I had a very strange reaction to the news of the death of actor John hurt this morning. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. In so many of his most memorable roles he seemed to always be dying, from the chest bursting scene in Alien, being tortured as Winston Smith in 1984, his brave struggle against cancer in Champion to the mercurials agent provocateur in Carl Sagan’s Contact surving beyond normal means due to the influence of unimaginable wealth, John has always been dying. I haven’t been far from death of late, from my saxophonist friend to my own brush with the grim reaper a year ago now, mortality has been a constant shadow.
The coming to terms with the fragility of my body has become a key factor of late, having as I do enough trouble dealing with the fragility of my mind. I get spots in front of my eyes every time I sneeze or cough and I have to run a risk assessment in my head for every item I pick up before I do it. Things came to a head last week when after six weeks of struggling when I had to admit that, at 1.5 kilos in weight, just holding up the recent Alan Moore novel was beyond my capacity, leading me to re-buy it for my kindle.
One of my favourite t shirts features a momento mori consisting of signifiers of art, creativity and learning. It’s hard to find one in t shirt form that doesn’t look like something you would pick up at a heavy metal concert. Having a bloody great skull in the middle of a design tends to do that. The Latin means simply Life is short, Death is long. A reminder that we only have one life and that we better make the most of it, not that I really need one judging from the above. In fact, I can hear the ticking of the doomsday clock so loudly that I find it hard to waste I second of my time if I don’t have to. I suppose everyone has a different notion of what time well spent is though. Sitting on my arse, staring at the sea, or just feeling the warmth on my skin on a sunny day is time well spent, as much as making some art, reading a book or making something lovely, sitting in an office isn’t, or a meeting or indeed being around anyone you simply don’t want to.
I have an almost allergic reaction to being around people I don’t want to be around, I don’t suffer fools gladly. I can’t bear users, or people who kick off if you don’t go to their thing. People who constantly talk and talk over people, people who only like you if you meet their definition of cool, people who only like you if you are of use to them, bullies, boasters, controlling people, the cruel and the cliquey and unkind. Every single second I have spent in the company of people like that is a second I shall never get back, a second too long. I spent too long with low self esteem, I struggle with it still. when I was younger, being pushed around by people like that and I simply won’t engage anymore, it’s probably not the best way to cope with people like that, but there are worse.
Here is where the real problem kicks in though… I spend an awful lot of time crawling back into bed and trying to go back to sleep. Suffering from depression is a horrible waste of time, it eats away at you, making you seize up, or crawl along at a snail’s pace before you just simply cannot cope with being conscious any longer. How do you marry a condition that eats away at your time and energy with a desperate need to wring out every drop of life and from what’s left from your time on this planet? It’s deeply frustrating, the only upside of it being the sense of purpose and urgency I get when I feel well. I feel like that today and will crawl under the covers soon, hoping I will crawl out later and some internal brain mechanism will have rebooted again, well, for a while anyway.
So on I walk, limp, hobble and crawl, to my inevitable end, hopefully by the most scenic and purposeful route I can imagine.