13 years ago, I faced a border that everyone inevitably crosses:
Crossing from Life into Death.
I was reckless in my youth. I did things merely out of contempt for authority. I liked to blur the line between moral and immoral. I was a loose cannon.
When I was 16, I ran drugs for a guy named Joe. By no means was this guy a role model. In the same token, he wasn’t some low-life taking advantage of a naive teenager; I knew what I was getting into.
At least, I thought I did.
Heatherington is a particularly scummy area in Ottawa. Nowadays it’s home to a lot of gang activity. In my teens, Heatherington Park was a major pick-up/drop-off site for drugs. Now, let me make this clear: I wasn’t doing work for some big gang or cartel. Which, if I had of thought about it harder back then, should have been a red flag.
The big guys don’t want little fish in their pond.
Long story short, I was doing a regular drop-off in Heatherington. As I got close to the park, I noticed some guys from the bus were following me. I started to get anxious, and before I knew it, 3 guys were chasing me across the park.
Bat to my lower back; I was down immediately.
I went numb momentarily, before the pain radiated through every inch of my body. The assailants were on top of me in no time. Rifling through my pockets, tossing me around like a rag doll.
Then they put a knife to my throat.
I didn’t dare move. They emptied my pockets, then patted me down; they wanted to make sure they got everything. I didn’t dare move. I tried my best to focus my attention anywhere but on the person holding my life in his hand.
Then our eyes locked; I recognized him.
We went to middle school together for two years. He often found himself in trouble for beating up other students. He was a nice guy in general, but his temper always got the better of him; he was prideful.
I thought for sure that was the end for me. I was looking death right in the eyes. I was convinced he recognized me and would not leave it open to chance, that I would turn him in.
Suddenly, his comrades began yelling at him, in Somali (I recognized some of the words from former classmates in middle school.) They stared at him, yelling. He yelled back. And then in a flash, they were gone.
I got to the border, but was spared from crossing.
People often talk about seeing “their life flash before their eyes” in a near Death experience. I had no such moment. Perhaps because I wasn’t truly facing Death; only violence with no motive of killing from my attackers.
There was definite fear, which I am sure is shared with those who have shared near Death situations. Fear not necessarily of dying, but more of pain and torment.
Would it be fast?
Would I in-fact die?
If I didn’t, what would my quality of life then be?
Since that day, I’ve always wondered about why we fear Death. Why, do we put so much weight into something that is completely out of our control?
Is it the prospect of facing the unknown?
We face many unknowns on a day to day basis. Yet throughout human history, we persevere through them. Granted, most of these don’t have quite the finality that Death seems to impose. Since we have yet to find a way to scientifically measure, quantify, or even experience Death, it makes it that much more difficult to want to go through the process. Is Death a pure and simple finality?
Is there an Afterlife?
Will I be Reborn?
Is time non-linear? If so, am I just reliving a series of experiences? Am I stuck in a temporal loop?
Perhaps science one day will advance to the point where we can experience Death, and record empirical evidence. Until then, we are left with the dilemma that Death may in fact be, a finality.
Of course, that doesn’t explain why we fear it.
Many would say they fear Death because they lack a sense of fulfillment with their life. This is more commonly seen in younger persons, who have perhaps not accomplished the goals they’ve set in life. If this is the case, why are so many people complacent and inactive in filling this void? Does the nature of Death itself, not prompt a greater desire for living and learning?
One does not control their own fate; that is to say, whether they live or die. Even those who decide to end their lives, do so at the mercy of their own chemical imbalances; something which they have no hand in.
Since we can to a degree, control our actions on the mortal plane, why are so many of us apt to follow the path of an unfulfilled life?
We seem to hold on to the idea that you must live many years, to have lived a “full life”. Do years really equate to a life lived? I believe most would agree that it is the content of those years that determines this instead. One could live 100 years in a vegetative state, while another 25 years travelling the world, meeting people, trying new cuisines, and indulging in everything our planet has to offer. Who then had the “fuller life”?
Would it not be fair to say: “Collect experiences, not years”?
That’s a lot of questions in one night.
I’ve been taking a philosophy class, and it’s incited me to look deeper into existential questions. I’ve always had a curious mind, but have stopped short over the years addressing these types of topics. Taking this class (plus a fresh new notebook) is opening a new realm of thinking, that is really exciting. It also gives me a chance to put these thoughts into a concrete medium.
I’ve continuously said that I want to be active with this blog, yet seem to constantly hit a brick wall. I’m hoping that since I will have a hard-copy journal, that it will facilitate my blogging ventures. I know that the way my mind works, and catalogues thoughts is a bit messy. However, I hope this blog can become a vehicle for deeper thinking for those who read it, and expanded discussions down the road.