On my deathbed, take I and take II
English: Vincent van Gogh on his deathbed Français : Vincent van Gogh sur son lit de mort Русский: Винсент ван Гог на смертном одре (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I'm on my deathbed. Family and close friends are with me, sending me off on that final journey. "Do you have any last words?" Someone asks? I think about what to say. Should I express regret? Should I try for something that passes for wisdom? Or should I stop imagining that I'm on my deathbed (this is really happening in my imagination) and get to work in real life so that when I'm on my actual deathbed, I'd have better things to say?
I'm on my deathbed. Family and close friends are with me. And I say:
"One day I imagined being on my deathbed. And I imagined being asked to say something. And I wasn't crazy about what I'd have to say. So I changed the trajectory of my life. Every day, starting with the day that I first imagined being here, I did something so that being here would be a better experience. I mean it's inevitable that it will happen. I know that. And it's going to suck. I know that, too. But it's not inevitable _how_ it will happen. So on that day, (this day) I decided to make it a better experience.
"That's why, on that day, I decided to do things that would make that future day a better day. And as a byproduct, that would make the days intervening better. What I wanted to be able to say on that day was this:
"I'd learned a lot, over the course of my life, and I'd reduced some of them to a form that would outlast me. But I realized, as I thought about this day, that most of what I've learned would have died with me. And I didn't want that. I was going to die, but knowledge is a living thing, too, and knowledge and ideas have a better shot at immortality.
"I realized that some of what I knew would inevitably die when I died. But some I could preserve. And I that day (this day) I resolved that I would do that.
"I've always felt that my life purpose was to gain knowledge and to pass that knowledge on. And as I contemplated that future day, the day that has finally arrived, I felt that I'd failed in my purpose. That was the feeling. The reality is that I had not failed. I'd just done a sucky job relative to what I honestly believed myself capable of.
"So I rededicated myself to my purpose. I started writing what I knew, and publishing what I wrote. I resolved to be like Alexander Hamilton: 'Why does he write like he's running out of time? Writes day and night, like he's running out of time?'
"There's always more to do, always more to write about. You never stop learning--until you die. And now it's...
ARGH. ARGH. Cough, cough. Wheeze.
Really, you all know me. How the fuck do you expect me to end a maudlin scene like that one?
See you on the other side.