As I dozed off on the dusty couch for an afternoon nap, I pondered on the nature of privilege and privacy. The fact that I could arrive in this room to sleep in the middle of the day. That I have friends with extra couches and blinds on their windows to shut out the sun. That there was a kitchen nearby with smells of fresh coffee.
Life was good.
The half-dream caught me in a floating motion. As if I’d become a fishing net in an ocean filled with concepts, dreams and ideas for my life. The beauty of the beginning of summer. The excitement of plans for the long days. The surety of security, warmth and family. A sense of adventure in the unknown. The softness of the–
The demand for ownership stems from a desire to escape death.
The words hit the back of my head with the weight of a sledgehammer. As if my proverbial net had caught a subconscious shark that was trashing around, smacking me with the tail of its truth.
The need to claim any form of matter for oneself, is an act of denial. A cowardly act that splits you from the transient nature of reality where death is unavoidable for both the ‘owner’ and the ‘owned’.
You are temporary.
Surprisingly, even as I felt assaulted by the accuracy of those statements, I didn’t wake up. Instead, quite anticlimactically, I fell deeper asleep, losing awareness of the entire event. In hindsight, that sleep was probably an offer of protection for whatever layer of self-importance I had left.
Took me half-a-cup of coffee to remember that I had dreamed of something important, but it wasn’t until the next day when I noticed that my life had changed from something that I had…
…to something temporary.
The next day I opened my eyes and felt the movement of the sun behind my window. I could feel the sheets around me slowly wearing down. I wriggled in their softness and wondered if they would outlive me? Probably not. I got up and touched the walls of my bedroom, asking if these walls will still be there even if I should never touch them again. Probably yes.
I pulled back the curtains and looked at the proud trees standing in the sunlight. Those trees could see the passing of generations before someone cuts them down. To claim to own those trees… or any piece of land? I shook my head with ridicule. It felt unfathomable. Even though I kind of ‘owned’ the walls and technically ‘co-owned’ the trees in yard.
On paper that is. Digital paper, even. Bits and bytes.
The slightly puffy face in the bathroom mirror looked like a fleeting snapshot of a body in transition. ‘I’m dying right now,’ I told myself without emotion. ‘So are my neighbours. My house. Everything around me.’
This planet has a limited number of turns and the sun will stop one day. By then, there will be no-one to know what a ‘day’ is. Perhaps those events are too far off for me to bother about. Still, I felt a kind of kinship with the spinning celestial bodies that – just like me – will also stop one day.
The identity of Helen is active only once for a set of transient experiences until I’m all used up. Then I’ll be gone, never to return again. I am temporary.
Through the day I felt the decay in every single interaction, whether by touch, sight, sound or thought. All arrived and poof! Gone. The wear and tear of bodies and surfaces. The sprinkling of cells into dust. The force of entropy gently guiding the world into disorder.
Inside this experience, the demands of ownership were indeed a cowards game, as the dream-shark had said. As if clinging to anything would somehow help slow or even stop nature and time itself. As if by accumulating immense or unassailable wealth of possessions could somehow make us immortal.
Death comes to it all. Duh.
It’s not like I stumbled upon some grand discovery. The transience of life is a known fact, or should be. The inevitability of death can be witnessed each day. Even if it’s the death of dreams or ideals, of reputations, of mosquitoes; or children or soldiers in faraway lands. Or just next door.
Now why do most people only offer a polite nod to the temporary nature of life, then quickly turn their heads as if someone just vomited?
Why do we run from this awareness? How come we don’t acknowledge the short-lived shudders of our lives? Why do we rage at death when it arrives for our house, our car, our job or to our loved ones? Why can’t we face the inevitable?
I went on with my day, aware of each moment of my life passing through my fingers. Actions were taken, opportunities were lost. Each choice only a snap of fingers. The breath and the blink of a moment. Here and gone again.
It felt as I was living my destiny; being a part of nature instead of just knowing about it.
It wasn’t a morbid feeling, there was no grief in me, no fight against the evil of oblivion. Instead, I felt new. And odd… and made me question my sanity a little.
Would I feel more alone from now on?
The sun touched my face, a caress of light and warmth. I remembered that light is our nature. As the rays of the sun, each human is infinitely valuable, and also destined to be consumed by the demands of life. No matter what form that life takes. Loneliness or togetherness. Either perception is temporary.
Each beat of my heart is a soft knock on death’s door. I don’t know when or where that door will open for myself or to something or someone I care about.
I bought new pants last week. Today my friend’s cat ripped a neat hole in them.
That was all they got.
Knock knock. Wake up.