Monday, May 15, 2017

"I have already been absent, non-existent"

Jenni Diski - writer

I thought this Jenni Diski (1947-2016) article worth noting. Here's an excerpt.
" I am appalled at the thought, suddenly, that someone at some point is going to tell me I am on a journey.

"But much as I hate it, the journey – that deeply unsatisfactory, often deceitful metaphor – keeps popping into my head. Like my thoughts about infinity, my thoughts about my cancer are always champing at the bit, dragging me towards a starting line.

From ignorance of my condition to diagnosis; the initiation into chemotherapy and then the radiotherapy; from the slap of being told that it’s incurable to a sort of acceptance of the upcoming end. From not knowing, to "knowing", to "really" knowing; from being alive and making the human assumption that I will be around "in the future", to coming to terms with a more imminent death. ...

"The end of the 'journey' doesn’t come until you either die cancer-free of something else, or die of the effects of a regeneration of the cancer cells. Good and bad; from here to eternity, and from eternity to here.

"But I have been not here before, remember that. By which I mean that I have been here; I have already been at the destination towards which I’m now heading. I have already been absent, non-existent.

"Beckett and Nabokov know:
I too shall cease and be as when I was not yet, only all over instead of in store.

From an Abandoned Work

The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.

Speak, Memory
"This thought, this fact, is a genuine comfort, the only one that works, to calm me down when the panic comes. It brings me real solace in the terror of the infinite desert. It doesn’t resolve the question (though, as an atheist I don’t really have one), but it offers me familiarity with:
“The undiscovered country from whose bourn/ No traveller returns.”
"I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And it soothes. When I find myself trembling at the prospect of extinction, I can steady myself by thinking of the abyss that I have already experienced. Sometimes I can almost take a kindly, unhurried interest in my own extinction. The not-being that I have already been."

Jenni Diski's insight here is real, but for those who know some physics a deeper consolation (perhaps) is that our lives persist in spacetime, a consequence of Einstein's great discovery which I wrote about in my article "Sub Specie Aeternitatis".

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