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What if you knew...

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

What if you knew what you’d die of and when and where and who would be there? Would you avoid those places? Would you protect yourself from all danger? Would you try to somehow defeat this knowing? Or, would you walk forward willingly into the fate that was determined for you? Would you disbelieve it? Would you live more consciously? More kindly? Would you slow down? speed up? Would you learn to tap dance? Meditate? Would you quit jogging, dieting? What committees would you resign from? Or, would you finally volunteer to join one because after all you DO want to influence things before you die? Is there a trip you’d take or a restaurant you’ve always wanted to eat in? Or, would you go off on your own to sort out the path to your death?

Of course, we’re on that road right now as I write and you read these words. Is my happiness about not knowing the particulars of my death a protection? If I don’t know, it is easier to stay on the mindless path of the status quo…

There is a Buddhist exercise where you get yourself a toy dagger and you keep it in your belt for a week – a ready reminder that death can always be at hand. Or, at least the awareness of it can.

Here is a poem from Ellen Bass about all this…


What if you knew you'd be the last to touch someone? If you were taking tickets, for example, at the theater, tearing them, giving back the ragged stubs, you might take care to touch that palm, brush your fingertips along the life line's crease.

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase too slowly through the airport, when the car in front of me doesn't signal, when the clerk at the pharmacy won't say Thank you, I don't remember they're going to die.

A friend told me she'd been with her aunt. They'd just had lunch and the waiter, a young gay man with plum black eyes, joked as he served the coffee, kissed her aunt's powdered cheek when they left. Then they walked half a block and her aunt dropped dead on the sidewalk.

How close does the dragon's spume have to come? How wide does the crack in heaven have to split? What would people look like if we could see them as they are, soaked in honey, stung and swollen, reckless, pinned against time?

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