“…existence…monstrous masses all in disorder—naked, in a frightful, obscene nakedness.” Sartre

I see wisdom in approaching life as I would a drug trip, that is to enjoy the good times despite their fleeting nature, and to survive the bad times by remembering that they too will soon end.

Life is absurd, my species deeply and irredeemably flawed. On the one hand, life seems only too real at times both in terms of joy and sadness, but on the other, the accidental nature of our existence makes a joke of any claim to objective meaning.

All that most of us are and all that we do will be forgotten within five decades of our deaths, but even if we’re remembered for ten thousand years, we’ll be no less dead. In his old age, Benjamin Franklin wrote a sketch entitled “The Ephemera” in which he portrayed himself as the senior member of a species whose lifespan was measured in hours rather than decades. His point was that we would do well to take ourselves less seriously. Against the backdrop of eternity, the difference between a millisecond and a million years is inconsequential, and our lives are infinitely less than that.

I often remember bloggers who are now dead, and others who are fighting diseases that might very well kill them. Even as I write, one friend is in the hospital for what is likely to be her death. You and I will join her in a very few years. We can’t hold onto our loved ones, our possessions, or our achievements, and starting in our forties, we begin to observe the disintegration of our own bodies. If that’s not a trip, I don’t know what is.

The painting goes poorly with the title of this post, but I liked it anyway. It's entitled Pleiades and was done by Elihu Vedder in 1885. At the moment, it makes me feel as if I’m swimming atop ocean swells. Because I’m not a swimmer, this is a decentering experience, yet so very beautiful. Maybe tomorrow, the painting will make me feel as if I’m floating through infinite darkness while Simon and Garfunkel sing “Dangling Conversation.” What does it make you feel?

30 comments:

Marion said...

That precious painting reminds me of the last time I took Quaaludes in the 1970's with a few friends and we all got naked, got drunk and danced on the beach. :-O

"Either that wallpaper goes, or I do!" ~Proust's last words before he died.

"We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance." ~Marcel Proust

Snowbrush said...

Marion, ludes were renowned when I was a teenager in Mississippi--this was before marijuana hit the area--but I never had one. I'm glad you lived to tell about doing a lude AND getting drunk (what in the hell were you thinking, Marion?!). I'm also glad that you shared the Proust quotations. I enjoy you.

The Bipolar Diva said...

we are but a vapor

The Elephant's Child said...

I thought that the wallpaper quote was Oscar Wilde. Either way, I would like to have the presence of mind to be so witty and so right on my death bed. And yes, in the scale of things to describe ourselves as a hiccup in time would be an exaggeration.

I don't see water in that painting. I think of people waving sparklers around, dancing just before dusk.

Snowbrush said...

Diva said: we are but a vapor

You sound Biblical there, Diva. By jove, you ARE Biblical there, Diva.

Child said: I thought that the wallpaper quote was Oscar Wilde.

I question whether anyone REALLY said such a thing on his deathbed.

Child said: I don't see water in that painting.

There is none. It was the feeling that I got from the painting that I was referring to and not the actual painting.

The Elephant's Child said...

OK: If we are going to be pendantic - I believe the quote is attributed to Oscar Wilde - and would be in keeping with all I have read about his life. And I hope someone did say it, just because it is such a wonderful thing to think of and say in the circumstances.

And I wasn't v clear. When I said 'I don't see water..' I meant I didn't get the feeling of water.

Petty quibbling aside. Thanks Snowbrush - a post to make me think as always.

Snowbrush said...

Child said: I believe the quote is attributed to Oscar Wilde

Has anyone in this whole wide world ever actually read Oscar Wilde? To me, he's one of those authors like Dylan Thomas or William James, people who I think that maybe I should want to read, but I know I won't simply because there are so many other writers and subjects that I'm already interested in. The line of things that a person wants to read has to be kept manageable, eh, Child?

The Elephant's Child said...

You win Snowbrush. You have even made me feel a little bit guilty. I have read (with pleasure) some Oscar Wilde, some Dylan Thomas, though not to be best of my recollection any William James.

The Blog Fodder said...

The wallpaper (mis) quote was Wilde. google it.
How does the painting make me feel? Not horny anyhow. They are all way too young. I have daughters older. Men with sons need not think of such things.
I get philosophic when I look at endless miles of grasslands. Never changing yet ever changing. Appearing empty yet swarming with life both plant and animal. Eternity!

PhilipH said...

The mayfly is said to live for just one day. But the mayfly still lives its whole lifetime. We measure our time in hours, days, years etc., but our lifetime is, in reality, no longer than a mayfly's, if you get my meaning.
As Albert would probably have said: 'it's all relative'.
The painting reeks (to me) of a Victorian disco dance scene - lacking only a few handbags on the floor for the lassies to jig around.

Helen said...

The painting reminds me of how I looked in 1984!

Everything ends.

All Consuming said...

"Has anyone in this whole wide world ever actually read Oscar Wilde?" Yes and some of his writing is cracking stuff, some not so much.

I'm with E-Child about the painting. Sparklers.

xx

Beau's Mom said...

This is weird. I enlarged the photo and stared at it. What I saw was a bunch of women wasting time and looking bored while they did it.

ANOTHER aspect of life. WASTING it.

rhymeswithplague said...

To say that your species is deeply and irredeemably (I'd argue with that second adverb) flawed is to recognize an ideal.

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp, else what's a heaven for?" --Robert Browning

C Woods said...

"Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgment difficult."
Hypocrites

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Yes, I've been AWOL. I was involved in several big projects that I had to complete before leaving the country for a month. And now that I have returned, I am involved in one more volunteer project before another trip (in-country this time.) And it seems that no matter where I am or what is happening in my life, I get caught up in huge projects that zap all of my time. I'm also organizationally-impaired, so I don't budget my time well.

