"Don’t Fear The Reaper"
by John Wilder
“No. Not like this. I haven't faced death. I've cheated death. I've tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity. I know nothing.”
- James T. Kirk, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"
“Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you're about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you're wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, 'I haven't touched you yet.'”
- Carlos Castaneda, "Journey to Ixtlan"
"When The Soon To Be Mrs. and I were just dating, I was cooking something or other. I think it was eggs. I like eggs sunny side up, and don’t particularly care if they’re cooked all the way.
The Soon To Be Mrs.: “Aren’t you worried about salmonella?”
John Wilder: (Laughs in full Chad manifestation.)
The Soon To Be Mrs.: (Swoons.)
Seriously, she swooned. I’ve never seen it before in my life, but in that moment I think that was what sealed the deal, the moment in time that The Soon To Be Mrs. realized that this one is different. He’s not like the others. Here is a man who has zero fear of The Current Thing, and knows that salmonella won’t be the thing that punches his ticket out of having a functioning circulatory system.
No. I’m not afraid of salmonella. I would spit in its tiny little eyes or flagellum or tentacles and say, “Not today, my bacterium friend! My Danish-Scots-Germanic blood is far too strong for the likes of you!” And then I would attack Poland. Oh, wait, that’s been done.
I know I’m not going to die like Hemingway, and I’m not going to die like the comedy greats Belushi, Twain, or Nietzsche did. Nope. I think I’m gonna go out like Elvis. On a toilet after having eaten a fried peanut butter, jelly and bacon sandwich covered in cheddar cheese and mayo. Nope, I’m gonna die on a toilet. I mean, after all, a king should spend his last moments on the throne, right?
A lot of people worry about dying. I suppose I did, in my 20s, when I was worried about carrying out my responsibilities as a dad. Those are serious responsibilities – because those kids are going to be the legacy that I leave on Earth. That and my writing, collection of PEZ® dispensers and velvet Elvis paintings.
Again, a lot of people worry about dying. I’m not sure why. Of things that are more-or-less predetermined, that’s the big one. We’re all going to die. All of us. And I’m not sure I care.
Oh, sure, I want to live. I have no particular desire to die. If given the preference, I suppose I’m in favor of my continued heartbeat. But I don’t fear death. I don’t go to sleep at night wondering if this pain or that pain or that thing might be the symptom I look up on WebMD® that seals the deal that Wilder is going up to irritate Jesus in Heaven with bad puns.
I don’t worry about some future point when I’m going to enjoy life. I’ve achieved nearly every goal I’ve ever set for my life. End. Full stop. It’s like when a baseball game goes into extra innings, “Hey, free baseball.” And me? Free life. I’ve done nearly everything I’ve ever wanted to do.
What do you give a man who has everything? I mean, besides another bottle of wine. You give that man: Today. I’ve got Today. The only moment I live in is right now. And right now isn’t all that bad. I’m sitting in the sitting room (question: is any room I sit in, by definition, a sitting room? Discuss.) with the cool night air blowing in the window, some songs I love playing on the laptop, a cold beer by the keyboard, and the knowledge that at this moment, everything is fine.
Literally, in my life, Every Single Thing Is Fine. I could go into details, but you already know how awesome I am. So, I live for today? Hell no.
That’s YOLO. The idea that “You Only Live Once” is a free pass to act in any fashion has corroded society. It’s really at the root of many of the problems we have today. It is, in many ways, the absolute inverse of the philosophy I’m trying to describe. YOLO seeks to elevate hedonism and the passions of the moment as the highest good. YOLO is Tinder® times Planned Parenthood© times SnapFaceGramInstaChat® times Rwanda®.
t’s the inversion of beauty: it consists of being positive about, well, any old thing that feels good. I could list these “pleasures”, but you know the list as well as I do. We see it every day, with vice being paraded as virtue, and the continual demand going out for people to celebrate it, because, “Can’t you see? This horrid abomination that no healthy society or people in the entire history of the world has tolerated, iS BeAuTIfUL!” No, I think living a life built on YOLO is one doomed to fail – inevitably it will fail based on two reasons: it is materialism or a faith based on the nihilism of the material world writ large, and it is based on needs, like youth, wealth, sensation, or, yes, even life. So, not YOLO.
One thing I’ve tried to preach is outcome independence. Indeed, since the final outcome of life on Earth is fixed, all the intermediate steps lead there. Instead, I try to focus on virtue and faith. I write not because of YOLO, and not because it’s easy. Some nights it’s hard as hell to get the post to “close” and feel right. There are dozens of posts where, even after 1600 words, I still didn’t say exactly what I meant to say. That’s okay, it’s on me. I’m learning, and if I were perfect at this, I wouldn’t have more work to do.
For me, it’s the work. It’s getting better. It’s finding ways to add value to those people around me. There are those who pull their weight in the world, and those that don’t. I want to be one that pulls his weight, who has contributed as much as I can to helping my family and the wider world.
I don’t always do it. And I’m not always right, either. I’ve produced some stuff in my life that was really, really good, but not perfect. Thankfully, that’s not my mark, either, since just like immortality here on Earth, searching for perfection is a lonely and silly pastime. I want to make the world a better place with my family (first) and my work (now second) guided by God. And I want people to laugh hard while learning and thinking about the things I write.
The beauty of this is to win, all I have to do is the best that I can do every day. To win? All I have to do is be the best person I can be every day. See? Each night, I go to bed and sleep soundly if I know, in that day, that I gave it my all. Do I take time for me? Sure. But that’s not the goal – I serve a higher purpose.
So, what do I fear? Not death. It’s coming whether I like it or not, and, honestly, I’d rather not return my body in factory-fresh condition – I’d like all the parts to fail at once. On the toilet. I think Elvis would have wanted it that way. Oh, wait... I wonder if Elvis ate eggs sunny-side-up? Hang on, I’m sure he did. Elvis ate everything."
Full screen recommended.
Blue Oyster Cult , "Don't Fear The Reaper"