I was afraid of dying when I was younger. In fact, one of my first memories is sitting in the back of my parent’s 90s era Ford Astro Van saying with tears falling from my eyes, down, onto my rosy and fearful little cheeks as I watched the fields of dandelions whizz by outside my window: I wish there was a wizard who could grant me one wish… one wish: so that I would never die. Because at that point in my life the whole world was so amazing me to me; so entrancing; so wonderful; so beautiful and enrapturing that I never wanted to have to leave it or have any of it end. Ever.
If memory serves me correctly my parents didn’t say much to me that day in the van with their what must have been hysterical looking and sounding youngest son having a legitimate existential crisis. In fact, all I remember is my mom saying to me with her turquoise eyes filled with compassionate motherly dew: It’s okay sweetie, because it happens to all of us and there isn’t anything to fear. It will be a long time until it happens. And besides, there’s much more to come.
I wish someone would’ve just told me right then and there that the wizard I was searching for was Jesus and that the something more to come was heaven, but I think that my whole inquiry into the reality of death spooked my parents a little, to be honest — to the extent that they might’ve not known how to respond to their introspective, macabre, Kierkegaardian-esque little son asking such massive existential questions at such a young age.
Anyhow. I would later grow up and learn that the more to come is the heaven that awaits all of us who believe in and follow Jesus — a place I refer to as “The Cosmic Juke” in the rambling, lucid, poetry that I write in my journals and nobody reads — but at that time in my life I didn’t really grasp or fully know about what the more to come meant and didn’t know that there was someone better out there than a wizard who had everything I was looking for plus more: Jesus.
So looking back I guess I ended up being this weird sort of little child with a looming fear of death that would throw me from time to time into the abyss of despair and hopelessness found only in the writings Camus, Sartre, or Jack Kerouac in his last great book Big Sur.
When I think about that fear today, that bubbling, babbling, oozing, trembling, fear of death that used to rise up in my little heart and soul and start spewing forth the existential crises muck of anxiety and woe (as I would cry in my basketball themed PJs in the middle of the night in my single bed with baseball themed sheets), I start thinking about all the people who don’t believe in Jesus and how they must still have that fear inside of them like I did as a little boy: that looming fear of death haunting them, tormenting them, throwing them into existential crises like the ones I used to have as a little child and still sometimes have as a grown man; that nagging, crazy making, fear of being mortal, definitively and unavoidably finite, and therefore, subject to an absolute death and decay that takes you and all of us to a certain point in time and space where a person ends, ends, ends. Collapses. Falls apart. Ceases to exist. And then end up in a place of either eternally amazing bliss or eternally inexpressible horror and pain: the pain and torture of aloneness, which is the greatest kind of pain and torture known to the souls of men.
I guess what I’m getting at with all of this existentially focused dreary death stuff is that I think people invent and use media in the ways they do these days because of these kinds of fear of death; these fears of being absolute, of being subject to decay, of being definitively finite, and ultimately, of being forgotten after their life ends and the world just moves on.
Sometimes and often it just seems to me as if all the media stuff we use is really just an attempt to harness the infinite and the immortal and the eternal that we want for ourselves and put it all online so that our bodies, our minds, and or souls can somehow just carry on and on and on into a permanent digital existence, so that even if we might be forgotten in the real world, we’ll never be forgotten in the digital one, and therefore, always recognized to whatever degree for who we are, what we love, what we hate, and what we have done.
Scary to think about, but possibly true: is our exploration of and voyaging into the digital world simply an attempt to extend our lives so that a part of us, at least, will never have to die?