"Dost thou love life?
Then do not squander time,
for that is the stuff life is made of."
Benjamin Franklin

I have been following your painful journey, including your drug-induced trips. I have had short periods of pain, and even those few days nearly took me to the edge. I've never taken illegal drugs ---never had the desire ---but I think, with the kind of pain you have suffered, I might have given in to drugs a lot faster than you did.

Did your last surgery result in any improvement? After following you for some time, I have been thinking that no surgery at all might have been better, but I don't know the intensity of our initial suffering. Pain can make us try almost anything, even if there is only the slightest hope that it will go away.

Although I have no desire to take marijuana (or anything else) as a recreational drug, our country's "war on drugs" has cost more than any real war we have fought ---and with what result? People are still taking addictive drugs and committing crimes to feed their habits. Drugs like marijuana that can help relieve suffering are still illegal in most areas. Drug lords are getting rich. People are dying in Mexico (& other places) if they oppose the cartels.

I just hope the MJ helps you cope with your pain and that it is legal in your area.

Selina Kingston said...

Oh my ! I'm finally back in Blogger land and I've just been catching up with your posts. I'm sorry you have been having such a rough time and sorry that I haven't been able to comment. Sending you a warm hug x
(I don't know what that painting makes me think of but I like it... a lot)

JanelDudleyBeads said...

A humble reminder, thank you!

Reuben said...

Subjectively speaking, I have always existed and will always exist. I cannot mentally occupy any space or time other than that which I am cognizant of. My consciousness persists and there is no point at which it fails to do so – show me that point, and I reveal that point to be instead the failure of the universe, which is the sum of everything perceptible. My lifespan was, is, and forever will be, eternity (subjectively speaking).

Snowbrush said...

I've been out of town, so I'm behind here, and am just going to address a couple of questions for the moment.

Rhymes, you made a statement that I took to be an implied question, if not a challenge, but I don't understand what you meant by: "To say that your species is deeply and irredeemably...flawed is to recognize an ideal." So?

CW Woods said: Did your last surgery result in any improvement?

I'm still in significant pain that quickly becomes intense if I try to do physical therapy or use my shoulders for much of anything. However, full recovery from my last surgery (on my left shoulder) could take two years. If, after that time, I'm no better, I would anticipate having an even more extensive surgery. I also need another surgery on my right shoulder, but I don't dare ask for it until the left one is better.

Snowbrush said...

P.S. to C Woods. The marijuana that I use is legal under Oregon law, and I have a state-issued card to prove that I'm not in violation. I am having a rather severe problem with the pot, however, due to the fact that--since my overdose--even one hit leaves me so wasted that I literally have some trouble walking. I belong to two medical marijuana groups here in town, and one of the big things they like to do is to get together and sample different kinds of pot that have been processed in different ways. In a group of strangers, I don't know if I could hold it together emotionally if I did that, and I sure as hell wouldn't be sampling more than one product. If you haven't had marijuana in a decade or more, you wouldn't believe how strong it has become. I've had LSD and psilocybin that hit me less hard than marijuana bud or hashish does today.

kj said...

what i say is i don't see happiness in that painting. definitely drug induced dancing :^)

aww snow, you've said this well. please dear god let me hold on to the reality that i can do whatever the fuck i please most of the time.
that fact seems to be both the easiest and hardest part of living and dying.

nice post, snow

kj

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

The painting makes me think of fairies...

Ed Pilolla said...

the art makes me think of living in the moment. an ocean swell i can easily imagine. what a challenge to emerge, if possible, from our culture and realize that life is a dream, that we are guests for such a brief time. i have that insight within my grip now, but, i fear i will lose it soon as i dash off to run an errand in heavy traffic...

Snowbrush said...

Ed, you should read Sartre's story "The Wall." Here's a link to it:


http://chabrieres.pagesperso-orange.fr/texts/sartre_thewall.html

Snowbrush said...

Ed, I just did something to you that I hate it when people do it to me, and that is to recommend that you read something without giving you a clue as to why you should. "The Wall" is about three men's thoughts about death as they await execution by a firing squad during the Spanish Civil War. I liked it because it so eloquently expresses many of my own thoughts.

Snowbrush said...

And I recommended it to you especially because what you wrote in response to this post reminded me of it.

As you can tell, I'm so scattered today that it's hard for me to stay on track or even be coherent.

Myrna R. said...

The painting makes me feel happy. Like I'm dancing with all my best friends.

Love how you express our inevitable fates. I was actually thinking somewhat along those lines this morning on my walk.

KleinsteMotte said...

I have never been able to think of nudity as obscene. To me the human is a gorgeous form to be admired like all life forms. Sexuality and sensuality are also objects of beauty in their own right. Sadly we keep spinning negatives into the dance, the ballet?
But I do share your words about the finality of death at it's onset. Immortality is an absurd concept that appears to be around for those who need to believe in it.
Satre is a powerful writer. Perhaps it is ideas that may be immortal?

Snowbrush said...

"I have never been able to think of nudity as obscene."

My blogger friend, All Consuming, put up a post about a British man who might spend the rest of his life in prison because he refuses to wear clothes--even to court. I think this is one of the ways that one should accommodate one's culture, it being unrealistic to expect one's culture to accommodate oneself.

In Sartre's quotation, nakedness was combined with the states of being monstrous and disordered. In other words, it was horror as seen unadorned, close-up, and straight on; a look into the abyss, in a manner of speaking.

nollyposh said...

Sighhhh i love the way you write... i wish i had the same ability for then i would be able to explain how very weird i find it that since i have been doing the quick step with death i have never been so alive... It is the strangest thing!