The Road to Nowhere
Some young ladies spend their time fantasising about wedding dresses and picket fences and i am no different save for one striking detraction. Though I too have spent many a day dreamy hour in typical doodle stance (lying on my tummy by a sun streaming window, feet in the air, hovering over a notebook) I was envisioning the seating plan for my funeral not my nuptials. Not because i wanted to die at all simply because death was far more fascinating to me than matching dishware and still is.
Death! How splendid!! The closest thing we humans get to a real life quest into the unknown. Back then we had no google, the closest thing we had to demystifying the unknown was the nearest adult and it was made abundantly clear to me that not a single adult in my life had a clue what happens when you die. Especially reeking of bullshit were the ones that had answers and then got upset when you urged them to explore their ideas further:
“Mrs. Smeaton, so if heaven is all nice all the time and you have to stay there forever and ever… isn’t it boring?”
“No Heather, you need for nothing, its very peaceful”
“ya but you have to stay there FOREVER, that sounds like it would be boring, like how even Super Mario can get boring”
“well Heather there is no Nintendo in heaven”
“go sit in the hallway Heather”
It was an innocent use of a robust imagination until much later when I was diagnosed with cancer, then it became a visceral reality. I AM going to die and what does that say about the value of my life? I took it as most do, as an insult to my sense of immortality -how dahhr you sahr, don’t you hknyow who ah ahm? I am Heather of the Hill People (just waiting to wrap up this stint as Heather of the Respectable Job People and I’ll be getting right to it). Distilled, that was my core complaint, that I hadn’t done anything remotely awesome yet. I HADN’T YET BEGUN TO LIVE! So I got to it. Quit my job, moved to the hills and lived into this idea of who I wanted to be. And then? I found out that was only the very first step on a life long journey and looking around I realised very few people were willing to take even that step, happy as they were however to stand at the roadside and offer discouragement or “advice” as they called it.
That’s the problem with happy ever afters such as the heaven story, life doesn’t just quit once you fulfil that cliche. It keeps nudging you onward, forever asking “now what?” Our cultural adaptation of life(tm) however, does not do that. It doesn’t ask questions it simply states “make money and THEN you’ll be secure and THEN you can live”. Those are the basic thought cogs that keep us what Frederic London describes as Willing Slaves of Capital. His dense philosophical book of the same name hauls in the heavy hitting thinkers of Spinoza and Marx to support his theory that time and again, we choose servitude over freedom.
Men seem to catch the blunt side of this thought object the most severely. The pressure to amass culturally correct ticked boxes lands squarely on what are meant to be over-developed muscly shoulders that hold up the world. First you get the money (check), then you get the power (check) then you get the woman (check).
Not to say women don’t have their own corresponding boxes they are meant to check, its just in a different order. First you get the man (check), then you get his money (check) then you get his power (check). One big happpyyy fammmaaallleeeeeee!!!!
For generations this was the norm because women had very little access to earn income aside from the indirect assets their reproductivity afforded them. And the men had a planet to keep spinning. Luckily most people died before having to live into the consequences of this “lifestyle”, people barely made it to mid-life. Today we are basically living their afterlives, hence mid-life shifts. Its the time we start asking what is the actual point of being a bacon provider/ baby provider?
Hopefully, as good questions are meant to do, one is inspired to embark on the life-long discovery of its answer. Or just buy a bigger screen tv and skip it, sounds pretty damn inconvenient that.
I jest but its actually deeply tragic to me, this incalculable loss of life. The human potential used to fuel the machine of industry. My own father a casualty. He tied himself to the wheel as a young man in his early twenties and save for the few weeks vacation he takes every year, he’s still on it 50 years later. A central pillar of the capitalism story (a plot line re-adapted from aforementioned boring ass heaven story), is that one receives their reward in the after life, in this case it is a man’s legacy. What he can leave behind after he’s gone. Like sifting through one’s entrails and finding a fully paid for Honda- life validated! The awful truth is that whatever he could possibly leave behind will have no value when compared with what the value of his living breathing life could have been. Because this consuming machine is so strong, having devoured so many generations of men in this way, his offerings will diminish to nothing in a fraction of the time he spent amassing them.
