I sat on the subway today (2 nights ago now), and I caught myself in thought. With my head to my shoulder, my legs crossed, and my fingers steeple’d in my lap, I succumbed to a pang of existential sadness. Curious. It was of nothing specific (that I was then aware of) and generally smacked of boredom. With nothing to read and nothing to write, I sat in this mood and felt the wheels of the train upon the tracks, through my head pressed against the glass TTC divider.
All of a sudden, a strange thought occurred. ‘I am alive, I am free to live!’ it said (in an unintelligable manner of speaking).
This sentiment, at least the punctuation, confused me. I wondered why it was necessary to be so excited. And so I followed the thought.
‘Imagine this’, my mind beckoned, and all of a sudden I imaged time and space halting, and all of these people around me becoming silent and still. What if then I was barred from this world, and for 100 x 100,000 years I was relegated to a relative hell of nothing, and nothing new. The torturous absence of sensible, worldly, human things is… unimportant. Rather, it is this idea of returning from such a place to again be in this same seat from which I departed.
What would I do once I was back? Here lies the crux of the thought. Given the lack of humanity, change, and all the regular bits of reality & existence that I normally take for granted, but have here been deprived of me for such a painful eternity, I would finally appreciate the moment. That moment. I would spring to my feet, and throw my arms out. My toes within my shoes would stretch to match my fingers fraying from my open hands, tracing through the air, feeling it. I would bellow sounds, ‘Hello!’ I would say to one, ‘I love you!’ I would direct at them all, as they would now sit (or stand back) in an appalled stupor. Then I would, with a giddy glee bordering on hyperventilation, dance about, feeling the glass and steel, and the other textures with my fingertips. I would kiss the closest person and exclaim that I am alive and how wonderful it is to be!
Of course that was just a series of thoughts orbiting a single troubling one. Reality did push on. No perceptible stoppage occured. The train hit each station, and these strange thoughts did nothing to trap me in an eternity of relentless, unsatisfying want. So, I did not need to leap to my feet and live with a veracity of one who has known such existential depravity. Didn’t I? Perhaps these thoughts pointed to a real hell, one lesser than that of the punished, but of the damned nonetheless. Maybe mediocrity and the unthought acceptance of dead time is itself a certain kind of death, a hell all of its own.
Of course one needs balance. One cannot burn the candle as one does a log. But still, we ought not forget that life isn’t around the corner, it isn’t after the train ride, nor does it begin once the meeting is over, or whatever it is that delays us…placates our drive to know the world through the joy of life.
Life is now, and unless we choose (and we must choose) to look at it like a child does or as a liberated hostage would, life will pass us by.
Life fully lived…Damned if you do? Perhaps (Restraint and social order do have utility).
Damned if you don’t? Without a doubt.