Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Help Meeeeee: Obssessed with Not Dying

I made a weird leap last night. I was thinking about The Fly, the classic one, and I realized that what was so damn disturbing about the man-headed fly, apart from the pitiful “help meeeeeee” and a image itself, is that I am forced to imagine how awful it would be to die an insect death informed by human consciousness. Here, the kind of dumb indifference most of us would ascribe to a fly is swapped out with a human awareness of mortality, exploding with horror at the brutal prospect of being food, painfully dying. Being eaten alive is not my idea of a good time, unlike say a certain punk rock girl is some 80's Zombie movie: "Do you ever fantasize about being killed? Do you ever wonder about all the different ways of dying, you know, violently? I wonder like, what would be the most horrible way to die? Well for me, the worst way would be for a bunch of old men to get around me, and start biting and eating me alive.” (Bonus points if you know the source.) In fact, I went through this miserably long nightmare phase in my teens that involved being eaten alive. In the nightmares, I am still alive and contained in in great crushing pain while passing through some giant predator’s mouth, down its throat, into the stomach. Thankfully, I am a lucid dreamer and would always wake myself up before ... before what? I was shit out I guess. Insult to injury.

"We don't like to die; and if we have to die, we don't like to think of our own dead bodies feeding other creatures". This is a line I copied from an essay by John Daniels, a poet and nature writer. Daniels comes to this conclusion after he encounters a swarm of ants trying to kill a beetle. He's repulsed by the scene of ants swarming over and killing a beetle because he sees a glimpse of his own mortality in the drama. Perhaps this is true. Predation in nature reminds us of our own mortality--and this scene from The Fly really rubs our nose in it--of course there are dozens of other monster flicks that the same. Old HD Thoreau's journals are rich in accounts of predation. In one case, he writes about a snake trying to eat a toad and as Thoreau arrives, disrupting the scene, the snake coughs up the toad and flees. (I know it's not a toad but it's the best pic I could find.) The toad leisurely jumps away and Thoreau notes what he calls the toad's "healthy indifference".

I struggle not to see such acts as symbols of human mortality. Mine. The reflex is habit but I am working on it. I always point out to my son, when we witness predation and the like, that it is part of the cycle of life and that the snake (or whatever it is that's eating someone) is not being mean, it's just being a snake.

I like to think I am laying the groundwork for a better perspective - one, and I have to overlook the hypocrisy - I am still trying to embrace. Is it possible to evolve a kind of healthy indifference toward death? I can't imagine how. I have this son I adore and want to be around for his whole life. And, when do I show him The Fly?


  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElKuBhheNE8

  2. death doesn't scare me. i don't want to leave my girls but I know that it must happen sometime. I used to lay awake at night worrying about death. Not anymore. i know that death is just a gateway to another life. when i die, just put me up in a tree and let the crows and buzzards pick me clean. That way my bones can be worshipped.

  3. MC, Ah! That's a good reminder. Years ago, and even then some, I used to read everything and anything Buddhist - it really helped me keep it real. Time for a refresher perhaps. P Kapleau has a whole book on the D word.

    And Faery Viv, have you read much of Robinson Jeffer's poetry. Your comment makes me think you would find a real kindred spirit in quite a few of his poems. Would be happy (and even consider it my duty) to send a few particular titles your way.

  4. Hi Keith

    Plaese do. that would be awesome. I'm a lover of poetry.