|The Biology of Death
||[Feb. 18th, 2007|06:20 pm]
Last night we were watching the History Channel. During commercial break a broadcast showed a sudden glimpse of human remains...nothing more left than decaying sinew over a skeleton. And then, it occurred to me in one huge moment:
That was once a person, and that person had thoughts and feelings and life experiences that we, looking on its dead corpse, can only begin to fathom. Once we die, everything that makes us unique is erased. Our skeletons look just like any other. Those in the future will not know who we loved, what our favorite color was, what made us laugh, or how it looked when we smiled. All they will see are a set of bones just like that one. All they will see is: human. A woman, a man, a child, a senior citizen. They died in this century or this milennium. The wear on the teeth suggests they may have eaten this frequently, or this.
All else is lost to the ages.
Then I began to think...where did that person go? I don't mean the bones or flesh...I mean the actual person, the one with the life like no other...the life that once made their bundle of organic matter the most unique thing in creation, along with the zillion other most unique things in creation that have lived and died since the beginning of life itself? The night person or day person, the one that liked certain foods and had a life of experiences shared by no one else. Where did it go? SOMETHING must have happened to it.
I remember holding countless pets in my arms moments after their deaths, but they all felt the same after that. Always they felt lighter...hollow somehow, devoid of the very things I had loved about them. Even though their bodies were far from buried, they were gone. What they had left behind were nothing but clumps of dead cells that once formed their likenesses...that's all, so simple. But where did THEY go? Where did the memories go that they took with them? How can it be so simple...here one day, gone the next? So finite. Their memories of me are gone yet mine remain of them, at least until I, myself, die. It's like part of myself dies every time because they have lost their memories of me; wherever those memories have gone is the same place mine will go when I die. Just like them...because now all that is left on earth of them is...dead cat. Dead rabbit. Cells. Nothing more. From those remains, one can no longer tell why I loved them.
I feel like Hamlet with that man's skull. They are shocking in a way, these realizations, yet they also ring with beauty. This is the natural way of things. We can unravel every secret the world has to offer except this, and because of that our roots will always be the same. We will always find ourselves unified with every single species we've tried to understand or control. We cannot separate ourselves from them because we all share the same fates.
This is beautiful, yet this is death. We must never forget to celebrate ourselves, for we are the true mysteries of life.