Tomorrow afternoon we were walking near Walden Pond, and my sweetheart began to talk about the evergreens. She said: Notice how all the other trees in our neighborhood lose their leaves in winter—this signifies that all humans must eventually meet death; yet, since the evergreen keeps its leaves year-round, it symbolizes immortality.
When our cult’s leader died, we believers entered a state of denial: Our leader is as immortal as the evergreen, we cried. And, to signify this conviction, we began to display that tree in an annual ceremony. Now my sweetheart noticed a most fitting aspect of our denial ritual: We chop down the evergreen to celebrate our leader’s immortality—but this act of chopping is what ultimately kills the tree. So I am happy to know the holy day’s true meaning: Poetry is forever, until it becomes religion.
I don’t want this entry to end on a positive note, so I’ll continue recording my thoughts without any plan…
The smallest parts of matter—what are they called now: atoms? No, I think in the olden days they were atoms… now they’re like quarks or neutrinos or photons or something. The answer keeps changing—not because The Scientist Who Created Our World failed to fix it on a sturdy foundation (although it’s hard to prove that’s not the case); rather, humankind’s promethean spirit keeps teaching itself to invent more effective matter-slicers.
I’ve said all of this before: I’m sure that I’ve remade these exact observations—this diary is just a place where I can keep mulling over the same thoughts… I’m obsessed with a few things, the way an old hermit might be obsessed with whatever landed him in his hermitage… or like an ex obsessed with a long-lost love. One of my obsessions is death, and it always sends me down this well-worn path of wondering: that’s why I began by questioning matter’s makeup… I operate on assumptions—I assume that the smallest particle would be the most essential… or maybe the wildest or most elusive particle is the most essential… anyway, I want to tame this elemental substance with a name, so that I can ask: Does [name] decay? …and what I’m really trying to get at is: Does [name] expire?
Because if we mortals are made up of bits of subatomic matter, and these bits are also mortal, then do our bits all die with us when we die? Simultaneously, I mean? …It doesn’t seem that this is the case: it seems that the life of the body is dependent upon the functioning of all (or most) of its subatomic ingredients—the body is like a harmony that consists of many notes—and if a certain amount of its ingredients malfunction, the body dies; yet the bits that comprise it still continue for a spell… I should say: at least a spell. The bits seem to have a life of their own. The separate lives of all the bits combine to make the life of the mortal body; and since we individual mortals are our body, we know that we decay, we expire, we die—but what if the bits that make us up are death-proof?
Look what happens when a chicken receives the sacrament of decapitation: his head is dead, yet his legs are still running around at the shopping mall, taking advantage of last-minute sales to purchase Christmas gifts on credit card. The Farmer Who is the God of This World manufactured the chicken like a wristwatch, with parts that take a licking but keep on ticking.
If a subsection of one’s body can keep going after the guillotine has fallen… then what? I’m trying to open up a realm of speculation: The line between life and death is unclear, sometimes fuzzy… exactly how indistinct can we make this line? Might our notions of life and death be as subjective as our opinions on good and bad art?
In order to make intelligible my judgment about the goodness or badness of an artwork, I must establish a given. The given is not like gravity, which acts on us foemen whether or not we like it—but I have to create my given, and you must accept it of your own accord, as if it had been decreed by The Heavenly Labworkers.
For instance, if I state as given that all headless horsemen make bad art, then it would be wrong to call the aforesaid savior (the one on the chopping block) a born-again chicken. Not even Yahweh, that ancient lord among the gods, can make breath enter back into a barnyard fowl, so as to resurrect the creature… No, not even three days after a great fish—manufactured specifically for the purpose—has consumed his meal, and all that is left is the wishbone, can Ezekiel 37 lay sinews upon the dry remains, and bring up flesh upon them, and cover the wishbone again with a fresh coat of skin, and blow the breath of life back into its beak (do birds have nostrils?)— …Only Science can sew the head back onto the body. This law is due to the obscure wording of the watchmakers’ instruction video. Or manual, rather—they don’t yet have a video. That given awaits us after the spoilers ahead.
In summary, the particles that comprise living creatures are eternal. Everything mortal is made from undying elements. So death is a joke, because life is just a subatomic business agreement. Do we mourn and attend a funeral when a multinational corporation disbands? Far less should we bewail the death of a saint. One’s birth, on the other hand…
I’m sorry that I couldn’t find something more interesting to talk about—I can’t stop repeating my take on this because it feels like a sham… I’m obsessed with my old flame. But the holidays are here: a white blanket of snow covers the town, and people are rosy-cheeked and in high spirits: smiling, skiing, snowshoeing… Perhaps peace on earth will result when the enlightened one descends upon our nativity scene to teach us new techniques in meditation…
When I wrote the words “nativity scene” just now, I was thinking of the set of plastic figurines that I saw in the back yard of a nearby duplex. The inert worshipers were positioned in a semicircle around a manger, and the Christ Child was hollow with a lightbulb inside like a jack-o’-lantern.