Sunday 17 June 2018

Waking up to Life

Boris Glikman
drink: a cup of blackest coffee

A woman with a gun in her hand demands of me and my companions that we provide good reasons why life is worth living—otherwise she will terminate us.

I think to myself: This is the very question I have struggled with for so long and now I am being forced to provide a definitive answer. Do I make up some fancy reason and perhaps escape with my life? But if I lie, then my life is not really worth pursuing. 

How many times have I dreamed and read about this kind of a life-and-death situation and convinced myself that I thoroughly understood it, assumed that I knew exactly what it felt like? And now it has finally happened for real and this time I cannot wake up nor close the book. 

I realise that we all have to go some day, but no one can ever accept that it will happen to them. Death is something that happens only to other people. What a pity it would be to go on a brilliantly sunny day like this, when the whole world is pulsating with life and every cell of my body is screaming out with the desire to live. On a day like this, I want to shout out "I AM ALIVE!!!!!" from the top of the highest mountain. How much more fitting it would be to leave on a cloudy, sunless day with the sky shedding cold tears. No, this doesn't feel like the right time to die! But when is the right time to die? How can one tell that one has accomplished all that one can accomplish on this Earth? 

To make the most of my existence, I really should try to cram it all in, all of my life, into these last few remaining minutes, the way I used to try to squeeze in all of the information just before the start of the exams. Now is the time to live my life to the fullest degree, like I never bothered to before.

Yet this fear of death that I am feeling right now is out of all proportion to the joy and satisfaction that life has brought me so far. Why does my life seem so dear and precious to me now? Is it because only now, on the threshold of death, does the vision of ideal life appear  to me, life free of all the illusions that have previously brought me down, illusions that only the proximity of the end can destroy? Is it because that only now can I see life as it really is—cleansed of all the grime that besmirches and distorts its true visage, unshackled from all the trivial annoyances that make life such a tedious grind to bear in day-to-day existence? 

It is as if, during the day of my existence, life concealed her features with dowdy garb and only now, as midnight approaches, does she shed her frumpy dress and stand before me in all of her natural, radiant, shining glory, revealing her most intimate, most treasured, most beautiful secrets. 

In the distance, I see my friends being finished off—obviously their answers weren't good enough. Almost certainly they all used the "My life is unique" defence and it didn't work.

My thoughts are racing now, desperately searching for a solution: Should I make my reasons stand out from theirs? But I am a person just like them. Wouldn't making my reasons more striking imply that my life is more valuable?

But what does the tormentor want from us? Honest, straightforward replies or singular, elaborate explanations? How can one justify one's existence? Where does one begin? I have no need nor reason to justify my past, for it is already gone and she can't take it away from me. In any case, I am powerless to change it in any way, no matter how much regret I might have about my past actions, and so what is the point of trying to justify something that cannot be undone. Nor can I justify my future for it hasn't yet occurred and is therefore of unknown nature, lacking any reality. It follows then that I am only in a position to justify the now, the immediate moment during which I am alive. 

Should I appeal to her humanity, her compassion? But is there a more futile endeavour than trying to find a speck of goodness in the heart of a stranger? What is morality after all but some intangible, nebulous substance that we can only hope has found a safe refuge in the breast of fellow man. The only thing that prevents some total stranger from shooting you for no reason is a vague, insubstantial concept of conscience, invisible to the naked eye, as well as to any vision-enhancing instruments. That is all we can rely on for our protection from mortal harm. 

It is now my turn. I go in and face the interrogator. In a voice devoid of any tone, she commands me to present my case.

"Life is hard, really hard sometimes" I reply, "and a lot of times I don't want to go on struggling against the unyielding, overpowering forces. Yet I want to continue living. That is all I can say. I want to live."

The interrogator gazes at me with an empty, impermeable look—a look lacking any human expression, pondering her answer.

Just as she is about to make her pronouncement, I wake up to life.

About the author

BORIS GLIKMAN is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia. The biggest influences on his writing are dreams, Kafka, Dali and Borges. His stories, poems

and non-fiction articles have been published in various online and print publications, as well as being featured on national radio and other radio programs.

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