It is my sincerest wish to die in a ditch, to lay down under snow and be forgotten till spring when my bones peek out from the thaw to a full sun, perhaps a wandering child finding me a curious thing on the road side, stuff to play with and show off to friends, to put parts of on a shelf and forget about in the course of growing up, learning the hardships of living, crying into a pillow at night over some young tragedy, cursing Fate, hating the world that could so meanly let him down. And let him too lie down in a ditch and die in time. It's what's meant for a Fighting Man. It is, in fact, fair. I can't think of a fairer fate. Life, though, is not fair. Some men die in bed.
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.Ecclesiastes, 9:11, King James Bible
For a while my mom used to walk with me to school, taking me past the equestrian statue of General Slocum at the park; and I loved it so much, thinking there could be nothing finer in life that to be a statue of a man on a horse. Slocum. Just a name, and sort of a memory. Days walking with my mother better forgotten. I don't forget. I remember quite vividly some things.
I remember the horror of learning about gladiators. They died for the amusement of others, in public, as a game, pointlessly and passively. It's infuriated me for a life-time that men could just lie down and let themselves be killed without protest; that men could die without raging at the Fates and the Furies, silently accepting murder without a qualm while a mob critiqued their demise, good or ill. Now I get it. This night I understand. That to die after a deadly defeat is a solemn and noble thing; and that the cheering, jeering, puking and stupid mob is dross; that the gods know deeply. That the Fighting Man is fighting even then, even as he kneels and shows his throat to cut; as he slowly lowers himself to the wet sand. That is the biggest "Fuck You" of all. That man laughs, if silently. The gods laugh too. I laugh. Now I know.
The gods are stone cold silent this night. There is no ragged rejoicing in the dusky demise of a man who lies down and dies with a whimper. Our comfort: to be laid down under a quilt of meat-eating birds.
Fires in the night, when London burned, when Chicago burned, San Francisco, Dresden, Auschwitz: This is our time, not so bright. In the Great Burnings of history, our time is tiny and fleet. Our Twin Towers burned, and now they are shunted away as memories better forgotten, like chipped and faded plaster mothers we've set aside in dark parts of the mind, too distant and unloved to recall. Not a candle burns. No cairn. Not a wind. Not a whisper. All is forgotten. The fire is ash. We rush to forget. The cold, dark pyre. It is a cold, dark night.
"Where is the Life we have lost in living?"
Though it blinks and flickers like the faintest farthest star, my light still shines for me to seek. I will follow such a light, dim as it might be and unseen by others, till it leads me into the shadows of the Valley of Death and to die in a ditch. I turn to the light, laughing.
It is a time to turn. Will you turn? Turn. Kyrie eleison, we could die in bed.
My friend died in bed. Kyrie eleison, we could die in bed. We could die in bed, or we can turn to the light and die in a ditch, forgotten.
Time and chance happeneth to us all. There is no mercy.
Tonight I became old. Good-bye, Brian.
Up-date. It's been a few days now and the shock has worn off somewhat. I recall Brian saying he didn't like the idea of being in a wheel-chair. He could hardly walk and was in terrible pain, and he knew he had to get a wheel-chair or be stuck. He'd say, "I don't want to go in the cart!" It's a line from the Monty Python movie, Search for the Holy Grail. In memory of Brian, then, another video on a happier note, The Life of Brian.
My own hand.