Aubade. BY PHILIP LARKIN
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
Morning Folks! Is that what you wanted to see on a blog post. A first verse from a poem that’s a meditation on death and dying? In these times? Probably not.
So why have I put it out there? I think it’s because despite all the daily statistics about the numbers of daily deaths many of us haven’t quite confronted or looked at our own fears of dying and mortality. We know that we will all die but we are uncomfortable truly coming to terms with it. But this virus has shaken things up. It’s stark message is that any one of us, at any moment could be infected and could be one of the unlucky ones that ends up dying. It does affect older people more but there are plenty of younger and healthy people dying as well. It feels like it’s out there, ready to pounce and any of us could be next.
That prospect of imminent death is clearly always there but the virus has put it centre stage and made it a collective anxiety. Every single one of us could be susceptible to it and it’s very uncomfortable. It makes us consciously or unconsciously face our dread of dying. There’s no avoiding it and maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Of course for some, there is no dread or anxiety because they have faced the reality of death and come to some accommodation with it. For others death holds no fear because they are either fed up of life or have the comfort blanket of their faith to envelop them in hopes of an afterlife.
For the rest of us we can either push the subject away or confront it. Push it away and I believe it will not actually go away but will haunt your subconscious manifesting itself as unease or anxiety. Confront it, maybe for the first time in your life, and there could be a surprise.
Philip Larkin confronted death but found no comfort, only dread and some great poetry. Others though have found that confronting death is not only natural and normal but can also enhance our experience of life. To know what will inevitably come to pass can make us appreciate what we have in this very moment in time. It sounds trite but it’s true.
So, far from being depressing; confronting our own mortality, honestly and without pretty embellishments, could be the best way of enhancing our enjoyment and appreciation of life.
So let me finish with a positive view off death to counter balance the dread view of Philip Larkin. Here is a quote from a writer from the Buddhist tradition, Sharon Salzburg:
“I think [meditating on death] could make us a lot happier, we can feel free from so many of life’s irritations and annoyances and be truly in awe of the miracle of life and the time we do have. If we deeply see the folly of holding on, we can be much more in harmony with the flow of change.”
Maybe a message we will all get from this situation is a reminder that humanity and individuals are not in control of everything, that things do constantly change, our lives are indeed finite, but being alive is something we often under appreciate.
This rumination has helped me, (I tend to be more Philip than Sharon) so I’m going off now to eat a fantastic breakfast, walk outside and tell someone now how much I love them.
It’s good to be alive.