Death, Time and Euphemisms

Conversation is a funny thing. The potential of words is astounding and its usage in our daily lives, flat. The art of listening and talking is complex in innumerable ways and the human condition seems to be adept at dealing with it in the worst way possible – small talk. Nobody ever begins a chat over coffee with “Let’s talk about death. I mean, what’s all that about?” People chat endlessly about life’s details and problems and the things most directly connected to their well-being. They don’t want to spend time discussing the colour of a leaf and or the endless blue sky when the rent’s overdue or when they’ve decided to start a new job. I find the patience and tediousness of these details and the entire process of small talk strangely necessary and a little repugnant. The purpose of this circus seems to be to create a sense of connection or to declare, in a way, that your life has meaning if the other person bears witness to it. Bearing witness seems to be the one duty that is common to all of humanity. Over a cup of coffee, in a work meeting, over text, during a walk in the park – bearing witness to the life besides you, their experiences and their soul as they go on and on about how their kid is going to start school soon and how the stock market has been performing in the past couple of months. We are all bearing witness to each other and to the world, and we have perfected our coping mechanisms.

Time is another pet peeve of mine. No matter how much I think about time – the science, the poetry and mostly the doomed inevitability of it ending for me, we have reduced possibly the most fascinating aspect of human existence to the surface of our wristwatches and the schedules of work, food and sleep. If time were a person, I would talk about it constantly or atleast look behind my shoulder as it darts into a darkened alleyway when I’m not paying attention. I want to take time out on a date, just so I can verify that it’s a two faced scumbag and would probably stand me up. I want to bake a cake for time only to find myself stuck in a loop baking the same cake again and again and again. Time’s a goddamn bitch, but I’m saving its life when I wake up in the morning. When you contrast the inherently subjective nature of time to how humans have created the illusion of standardised time and then cast a glance at the people hurrying in the streets because they are “late”, I find the irony breathtakingly hilarious. I hate being in a hurry. We need to stop putting time on a pedestal and concentrate on the things that matter. Like love. Or the ocean. Of course, this is terribly impractical advice.

Time makes life dramatic while death makes it tolerable. I don’t understand the conscious, evolved brain’s aversion to death. I understand the primal fear of it, because that’s biological. Sudden death before time is to be avoided at all costs. But to my mind, death is a natural and friendly companion who is rooting for me from the sidelines, occasionally passing a snarky comment when I almost trip on a long flight of stairs and laughing at all my jokes poking fun at it, and sitting quietly beside me when the stars look especially lovely against the backdrop of a dark velvet sky. Death is my fiercest advocate and staunchest ally, waiting to absorb all my failings and magnifying my happiest, proudest moments.

Countless stories and perspectives have contributed to my feelings about death and time, and the lack of fear and reverence is born out of acceptance. Maybe not a full-bodied, fragnant and complete acceptance – a slightly lopsided, flawed one. I feel that’s the best I could hope for at this point. But hey – Let’s talk about death. I mean, what’s that all about?

One thought on “Death, Time and Euphemisms

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