Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In My Dreams I'm Dying All the Time

Here's something strange: for some time now, and with increasing frequency, my first coherent mental activity upon waking has been a vivid sense of my own mortality. I mean, vivid. Like, lying on your actual deathbed-vivid. I've always had a strong disposition toward melancholy and morbidity, but this isn't the same thing. It's not an intellectual understanding of mortality, it's a pervasive feeling of it, into my bones, as if the disorientation of sleep has removed all the mental barriers we keep around us so as to be able to continue with our mundane activities. No more distractions — YOU ARE GOING TO DIE, with all the subtlety of a foghorn in your ear.

I can't really recapture that feeling once I'm up and moving around, so I've taken to getting up a few minutes earlier just to be able to sit and reflect on it while it lingers. I don't think too hard about it; I just try to observe it unobtrusively. Just acknowledging its existence and seeing how it affects me. As you can imagine, this was pretty jarring at first, but I've actually come to look forward to it somewhat. Not for any of the usual pragmatic, utilitarian, self-help rationales — I don't care if it lowers my blood pressure, or gives me a more balanced perspective on trivial irritations, or any of that shit. It just feels...right. Good for its own sake. More real.

The best part of waking up is Thanatos in your cup.


  1. I want to comment, but it keeps coming out snarky. Dude, your blog is interesting. I am now more intrigued than ever. Any chance you'd elaborate on this post? I'd love to go deeper here. This is my last comment of the night. Promise

  2. I don't know that I have anything worthwhile to add to it right now -- what did you want to get into?

    (Snark is always fine, btw.)

  3. Actually, what really caught my eye was the Thanatos reference. My background is in history, so I thought Greek demigod, but it wasn't til I looked it up that I saw the psych meaning of it.

    What do you think is the source of this recurring revelation? You seem more introspective than most, but it's still unusual, i think, to be barely conscious and yet aware of your eventual extinction. What a heady feeling! You know?

    Nothing like that has happened to me, but what a great opportunity for self-examination. I guess I just envy you and I'm trying to vicariously experience it through you.

  4. I've always thought a lot about the grand scheme of it all -- been interested in stuff like Buddhist philosophy since I was in my early teens. Then I'd read Stoic philosophers talking about how you should take the time to look at those you love and ponder their inevitable death. And, especially while I was younger, I had the usual romantic fascination with death. So it's never been too far from my thoughts anyway, maybe to an extent that most would consider morbid.

    But I had two deaths in the family less than two months apart this past fall, so I'm going to credit that (plus the near-catatonic depression that followed for a couple months after) as the most likely reason.