Every time I start writing a book I imagine it will be my last. That I will be dead before it’s finished or shortly thereafter. Somehow I need this fantasy to convince myself to start writing. To make the book I am starting feel important, not just one more in an endless series of the same. So now, as I begin writing this book, I once again imagine it will be the last. That if I make it to the end I will be making it to my end as well. I suppose we all need fantasies in order to help us get things done.
It goes without saying that everyone eventually dies. But, for the most part, it is stated only occasionally. It’s somehow not profound. If only one person died, and everyone else lived forever, that one death would be a spectacular event. However, the startling frequency makes it, in one sense, unremarkable, though in another sense it overwhelms us with its one-of-a-kind intensity. It is often said that human life is sacred and I’m never quite sure what precisely is meant by this sentiment. People die all the time, in war and through every kind of societal neglect. Perhaps saying that life is sacred is just another way of saying: I don’t want to die.
But if you are reading this, and I am writing it, neither of us is dead yet. Life remains an ongoing concern. We must continue to figure out how to live it. I have often noticed that I find it enormously difficult to experience meaning. This difficulty might be described as cynicism or pessimism or depression, but I am almost certain it is something else, though I don’t quite know what. Perhaps I’ll know by the end of this book. Or perhaps this is only another half-promise I’ll find myself unable to keep.