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Poetic Thinking 2016 | January 18, 2020

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Musings on death

Musings on death
Harry Desmond

It is said that those who fear death secretly fear life. They fear, perhaps, the end of the possibility of life — the point at which that potential finally becomes unrealised forever, always already unrealised. But those who grasp life, drink it to the dregs, live it to the utmost, cannot be afraid of the natural end of their days, each one spent well.

What then is this thing and where? How so shall I grasp it?


Life is this:

A stranger I bumped into on the street gave me some sort of voucher. It’s perfectly worthless, he told me, but in some unspecified circumstance may be exchanged for incredible value. I returned home, shut the blinds, dimmed the lights, and locked the door. What more hopeless task than finding in the cosmos and eternity the place and time to redeem the token!

or this:

When I came in I found a huge heap of junk. Girders and beams and bits of wood and steel strewn across the floor, pages torn from manuals, fragments of narrative and song half faded half lost, alien instruments, undecipherable scrawlings, unrecognisable blueprints, meaningless images, broken gadgets & pointless machines. There is no task. What shall they say when I leave?

or again this:

I saw a man fall from the top of a tall building. As he fell he appeared — from my distant vantage point — fixated on a small toy or game he had in his hands. It could have been a few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, or perhaps he was trying to get a ball bearing into a hole, or disentangle a small knot. He appeared unfazed by his escalating velocity, the wind rushing through his hair, and unconcerned with the panoramic perspective his height afforded. I turned away as he struck the ground.



  1. Thanks for your post, Harry. I like the way you defamiliarize the notion of life as the naturalized opposite to death. It makes me think of the way that William James described the conundrum between our bodies and our selves, asking if we control or bodies, or are our bodies US? In this sense, is life just “us” too, or is it that which is not us–the world that we experience?

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