A Personal Apocalypse
I loved learning about all the various forms of art in a 10-hour art history class while in college. I took the class in my junior year. I enjoyed the experience so much that Louie Palmer, my professor, hired me, in my senior year, as his teaching assistant. Art is a major part of my life.
When I was in college, I was fascinated by Albrecht Dürer’s The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It is a woodcut done in 1498 in Germany.
However, that was years ago when I was a fair-haired youth. In the twilight years of my life, I have a different perspective. I have done the dance twice with death. Fortunately, on both occasions, I was able to lead death on life’s dance floor. Nonetheless, I am very sensitive to the situation of death in general and my death in particular. I grasp the truth that death is riding toward us and will catch up with us sooner or later.
Interestingly, I watched Stephen Cave’s lecture on TED about death. Cave said of death, “We each live in the shadow of a personal apocalypse.” I know that reality all too well, which is one of the blessings of doing the dance. Cave reviewed the manner that humans have faced their personal apocalypse in various ways.
Over the millennia, we have attempted to discover the fountain of youth. Immortality was an issue for ancient alchemists or present-day science. When that attempt failed, some bought into resurrection. For example, Christianity has offered up hope for life beyond death. Again, science is addressing resurrection through cryonics in our time. Then there is the issue of the body dies, but the soul lives on. Finally, Cave deals with Achilles who sacrifices himself for the sake of the Greeks who were fighting the Trojans in Homer’s Odyssey.
Cave questions each of the four possibilities and the various combinations of them. I agree with his critique of any feasible attempt to fluent the reality of death. However, having come close to death, I have a very intense sensitivity to my finiteness. Intellectually, we all know that death will ultimately win as it dances with us. However, we know that truth from a remote and clinical perspective. Fall off a ladder and windup in two different hospitals for seven weeks and remember only the last week and a half in a rehab hospital.
That traumatic dance with death benefited me more than most people can fathom. I realized the wondrous gift. If you haven’t done the dance, you will have to wait until you do to grasp what all the dances have said in the past. This is a short list of known dancers. Randy Pausch, John Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Miguel Cervantes, Kurt Vonnegut, Steve Jobs, Alan Seeger, John Donne, Oliver Sacks, Saul Alinsky, Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, Alexander the Great, Christopher Reeve, Tom Brokaw, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and William Forrester.
Randy Pausch said, while he was dying of pancreatic cancer, a message that we all need to address.
Whether or not you have done the dance, realize that your clock is ticking. Carpe diem. Share with others. Help those in need.
Stephen Cave’s video about death and therefore life.
Visit the Dancing with Death page to read more about this topic.
Visit the The Last Lecture page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Connecting the Dots page to read more about this topic.
Visit the On Seeing the Light page to read more about this topic.