Neil Young, Pocahontas and Me

Aug 6th, 2012 | By | Category: Articles

To the wise they are the ambrosial hours, the still moments before dawn when you awaken and use the silence to direct your mind to the contemplation of God, truth, salvation. Quiet time, study time, life examined, cosmic me time, a one-to-one with the Creator as the shallowness of your transient reality gives way to the apprehension and glory of Divine Majesty. Readings from the Granth Sahib or the Book of Genesis, Gita or Grimoire, all grist to the divine mill My life shall be a living sacrament of praise, wonderment and faithfulness.

But the still moments before dawn are rarely ambrosial to me. Groping for the switch on the bedside light, drowsy from a beer-induced sleep and in need of a piss, I stumble across the room as my mind, semi-detached in the visible darkness, visits once again the nemesis that awaits us all. Four o’clock in the morning. What’s it like to die? The question isn’t summoned voluntarily. It lurks in the recess of my mind like an unwelcome lodger, frightened of daylight and quotidian it ambushes my consciousness, sniper-like in the shadows. What’s it like to die? Is it really an awakening into the Light? Let’s hope so, what better fate could await us than to be enwrapped in the warming redemption of love. A final, enduring acceptance; a deity, or one of her messengers, greeting you in a cloudless void and saying Yeah, you cocked it up but don’t worry, it’s all forgiven.

My hope for heaven, the Summer Lands, the Afterlife, is not balanced by a reciprocal fear of an underworld. It used to be and it used to manifest in a vague uneasiness that lasted through my teenage years. I wasn’t a God-botherer but I saw every temptation from illicit sex to soft drugs not as experiment or opportunity but as a veering off the pilgrim path to a place I didn’t want to visit. Thinking back, though, I guess there are benefits to the concept of Hell. I never smoked cannabis and I never got the clap, although it seems alien to me now to imagine that an Old Man in the Sky (and a seemingly kind Old Man at that) would look down at what I was doing and pitch-fork me into a furnace for such peculiar indiscretions. No, Hell can’t be right; eternal damnation for a temporal misunderstanding or a Faustian gamble gone wrong. I’m not having that; I demand nothing less than justice tinged with mercy, with an emphasis on the latter in my case.

Some people don’t seem to care about continuing. Carbon I was and carbon I will be again, like so much dross shovelled into a cosmic recycling bin and reconstituted as something inanimate and non-essential. The idea doesn’t fill me with contentment. Some find solace in the idea of death as a final resting point… an eternal dreamless sleep? Christ, you can’t imagine how much I hate that platitudinous shite. You’d have to be a complete idiot to find comfort in the idea of a sleep from which you never awoke… waking is the point of sleeping; it is the moment that defines it. But I can’t deny that there’s a contradiction in there somewhere, oblivion should fill me with despair but instead it makes me panic, lying in bed with my head on a sweat-soaked pillow. Faced with finality I yearn for distraction. Day-break exists only as a memory, sunrise is an hour away.

Sanakara’s, advaita, non-dualism, is that the end that awaits us? A return to the vast and emotionless Brahman with personality extinguished as we glimpse through maya to the reality on the other side. I would say that’s delusional. I’m a part of God but don’t know it and when I do know it my ego is extinguished. Yeah, really? You think I’d believe that for a second? You think I’d want that for my fate? If we’re straying into Eastern philosophy then Madhva is my man… I want to taste sugar, not be sugar.

Slowly, calmness begins to wash over me, the panic subsiding. I don’t know why. I guess it’s like coming through a panic attack. There’s a limited amount of adrenalin to fuel the fear. When it’s used up the questions seem less to overwhelm me. Saved by biology.

The morning brings the promise of a busy day and as the sun rises my release from death is complete…. the metaphor does not escape me. The morning will be a pleasant one, demanding my attention; coffee and the rain on the window, a dog to walk, emails to answer and life that seems endless, until tonight, of course, with questions burning bright in the camp fire of the soul.

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