On Mortality

Categories: guest author

The other day as I was stepping out of Star Grocery on Claremont Avenue with some pork ribs under my arm, the Berkeley sky cloudless, a smell of jasmine in the air, a car driving by with its window rolled down, trailing a sweet ache of the Allman Brothers' "Melissa," it struck me that in order to have reached only the midpoint of my life I will need to live to be 92. That's pretty old. If you live to be ninety-two, you've done well for yourself. I'd like to be optimistic, and I try to take care of my health, but none of my grandparents even made it past 76, three killed by cancer, one by Parkinson's disease. If I live no longer than any of them did, I have at most thirty years left, which puts me around sixty percent of the way through my time.


I am comfortable with the idea of mortality, or at least I always have been, up until now. I never felt the need to believe in heaven or an afterlife. It has been decades since I stopped believing-a belief that was never more than fitful and self-serving to begin with-in the possibility of reincarnation of the soul. I'm not totally certain where I stand on the whole "soul" question. Though I certainly feel as if I possess one, I'm inclined to disbelieve in its existence. I can live with that contradiction, as with the knowledge that my time is finite, and growing shorter by the day. It's just that lately, for the first time, that shortening has become perceptible. I can feel each tiny skyward lurch of the balloon as another bag of sand goes over the side of my basket.



Are you comfortable with the idea of mortality? What's your definition of the "soul"? Does it exist?

Editor's Note: Michael Chabon is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. His latest book, Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son, has been hailed as "a charming collection" that is "candid, warm and humorous."


by Hotpen on ‎10-06-2009 10:47 AM

My own mortality has haunted me since I was a child, literally leaving me wide awake at night in a panic. I'm not believer in any formalized gods, but the idea of eternal nothingness scared me to no end. Oddly enough, that fear has diminished somewhat since the birth of my children. If I can raise them to be productive, happy, and responsible adults (a tall order, I know!), I'll feel a little better about taking that final step out into parts unknown.


Thanks for the great post!

by KCSullivan on ‎10-06-2009 01:30 PM

  I can vividly recall the moment when I realized that my own life was finite. Iwas 12 years old and had just finished reading 'The Diary of Ann Frank'.  This was 1966 and the Holocoust was not taught in schools as a rule. It was certainly never mentioned in my Catholic parochial elementary school. I actually went to the family encyclopedia to see if what I had just read was true. To my horrified, still childlike, eyes I discovered that it was and saw my first terrible images. I was haunted for months. Afraid to sleep I would stay awake and sing aloud to myself. This really helped my family's image of me as the 'odd' one. My repetoire included everything from Silent Night to The Ballad of the Green Berets...uhmmm perhaps m family had a point. In any event, it was a book that triggered my awareness of that 'undiscovered country' . I no longer need to sing myself to sleep. Perhaps I have just become used to the idea of all of this...ending.

Thank you Michael Chabon for this great post and of couse for years and years of wonderful books.

-Kathlene sullivan

by Fae-Kieran on ‎10-06-2009 01:48 PM

   I may not be your average person, and my heritage and religion gives me a unique pespective on life and an even more unigue look on death. It is human nature to all be afraid of when we are going to die. I dont think years and years of ideas literally drilled into us could change that fact. No matter who, what, or how you believe the dieing part of death is scary. Espcially if you know when its going to happen. However, Death itself is part of the wheel. The full circle of everyones life. We all must go through it and we all must face it. Death is just a way point on the journey our souls take. Yes, I believe in souls, and I believe that there is someplace for us to go when we die. Be it reincarnated, Or to rest in eternal peace in a "Heaven-like" place. I do not chose to believe in a place where we will be tormented for our sins, and I do not believe in Divine retribution. I do believe in a ruling divine force that watches over the universe but do not think he/she is a judgemental or wrathful being. If we are so it's children like almost every religion states, than it would want to care for us even if we do not love or care for it.
  I can honestly say, I have never stayed awake at night and been afraid of my own Mortality, even now. I know and have accepted it into my life.  Being only 19, I think that I am afraid of not being able to live if I were to die tomorrow. But, I dont think I would fear being dead.


 Blessed be

Fae Kieran

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