On Mortality, Terror, And 1984
Or how we practiced oblivion before we even began
In 1984, I didn’t exist.
I don’t mean that in the sense of being relevant, of being known. I mean it in the sense of existing. There was no me, no consciousness, no presence. There was no space made, no attention given, no requirement to be provided for. The things I am passionate about, noise and colour and design and equal rights and truly terrible dance music; they weren’t the grain of an idea in the minds of my parents, or their parents, or their parents.
Simply put, I wasn’t.
A few weeks ago, I woke up in a cold sweat, terrified, because one day I’ll die. I describe myself as an atheist, so I don’t think anything will happen. In fact, I believe pretty strongly that nothing will happen. And for some reason, at 4am in a Center Parcs in England, the idea of that struck me as very real, and very wrong. Unnatural and terrifying. Clear and cruel and cold and crippling. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t sleep. It was overwhelming, and I clung to my pillows, a life raft adrift. A sinking ship.
Years ago, when my best mate died, my therapist recommended a book to me, Staring At The Sun. In it was a really great analogy, which I’m going to absolutely butcher. The idea was that we, our consciousness’, our souls, fall between two voids. One is pre-oblivion, and one is post-oblivion. The middle is everything. Our lives, our friends, our achievements, our hopes and dreams and goals and ambitions. Us.
And for the entire middle, we panic about the post-oblivion. The bit after.
But we never panic about 1984. We never worry about the time before we existed, the million years of history that preceded the moment of our birth, of our middle.
I am still scared of the after, of death, of a universe without me. But in a way, we practice death every night when we sleep. We slip away, and we experience nothingness, an absence, a glorious silence. A freedom. A space.
We are, for those hours, nothing.
Perhaps 1984 isn’t so bad. And perhaps it won’t be again.