewriter and homicide. All this and musings around death and dying. It's not as depressing as it sounds. Probably.
I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Don’t worry, I’m not going to top myself. Top myself. Lol. If I could do that, I’d never leave the house. (ba-dum tish).
Aaaanyway. I think about death quite a lot, so it’s not a new thing, or anything to worry about. I mean, it’s not like worrying will help - it’s still going to happen. We are all going to die. I know a lot of people are uncomfortable talking about this sort of thing, which is fine. Lots of people are uncomfortable talking about sex, too, and so far I’ve done 30-odd podcasts about that. So here’s one on the other thing.
From the age of about 14, I went through a period of almost 15 years where on average one person I knew died every year. Some of them were grandparents or just generic old people, so that’s easier to deal with, I guess, because you can say “Oh, it was their time, they had a good innings, blah blah. Which is fine for those few, but most of the people I knew who have died weren’t old. They were around my age. That kind of thing once or twice in your formative years tends to have a bit of an effect, but an average of one a year for more than a decade… It definitely shaped me. Not in a Jessica Fletcher murder-is-everywhere-i-go-yet-no-one-suspects-me sort of a way, or even anything weird and sexual… Ok, now I’ve combined those two things in my head and I’m stuck on the idea of only being able to get off while being bent over a typewriter while someone gets murdered in the next room. Fairly certain that’s not a thing.
Anyway. Yeah, nothing like that. I just mean it made me much more more keenly aware than most of my own mortality. It helps that I know the date of my own death, I guess… It’s not for a while yet, which is handy. I’ve got shit I want to do.
One of the things that’s got me thinking about death was a call from my mum a few weeks ago, telling me I’ve got Power of Attorney over her. I’m not really sure what that’s about, but I think it means I can have her life support unplugged. Which is fun to use as a threat, I suppose.
Up until now when she got on my tits, I’ve threatened to call Childline. But that loses its sting after the first 20 years. I suppose I also get to choose the retirement home she gets put into eventually, so I could use that as leverage, but they way money is at the moment, it’s looking more like a self-storage unit. Best not to dwell on that one too much…
Although when she told me all of this, she did add “Don’t worry though love - I’m not going anywhere for a long time yet. After what he did to your brother, God’s not going to want me around anytime soon…” And while I don’t believe there’s some old man in a robe on a cloud somewhere, part of me wants it to be true, if only so I could be in the room when he meets my mum. She’d rip his beard off.
I wasn’t brought up with any kind of religious background. My parents never really went in for it, and that they saved me the brainfuckery is something I’ll be forever grateful about. They taught me to read, and to think, and to ask questions before making up my own mind about things. And that’s a pretty good start for any child, I think.
I’ve got friends who are scientists, who tell me that there’s no such thing as a soul, or anything more to me than this beautiful lump of muscles and great hair, and when I die that’s it. Nothing. Which is weird to consider, because we’re all such egotistical sons of bitches that we can’t help but think that there’s no possible way the universe could possibly continue without us.
Here’s the thing, though. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if we go and sit at the right hand of Jesus, or reincarnate, or the lights just go out and bam, no more you. None of it matters. Because the bit that matters is that here and now we are alive. As one of my favourite authors, Terry Pratchett, once wrote, If we stop telling people it all gets sorted out after they die, they might start trying to sort it out while they’re still alive. So yeah, if you pressed me on what I believe, I’d say, the longest life and least suffering for as many people as possible. Once we’ve got this world sorted out, we can start thinking about the next one. Until then, there are more important things that require attention. Stuff that we can actually do something about.
Organ donation, for one thing. I’m all for that. I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to donate one particular organ, after all. (lol) Hard to believe I won an award for this podcast series once, isn’t it? Anyway. Yes. Organ donation. When I’m dead, hand ‘em out. It’s not like I’m using them anymore. It’s like everything else I own - as a dead guy, I probably won’t have much use for a George Foreman grill and three copies of Mannequin on DVD. Someone else might as well get some use out of them. Thinking about it, my liver is probably a bit shot, but run it under a tap and maybe it’ll be ok. I’m not a doctor, but I’m fairly sure that’s how that works.
