You’re Only Gonna Die

After you’ve debated and yelled and screamed and cried or smiled and winked and nodded and celebrated, after you’ve assured yourself that you’re correct, after you’ve made every joke and every emotional plea and every dismissal of your counter-argument, after you decide where you stand and say out loud, with purpose, that THIS is what you believe…

After all that, long after (if you’re lucky) or not so long after (if you’re not), you will be dead. When you’re dead, you’ll have lost that nuance that you cling to in your values. You’ll have lost your ability to explain yourself, to exist on multiple sides of some argument, to plead for shades of gray.

When you’re dead, you’ll almost certainly be forgotten. Not right away, of course, but when your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren die…when your brothers or your sisters or your aunts and uncles and relatives are dead…when every best friend and lover and enemy is dead, most of us will be forgotten.

If you’re lucky (and if you want to call it luck) maybe you’ll have made something that lasts. Maybe someone will remember you. Maybe an intrepid daughter of a daughter of a daughter’s daughter will visit your grave and wonder what piece of you exists in her. Most likely though…most likely not.

It’s not always cryptic to look at the world through the lens of your own death. Sometimes, when the noise gets too loud or the trauma too real or the voices too threatening, sometimes it’s calming.

Soon you’ll be dead.

If you, like your great great great great great grandmother, like the “forefathers” we love to mention, like the authors and sculptors and composers and architects and kings and queens we talk about long after their deaths, if you, like them, are mentioned in passing in a history book, in a story, in someone’s retelling of a period of time, if you are mentioned, what will it be for?

There’s no real nuance when you’re dead. There is no “He said some hateful, hurtful things, but you had to know him, he didn’t mean it.”

Maybe you don’t care, because you’ll be dead. But people (politicians, mostly) talk a lot about being on the “right” side of history. Maybe, at the very least, you should think about not whether or not you ended up on the correct side, but whether or not someone can look at your life from very far away…200 years away maybe, and say “That person was a piece of shit.” If they can, then maybe you are. If from 200 years away someone can look at your life and say “They tried. They were kind.” then maybe that’s something worth aspiring towards. I don’t know.

If you’re privileged, you get to think about this. You don’t have to worry (so much) about surviving until tomorrow. Staying safe. Getting food. Getting water. Not being attacked.

If you’re privileged enough to be able to think about this, to think about your death…maybe consider it once and a while. Maybe try not to be an asshole. And on the big things? The things worth remembering 200 years for now? Really try to think about where you stand.

You’re only gonna die.

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