This is an essay which has basically been a long time coming, not that I ever actually planned to write it, only, it has always been in the background and a recent experience solidified it as perhaps one of the most important ideas which structures my thought.
I don’t think about death and suffering all the time and it’s certainly not infiltrating my thought all that regularly, at least as far as I’m aware. But recently I had the – supposedly – unfortunate experience of seeing a loved one in those true last moments, the last few hours where the human body has quite literally nothing to do but clutch at an attempt of existence, and once a person hits this point, the reality of that ‘person’, their ego, their I, anything that can be considered to be of their character completely fades away and you’re left with mere flesh.
For the majority of people and for modernity in general this is, a priori, a bad moment, there is quite simply no framing wherein this can ever be considered a possible/potential good etc. However, that’s not really what people mean when they think like this, is it? When people say things like ‘Oh it was awful’ what they’re really addressing is their own begrudging acknowledgement of a state which is perpetually hidden by them and for them. That is to say, death and suffering are always hidden, reconfigured and reworked in such a way that they are seen not as definite parts of life, but mistakes of civilization. Ok, so far this is a slight repetition of my previous essay on immortality, however, that essay dealt with what modernity does with death with respect to your will, the rest of this essay will be on what you can do with death and suffering in the face of modernity’s cold hard calculating machinic unconscious.
It pains my younger-self to say this, but I’m certainly heading towards a more vitalist philosophy (reading the work of Ludwig Klages acted as the catalyst), and yet, I don’t think that vitalism has to be of any cliché form, or of any stereotypical hippie-love-of-live vector, in fact, I’d argue that one can be a ‘machinic-vitalist’ or a ‘cosmic-vitalist’. That is – and forgive me is there’s already theorizations closer to this idea – a vitalism which is accepting of death and suffering as part of its own vivid ecstasy. Georges Bataille gets close with his philosophy of limit experience, Nick Land strays towards machines and neglects our reality, Deleuze & Guattari are too focused on economics, Cioran and Ligotti get caught up in their own bleaker-than-thou bias; we need a reversion of vitalism in which it eats itself. That is, death and suffering become a force for good.
Hold up, I’m not promoting death and suffering for their own sake, I’m not saying that one should get pleasure, comfort or positivity from the pain of another, I’m not endorsing any form of violence or torture here. What I am doing however is becoming accepting of the cosmos in a way which doesn’t succumb to the pitfalls of Lovecraftian-bellowing from the madhouse, nor become so utterly positive it stinks of ignorance; I am theorizing of a vitalism which accepts its own return to Zero. Death and suffering as part of the whole system. Sure, this is absolutely nothing new…but then, there’s nothing new under the sun, right?
This is an immanentization of death and suffering into modernity. Modernity is here to stay, and utilizing one’s finite energy trying to get rid of it or destroy is a serious waste of life, you’ll understand very little if you spend your entire life destroying X so you can arrive at some abstract Y; the grass is always greener etc. Death happens. Death happens and spending your energy trying to stop both its material and mental reality is not only an exhaustion, but it’s a maddening exhaustion which will lead you nowhere. The underlying idea of modernity is that everything can be fixed either by some form of technological innovation or by some form of societal tolerance, and guess what, death is the thing which can never be stopped. Modernity finds in death an idea so abhorrent that it ignores its existence all-together, and what is it that modernity finds? Modernity finds within death something which truly does what modernity wants to do, control everything. The only thing outside the constraint of death is nothingness, and once death has come, the concept of nothingness can no longer be.
What can we learn from death? When one is ill, or when one is hurt, or when one is falling apart, these experiences teach us just how much we’ve become accustomed to a certain way of thinking and being. One’s first thought when they have a fever, or when a new ailment alters their course of life is to attempt, with all their might, a return to a presupposed state or normalcy. This is how I should feel and how my body should be and any alteration from that is a mistake of cosmic programming, well guess what? Heraclitus’ river isn’t just something you step into every second of every day, but it’s also the current and circuitry of your own blood. You can’t avoid change because you’re of change.
When I looked at my loved one, I saw the loved one had gone, I didn’t know where, but it didn’t feel awful. What was awful was seeing some-thing plugged into the life-support machine that is modernity, existence for its own sake; modernity disallows existence its right to pass into the next stage both willingly and in a contently manner, modernity clings to life as if it always belonged solely to modernity itself. I saw blood, gasping, unconsciousness, entropy, croaking, struggling and mortality all within a single moment, and yet I saw nothing of the vitalism which had once possessed them, for such a vitalism would have nothing to do with such modernistic and civilizational ignorance of cosmic reality.
And yet, what can one think when they find themselves within such an event in time? Modern man would bleat, pray, whine, ignore, repress, suppress, suffocate and reason everything in front of him, he would make a leap of faith towards the idea that modernity would eventually save him from such a fate, even if his might be more pleasant. But what if one sits and looks and senses. What if one takes their time, accepts the reality, acknowledges this as part of the cycle, as part of the river, and goes about their day with that in mind? I’m not saying do not feel or mourn, I’m not saying ignore the event that is death; I am saying that the way in which one understands and reacts to death will ultimately affect how they react and enact their life; if death is denied, then life is too.
‘Everything you’re currently experiencing will die’ is another way of saying that ‘everything you’re currently experiencing is still here’, enjoy it, partake in it, and experience it with everything you’ve got.
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