As for the rest of my body, I like the look of those tree things. Like, the leftover meat and stuff that was my body is put in a biodegradable pod thing with baby tree, the whole things gets planted and as the meat decomposes, it feeds the tree. I like that more than burning the leftovers, or putting me on a stone shelf somewhere in some weird kind of dead people filing. Nah. All of my body bits came from the world around me as I shoved them into my mouth as cake or gin, or cock, so they should return to the world. Circle of life style of thing.
There’s a lovely way of illustrating this that I heard on Babylon 5, but I’m told was actually written by a proper scientist, and not made up by Delenn the Minbari Ambassador. Anyway. It talks about how we’re all star stuff. Every atom on this planet was created in the middle of a star that then exploded and spurted them out into the universe. Those atoms, and atoms from millions of other stars doing the same thing, came together and eventually formed more stars, and planets, and rocks and gin and trees. We are made of stars, and have been dinosaurs, we’ve been fish, and Julius Caesar and Hitler and everyone else who ever existed. It’s kinda awesome. Especially when you know that those atoms don’t sit still. It’s not like these atoms are you and those are a random guy in Liverpool Street Station toilets and they always will be - all of the atoms, the tiny bits that make up you and everyone else are always changing. It takes about 5 years for all the bits that at any moment make up you to be completely replaced with new bits. Which raise a great question about how you can say “That’s mine” or even which bits are you doing the saying, because even if you could, and you can’t, it’s all pretty temporary anyway...
I mentioned earlier that I know when I’m going to die. Yep. 11th November 2056. I’ll be 73, which seems like a good number. I don’t know how, or where, or anything like that because, y’know, spoilers. How do I know this? I looked it up online. Obviously. How else do we learn anything nowadays? Yeah, I went to a site that asks you a couple of questions like my date of birth, if I smoke, whether I’m male or female, and then uses that to work out my average lifespan, or something like that. But Scott the slightly less attractive of you might say, that’s not going to be accurate, that’s just a random date! And of course it’s not going to be accurate. I could die tomorrow, or live to be 150, or anything. But I am going to die. So are you. One day, we will both, briefly, know what it is like to breathe out and not be able to breathe in again, and then it’ll all be over. And if anything, putting a date to it makes it easier to process. I have a countdown to that date as my screensaver on all of my devices. It tells me, to the second, how long I have until that date. Not because that’s the exact amount of time I have left, but because it’s important to know that there is an amount of time, and it is fast running out.
Think about it though, if we all had little counters above our heads ticking down the seconds, minute, hours, we have left, would you want to know what it said? How would you live your life differently if you were constantly reminded that it was finite? And then, why aren’t you living your life like that now? Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean those seconds aren’t ticking away. As I’m writing this, I’m told I have 39 years, 1 month, 11 days, 20 hours, 7 minutes and 23, 22, 21, 20, 19…
Imagine that, next time you’re stuck in a meeting and someone is diligently reading all the words off of a powerpoint presentation that you could all have read in your own time (or not at all, usually). You have a finite number of seconds left, and you are spending them doing something dull for no real reason. If that doesn’t make you want to scream and start stapling things to people’s heads, then it’s already too late and your number might as well already be zero.
I’m not trying to depress you with this sort of thing. I don’t find it maudlin. If the idea that everyone you know and love is going to one day, possibly quite suddenly, go away and never come back, remember that the same is true of everyone you don’t like, too. No-one will live forever, all of this will pass, eventually.
For me it’s actually quite freeing - I find myself laughing when people tell me that it’s important that I finish that report, or that this happens on time, or that my life isn’t progressing the way others expect it to… Because none of it matters. I can do whatever I want, and I’m still going to end up just as dead. And with that in mind, why would I want to spend my entire life doing something boring with spreadsheets?Like I said, every atom in your body knows what it’s like to burn inside a star. I like to think that they remember, and if you’re not doing something with your short time that burns inside of you with the same kind of intensity, then it’s almost like you’ve let them down.
So yeah. Growing up and getting on if not first-name terms then at least nodding-at-each-other-in-the-street with the grim reaper has changed me. Its made me a lot more grateful for what time I have, and aware that I can use it to make things better, not just for me, but for all the other meatsacks around me, too. Because, y’know, that’s a great thing to get out of life. Maybe it’ll score me some points for whatever happens next, and maybe it won’t. It’s not going to stop me doing it.
And thanks to the joys of rigor mortis, I’ll face the next world just as I faced this one - with a smile and a persistent boner.