Trout Fisting In America #14 – Death

You’re going to fucking die.

That’s not a threat. It’s just a biological fact. Everyone dies. Hell, it’s possible you might die before you even finish reading this. It’s possible I might die before I finish writing it and this has been posthumously edited in a way that my living self would find appalling.

Let me put it this way. You know the infant mortality rate people are always talking about? Well technically speaking, the infant mortality rate is 100%. Because all infants are eventually, given enough time, going to die. And as long as we’re on the subject, let me point out that if it weren’t for Chile, Mexico, Turkey, and Slovakia, the US would have the highest IMR in the civilized* world—our health care system is murderous and broken because, for all of our fear of Death, this society has absolutely no fear of killing.

(*It wasn’t my choice of words, but I’m going to leave it here just b/c I appreciate the irony in calling a country ‘civilized’ that allows people to needlessly die so stockholders can make a little more money off their investment.)

Either way, Death is coming for all of us (and if any word is going to get capitalized in this series, it’s going to be Death), and this terrifies us. So we we hate Death—along with its shadow, aging—the way we hate all the things we fear. I think if most people were to be honest about their personal goals, #1 would be ‘avoid Death for long as possible.’

Especially if you’re a kid. I’m guessing when the Make-A-Wish foundation tells the terminally kids they get to make a wish, being a ballerina for a night isn’t their first choice. Whenever I see a bald kid sitting in a MLB dugout, I figure his presence there was the result of some serious negotiations:

Kid: Wow! Any wish at all?
Make-A-Wish Rep: You bet, kid.
Kid: I guess my first wish would be…to not have cancer?
Make-A-Wish rep: Yeah, we can’t really do that one.
Kid: How about live long enough to graduate high school?
Make-A-Wish rep: Um…do you like baseball? I bet you like baseball. Tell me Aiden, who’s your favorite baseball player?

On the bright side, Death is the only thing in this world that’s fair, i.e. it happens to everyone. Though like most things American, even Death is racist and hates poor people, so it’s not completely fair, but you get the idea.

Some people might say I’m sick for talking about this, or even thinking about this, but when I look around it’s the people who can’t accept their mortality who seem sickest to me. They build these defense mechanisms of pleasure and wealth to distract themselves from the inevitable. I remember years ago sitting in the HR department of a fluorescent light factory in Americus, Ga. (and after 20 years of writing I still can’t spell the word fluorescent w/o help) during a job interview and seeing a poster behind the interviewer’s head that said ‘He Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins,’ and that poster has haunted me all this time even more than the year I spent working as a machine press operator in Americus, Ga. Because obviously you don’t win by having a lot of toys when you die—you’re dead. If anything, it was stupid to waste your time trying to accumulate toys (I should note that the ‘toy’ on his motivational poster was a picture of a speedboat). I get that this idea might be controversial at a time when  so many people use their bank accounts, or the size of their house, or the size of their car, as a way to keep score in some manufactured bullshit competition against their fellow human beings, but it’s true. So many of the sicknesses, the pathological fucked-up ideologies, of this society can be traced back to people’s inability to accept the inevitability of Death—their own Death, along with the Death of their loved ones.

And yet, and yet, imagine how crowded the planet would be right now if nobody ever died. Imagine a planet where 99.9% of the population were senior citizens just getting older and older, their flesh continuing to sag, their bodies continuing to decay. The idea is horrible, and not just because that means more people watching Fox News—or from the other political perspective, more people receiving medicare & social security. Death is what makes evolution possible. In a biological sense, the only reason we’re here is to reproduce and get the fuck out of the way for the next generation. Without Death humans would still be five feet tall, dragging our knuckles on the ground as we walked and cowering in fear at the next solar eclipse. The desire to live forever is selfish. It insists that your life is more valuable than the lives that will follow. It implies that we have no responsibility to anyone but ourselves, that society exists first & foremost as a tool to help us fulfill our material desires, that we are the most important person on the planet.

So yeah, like I was saying, pretty much all of our pathological sicknesses are rooted in a fear of Death…

Many people, almost all of them simple-minded hypocrites, like to call themselves pro-life. Me, as I get older, I find myself becoming more and more pro-Death. And on some days, when my mood is black and I’m consumed by loathing both universal & self-, I’m so pro-Death that it almost makes my gums bleed.

Because in the end we’re just a bunch of organs and tissues, a body that will eventually be skullfucked by worms and fertilize some soil to help the grass grow so the cows can get bigger & stronger and my children can eat the cows. We call this euphemistically the great cycle of life, but the great cycle of Death is every bit as true and sounds like a way healthier perspective.

By the way, I have no illusions about how this all ends for me. I’m married. I love my partner dearly—she’s my best friend, soulmate, etc. Still, the best case scenario ends with one of us watching the other die. You say, but wait Scott, you could die together, like in a plane crash or something, Yeah, except we went and had a kid, which means that particular best case scenario now results in our son losing both of  his parents simultaneously.

The only way for me to avoid this gruesome scenario (watching my partner die, or my partner watching me die) would have been to die alone, never having loved, never—in a real sense—ever having lived. And back in high school, when I started really thinking deeply about Death, it didn’t take long to conclude that the best thing to do was make the most of your time here. Create lots of great memories and maybe leave something behind so people could remember you. Because immortality doesn’t happen when you ascend to heaven and St. Peter opens the gates for you (I seriously can’t believe people believe this shit), immortality happens when you’re remembered, when your grandchildren tell stories about you.

This week, my 2-year-old wants to be a firefighter when he grows up. So I tell him the story of Bill Bussey, my great-grandfather who died long before I was born. Grampa Bussey was a firefighter in Brockton and was a local hero—pronounced dead a half-dozen times, the kind of guy who even when he wasn’t working still rushed to a fire to help out. He also, from some of the stories I heard,  sounded a bit like a violent lunatic, but, you know, so weren’t most of my relatives. Regardless, as I talked about him, Bill Bussey was as alive in that moment as any of Noam’s living relatives. Our time spent on this earth can be spent accumulating wealth, or it can be spent leaving a spiritual inheritance for others. I never got any cash from Grampa Bussey, but hearing stories about him instilled a belief in me that I too could be a hero.

And if this series of essays is about anything, it’s about me becoming a hero to millions through my vulgar insights & poetic hate.

I don’t know. My kid will probably be glad I wrote it though, assuming he ever learns to read. Hi kid! It was great knowing you! If I’m not haunting you, that means ghosts don’t exist! Because if I existed in a spiritual realm and possessed any sentient faculties whatsoever, you’d better believe I’d come visit!

 

Trout Fisting In America appears every Tuesday right here at this site. We’re going to keep going until we reach #50, or until the Trout begs for mercy. Check out previous installments HERE.

About ScottCreney

Scott Creney lives in Athens, Georgia. He is the author of "Dear Al-Qaeda: Letters to the World’s Most Notorious Terror Organiztion".
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