A Mechanical Pencil and Thoughts on Mortality
“Legs to walk and thoughts to fly
Eyes to laugh and lips to cry
A restless tongue to classify
All born to grow and grown to die.” – Townes Van Zandt – Rex’s Blues
We’re all going to die some day. I hate to break it to some of you out there. Death is a certainty. It’s just one of those things we all go through. This is not any groundbreaking revelation that I will be sharing. We all die.
I don’t want to get into any philosophical or religious discussions on what if anything happens after death. You believe what you believe and I’ll believe what I believe and when it’s all said and done, one of us might be right and one of us might be wrong. One thing for certain we will both be dead.
And since there is no guarantee what meets us on the other side, the true question in life should be “how are you going to choose to live it?” Not to get all Carpe Diem with everyone. I’m not telling you go out and suck the marrow out of life and gather ye’ rosebuds while ye’ may. I might actually be arguing against that. You can spend your time like you are in a mountain dew ad from the mid 90’s. You can climb tall mountains and then jump off of them. You can be your own personal beer ad. You can do all of that, but in the end though, is the world any better for you having been on it. When you pass will anyone miss you? Will you be just a footnote in someone else’s stories? Will anyone besides those legally and genetically linked to you care that you are gone?
I’m not sure the answers to those questions when I apply them to my own existence. I try to be a good person. I try to help others when I can. I try not to be envious or greedy. I am who I am and I do the things I do for my own personal reasons. Not governed by money. Not governed by fear. But, I’ll be damned if I could tell you what governs me. For being so unsure of my philosophical leanings, I’m actually pretty damn self-aware.
The world will keep spinning. We will keep philosophizing about it. The sun will rise. The sun will set.
When the sun finally sets on you will you be able to look at the world and say you are leaving behind a better place because of you or will the world be a better place because of you no longer being a part of it.
All of this thought and rumination on existence was prompted by a mechanical pencil I passed in the parking lot today. It had been run over, I guess. But rather than being simply smashed flat, this pencil had split down the seams. It was amazing. It didn’t simply run out of lead, have a bad eraser, stop working. No, this pencil had not engaged in the slow motion deaths of so many mechanical pencils before it. This pencil, when its time was up, blew apart at the seems.
I saw it laying there and thought to myself, “That’s how I want to go. I want to be walking along when my time comes and then just go out with a bang. I want to be there and then be there no more.”
Look closely at that pencil and think about how you want to leave this world. I’d like to think that pencil had just been used to scribble down a paradigm altering equation or make the final notations on a ground breaking symphony. It knew it had reached its pinnacle and then just said so long to this world. Bam! I’m done.
A few more song quotes ruminating on death. But to start with you really should just listen and pay attention to the lyrics of this Lyle Lovett masterpiece. Since the Last Time. His song Family Reserve is also a great bit of songwriting about the passing of time and people.
Here are some that just popped into my head. Let me know of others you favor, if you are so inclined.
I’m riding a big round ball
I never do dream, I may fall
And even the high must lay low
(Even the high must lay low)
But when I do fall, I will be glad to go
Yes, when I do fall, I will be glad to go – Jesse Winchester – Defying Gravity
Please don’t bury me
Down in that cold cold ground
No, I’d druther have “em” cut me up
And pass me all around
Throw my brain in a hurricane
And the blind can have my eyes
And the deaf can take both of my ears
If they don’t mind the size
Give my stomach to Milwaukee
If they run out of beer
Put my socks in a cedar box
Just get “em” out of here
Venus de Milo can have my arms
Look out! I’ve got your nose
Sell my heart to the junkman
And give my love to Rose – John Prine – “Please Don’t Bury Me”
A lifetime of accomplishments of which the dirt knows none,
Only in death can one truly return
Return the carrots, the apples and potatoes,
The chickens, the cows, the fish and tomatoes.
In one glorious swoop, let the deed be done
And bury me deep so that I can be one…
And all around my muscle and all around my bone,
Don’t incinerate me or seal me from
The dirt which bore me, the bed that which from
The rain falls upon and the fruit comes from
For the dirt is a blanket, no fiery tomb,
No punishment, reward, or pearly white room
And you who say that in death we will pay,
The dead they can’t hear a word that you say
Your words are not kind, sober or giving,
They only put fear in the hearts of the living
So put away your tongues and roll up your sleeves,
And pick up your shovel and bury me deep. – Poi Dog Pondering – Bury Me Deep