After Before and After
Physicians who sign autopsy reports, listing a person’s cause of death as unknown, attribute their momentary ignorance to the blind spots of science, which will one day come into view. Eventually every cause of death will be known, in most cases well before the death. It is only that we now live in a curious time when some things cannot be known until after they happen. One imagines that years from now this will be viewed as a touching limitation to our way of life: having to wait for something to happen, like a mother’s death, in order to know about it. People won’t be able to imagine being so docile and patient as we are today, obsessing over the distinction between old-fashioned notions of before and after. They will love us tenderly for waiting around for our mothers to die, for being victims of time, but they will also feel superior to us, and some of them will make a cogent argument that in many ways we were not so different from animals in our ignorance, worthy of tremendous respect, but animals just the same.
— Ben Marcus, Watching Mysteries With My Mother, from his collection Leaving the Sea