January 17, 2014
Mark Twain was born when Halleys comet was visible in the night sky. He departed, as hed predicted, seventy-six years later, when Halleys comet was again visible. Oscar Wilde, after complaining for hours about the wallpaper in the hospital where he lay dying, finally said, Either the wallpaper goes or I do. Some people say that story isnt true, but, knowing Oscar Wilde, I have to believe it is true.
While they lived interesting lives they also had interesting deaths. I dont want to sound morbid but Id like to have an interesting death. Im not in any hurry to cash in my chips. Admittedly if I were hit by a bus or electrocuted by a falling wire tomorrow people can say, Isnt that interestinghe was just talking about dying. But Id prefer that it be at least several more decades, because there are some things Id still like to do, like visiting the southern hemisphere and paying off that loan. If anything Id like to be old enough that Ill be able to have some idea that its coming soon, and I have reason to believe Im likely to live a pretty long life. P.T. Barnum had his obituary printed a week before he died so he could have the pleasure of reading it. Thats impeccable timing, and an interesting way to go, although at his age he must have been aware that theres a sucker dying every minute. And I know statistics are on my side.
I once took an online quiz that asked a series of questions about where I lived, various habits, and so on, and when I clicked the button for the final results it told me, based on statistics, that Id die at eighty-one of a heart attack. Then I felt kind of guilty because one of the questions was, Do you talk to strangers? Id said no, because I thought it was an ambiguous and possibly loaded question. When I went back and changed my answer to yes it said Id die at eighty-two and be murdered. By whom? The quiz wouldnt get that specific, although I have a feeling its author had serial killers in mind, because serial killers will often lure their victims in by starting a conversation with them. It still seems pretty unlikely. Anyone who knows anything about statistics knows the number of bona fide serial killers is so small that you probably have a greater chance of meeting someone whos survived being struck by lightning. Twice. Although I do find it interesting that talking to strangers would actually add a year to my life.
And even though it would be an easy way to know exactly when the end was coming I dont want to commit suicide. That would just be embarrassing, no matter how interesting the means of my demise, because everybody would be standing around saying, Well that came off looking a bit contrived, because everybody I know always talks like theyre in a British costume drama. Plus Ive never committed suicide before, and if I dont like it I cant exactly say, Maybe I did it wrong. Let me give it another try. Thats why its one of the few exceptions to my general philosophy of always being willing to try anything at least twice. Whatever way I go its got to be natural causes, which is usually the polite way of describing a massive coronary, although I think it could also mean being strangled by a giant squid, which would be really interesting. Also I cant think of any way of effectively and successfully shuffling off the mortal coil that doesnt involve a lot of pain, and, call me a wimp, but Im very big on avoiding pain. Its one of the reasons another exception to my philosophy of trying at least twice is gouging out my eye with a fork, even though if I get it wrong, or right for that matter, the first time Ive still got a spare. I had an uncle who, in his late eighties, was sitting on his bed getting dressed to go to breakfast one morning and simply fell over dead. Its not an interesting way to go, although its not necessarily a bad one either, and hed at least lived a full life. Anyway a friend of mine told me, He must have been in terrible pain. For a long time this really upset me. I didnt spend a lot of time dwelling on my own death, but when I thought about it I hoped it would be painless, like falling asleep. And then I started wondering how my friend knew what my uncle felt when he was ringing down the curtain. Its not like hed had a chance to talk to my uncle, and even if he did I hope he asked something more useful than So, did it hurt? I hope he asked, So, whered you bury the money?, and that hed at least have the decency to split it with me. I can say that Im not too concerned about what will happen to me after Im pushing up the daisies.
Maybe theres a Heaven, maybe theres a Hell. Maybe its simply nothing. I cant remember anything that happened before I was born, so it would make sense that I dont remember anything after Im off the twig either. Reincarnation is an intriguing possibility, especially the belief that we come back as a higher form of life after we join the choir invisible. Whats a higher form of life, though? And is it always preferable? Most people I think would rather be a lion than a leech, but thats only because they havent thought about it. Lions have to hang out on the hot veldt all day, being stung by flies, and they cant chase down a gazelle they go hungry. Being a leech sounds like a lot more fun to me. You hang out in the pool all day, and when food comes its an all-you-can-eat buffet. Plus theyre hermaphrodites, which would make dating a lot easier. Mostly though I dont dwell on it. I figure its a long way off, and Ive got time to plan. I have come up with a few ideas to make my final departure interesting, but I wont share them. I dont want to spoil the surprise.