Second blog post

Since all my classes are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Mondays are my homework day – which means Mondays are also my procrastination day.  And what better way to procrastinate than with a blog post?

Since my last and first post, a lot of music happened: two album launches with Marie-Claire Durand (Quebec City and Montreal), a showcase with Irem Bekter, a recording session with Damon Hankoff, a show in Quebec City with Sarah Slean, and a free jazz/country duo show in Ottawa with Craig Pedersen.  I also started a new part-time job at the McGill Music Library, working as a consultant in the computer lab (which I love!).

But since I don’t want this blog to be just about music, I won’t talk about all that, except to say that it’s been a wonderful month for music so far!!  Instead, I want this blog to be about whatever happens in my life that resonates with me enough to make me want to share it with others.  So today’s blog will be about death.

Last week, MC and I were having a normal conversation, and somehow the conversation turned to death.  I told her about a bunch of different (indirect) experiences I’ve had with death in the past, especially suicide.  The details aren’t important – what is important is that it was a beautiful and deep conversation about a very important (not to mention inevitable) part of life.

I feel very lucky that I’m the kind of person who can think deeply about uncomfortable subjects such as death.  I also feel very lucky that I’m not a person with suicidal tendencies, or with any imbalance that could trigger these tendencies.  Like everyone, I occasionally get depressed, but never dangerously so.  In fact, when I’m really depressed, one of the things that never fails to cheer me up is thinking about death.  My own death, I mean.

To be clear: I’m not religious – I believe that when we die, we’re dead.  I don’t believe in an afterlife, and I find this finality comforting.

The more I think about death and its immensity, its incomprehensibility, its infiniteness, the more I get out of my own head and realize that the things that are getting me down don’t really matter.  Even though this is how I’ve felt since I was quite young, I’ve learned that it’s one of the main teachings of Buddhism.  I don’t agree with a lot of their teachings, but the concept of impermanence is something I can really get behind.  Does anyone else remember when that Buddhist monk came to the art gallery in the Regina Public Library and made a Mandala?

Obviously, thinking about something and talking about it are two very different things, and even though I think a lot about this stuff, I don’t necessarily talk about it.  And just because I’m writing about it now doesn’t mean I will want to talk about it later.  I feel that one’s beliefs on the subject of death are as personal as religion and politics, two other things I think a lot about but rarely will talk about.  For some reason, I felt like sharing this today.

….

I just realized that it’s almost one year since my grandfather died (October 27, 2013).  Since there was no funeral or service of any kind (according to his wishes), I don’t think I’ve fully accepted it and dealt with it yet.  Maybe that’s why death is on my mind a lot lately.

Tsutomu “Tom” Yoshida, 1923-2013

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One comment

  1. Ryan

    I also like the perspective offered by accepting finality. I can understand why the concept of an afterlife is compelling, but it’s really just avoidance. And I’m certainly guilty of that in other ways. But the idea that I only get one shot at all this, and there won’t necessarily be time to correct things I regret, guides my decision-making process daily.
    Interestingly, I once participated in an experiment done by some neurosci students at UofT. I was part of the non-depressed control group (I think I was 23 years old, so it was before I had encountered that particular challenge), and there was a quick questionnaire to confirm that I belonged in that group. One of the questions the student interviewer asked me was “do you ever think about death?”
    “Sure,” I said.
    “W- uh, you do? How often?”
    “I don’t know, most days I guess.”
    “Uh… on average, how many times a week?”
    “On average, probably twice a day.”
    “[eyebrows raised] Twice a DAY?”
    “Yeah, that sounds right.”
    “O……….kay……… Have you ever, um…. ‘acted’ on these thoughts?”
    “Have I ever acted on my thoughts about death?”
    “Yes.”
    “Are you asking if I’ve died?”
    “No, um… have you ever…. um, have you ever taken any… steps? Because you wanted to die?”
    “Uh, what? I don’t want to die.”
    “You just said you think about death.”
    “Yeah, I think about death, not about killing myself!”
    “So what do you think about, when you think about death?”
    “I… think… about the fact that all living things will eventually cease to exist, and that includes me and you and everything else. How is that synonymous with suicide?”
    “It’s not, I guess, it’s just that the question is really getting at whether you have suicidal thoughts.”
    “Then you may want to re-word the question. That’s like asking someone if they eat meat and if they say yes it means they’re a cannibal.”
    Anyway I’ve since dealt with some depression (but thankfully, like you, nothing suicidal), so I worry that I may have skewed his results by being a nascent depressive… but then I think about this ridiculous conversation and I think maybe he wasn’t quite qualified to be doing whatever kind of research he was doing to begin with.

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