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Day 23

Oh I'll tell you the meaning of your life. It's simple: what are you to do in the face of inevitable death?

There are many things to worry us in this riddled world of many colors, many questions, many pains. But this is the primal thing: the bristling, beastly thing, the only one worthy of losing sleep.

“Tell me," wrote Mary Oliver, "what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Have you ever read The Idiot? Dostoevsky wrote it, and the first half is the best book I have ever read (the theme is lost in the second half; Dostoevsky is nothing if not unreliably brilliant).

In the book, a man speaks of his mock execution (quite possibly autobiographical, as Dostoevsky experienced a mock execution in his youth). In the last five minutes before the firing squad, the world grows bright with its last gasp of life. The blade of his attention sharpens, illuminating the "gilded spire of a church," the men in their white tunics, the three posts where the criminals would be fastened to await the swift bullets.

Of course he was consumed with the terror of his impending death, but he was consumed with another thought that was perhaps even more terrifying: What if he were to live?

He thinks, “What an eternity of days, and all mine! How I should grudge and count up every minute of it, so as to waste not a single instant!’ He said that this thought weighed so upon him and became such a terrible burden upon his brain that he could not bear it, and wished they would shoot him quickly and have done with it.”

The burden of life's fearful multiplicity. He realized what we all must realize, that each moment pulses with a thousand seeds of possibility, waiting to burst the small sack of his still-pinked body, spill its contents to the hungry floor of earth. How many wasted lives can be crammed into a single body? And how are we to chose which life to live? These are the primal questions.

We can't always think of possibilities, or not a single one will translate into actuality.

But it's useful sometimes to remember: we are nothing if not a thousand seeds of creation, walking the thin blade between death and life (this thin blade is joy, to recognize the fragility of life).


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