July 29, 2008

The inventory of mortality

Jeez...this is eerie. After waking up this morning, I uploaded my dad's pictures from the 1960s and sent out the mail with a link to the pictures to friends and family, I started my daily routine of surfing around: web-strolling, as a friend wonderfully put it. And two clicks from a Mary Oliver poem I used in my email to family, I land on an essay from May 2008 in the Guardian by (one of my) favorite authors, Ian McEwan.

And eerily it starts with talking about photographs. This excerpted quote really hit home, reflecting some of my feelings this morning!

As Susan Sontag put it, "photographs state the innocence, the vulnerability of lives heading towards their own destruction ..."

"Photography is the inventory of mortality. A touch of the finger now suffices to invest a moment with posthumous irony. Photographs show people being so irrefutably there and at a specific age in their lives; [they] group together people and things which a moment later have already disbanded, changed, continued along the course of their independent destinies."

The essay is about fundamentalism and apocalypse; with McEwan positing that "with the rise of religious fundamentalism, prophets of apocalypse have become a new and very real danger". This is something I would normally not even begin reading about this morning, but for it being written by someone whose writing I love... and yes...indeed...he delivers once again. Though the above excerpt are words from Susan Sontag, the first few paragraphs from McEwan are oh-so-wonderful. Who else could talk poetry and poets (Borges and Phillip Larkin) in writing about religious fundamentalism!

We are well used to reflections on individual mortality - it is the shaping force in the narrative of our existence. It emerges in childhood as a baffling fact, re-emerges possibly in adolescence as a tragic reality which all around us appear to be denying, then perhaps fades in busy middle life, to return, say, in a sudden premonitory bout of insomnia. One of the supreme secular meditations on death is Larkin's "Aubade":
... The sure extinction that we travel toAnd shall be lost in always. Not to be here,Not to be anywhere,And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

Nothing more terrible, nothing more true. I miss my dad.

No comments:

Not one more refugee death, by Emmy Pérez

And just like that, my #NPM2018 celebrations end with  a poem  today by Emmy Pérez. Not one more refugee death by Emmy Pérez A r...