Life is receding from him now, slowly, maddeningly and in his quiet moments after having had a few, he steadies himself to contemplate what might have been. The reverie itself almost as intoxicating as the rum he needs to dull the edges of his awareness. Because the tv can only distract you for so long. These questions quieten over time but they don’t stop until your heart does.
In his sobriety Dad finds my lack of concern for capital security disturbing. As one must who has devoted his life to it. But as the veil of his conditioning wears thinner I see the glimmer of little fireflies in his eyes, recognising the value of my choices. Fireflies he caught in his youth when life was stretched out before him as a series of impossible questions, a jar of treasures he shelved for later when it was time for him to grow up and “be a man”. It is my job, to let them out. To ask them to show me the way to adeath reflective of a life well lived; a dignified death.
I want to die with dignity, not the kind of dignity that wearing a cravat and monocle affords you but the dignity of acceptance; the grace to face a whole other kind of question. I want to have spent all my value, blown all my potential on my earthly exploits so that death comes like a warm hand patting me on the back. A head nod from the cosmos for a job well done. You can keep your gold plated watch thank you.
I want this death for everyone, having experienced many faces of death by now and understanding that the more institutional the death the less dignity it affords. For fucks sake can we not even die without having to fill out a fucking form?!! Must we carry on pretence even in our coffins (is Grandma wearing lipstick?)?! Continue the fallacy of land ownership through to the afterlife with our little 6m2 of prime cemetery real estate?! There can be no dignity while fervently denying the reality of our demise because our very own bodies know the truth; all we need is a patch of Earth to speed up the process of our molecular re-distribution. Try finding a patch of earth to bury a dead body in- not as easy as one would hope, just ask these guys:
It started with insects, I would see a dead beetle in the street and knowing that tar is far less effective at microbial biz than soil I would relocate it. Then it was pigeons and rats that ate it in the street- quick little burials in the nearest plant pot. I even built a box in my back balcony, a raised planter that I have dubbed my “life cycle box”…coming soon to a Home Depot near you. Recently I have begun braving the odd looks of pulling over on the road and scraping bodies up, carrying them to the mossy shoulder and offering some kind of earthly womb for them to die into. Its the least of what I would want for myself- please don’t hit me with a car and then subsequently continue running me over with other cars until I am so squished into the concrete that it will take 8 rains until I find some semblance of earth to complete my biological life cycle. Please? Its not for the purely selfish reasons of not wanting to be made into meat pudding, we all benefit when i give back my nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, trace elements and organic matter to the soil. The N2? Less so…
Even in the closing of this I am seduced by our collective misconception of death- that its a definitive end that requires some kind of ceremonious summary, a eulogy befitting of all the words that died to make this happen (ex. “biz”) and yet, feeling the truth to be far more porous, far more process driven, the only honest departure I can make is to call for a pause of suspended reflection…
A Recipe Ode to The Road to Nowhere
They can tell you what to do but they’ll make a fool of you and its all right. Baby its all right.
-roadkill Guinea Fowl
Credit to Nic Grobler for real life-ing this and taking pics!
-spot a recently killed Guinea Fowl on the road. Or, as in the case pictured, a still living one and honour it with a mercy killing (quick quick neck snap)
-check for maggot/lice infestation
-if clean (most will be, decay doesn’t begin in an instant) put in your car and bring it home
-remove head at the neck, feet and wings
-pull feathers out
-cut open between the breasts and remove innards
-cook more on the well done side to kill any parasites
-while eating, consider yourself a human life cycle speeder upper, pre-chewing the Earth’s food for it like the loving member of the sentient being club that you are.