Navel-Gazing on NEVER and Mortality

    From flickr.com: Never {VID-176964}  

    Have you ever surveyed cars whizzing past you on a highway and realized you’d never meet any of the drivers? Never. This “never” applies to souls you pass on busy city sidewalks as well and where else?

              NEVER pervades our reality. We will NEVER know its ultimate nature. Where do we really come from? Theories abound. Was there ever really NOTHING?

         What we do know is miraculous—mathematics, for example, which defines infinity in its own way and entails many other forms of NEVER, including irrational numbers like pi, whose decimal places never end. Math is a cell at the tip of a fingertip of what there is to know. Among other things, we won’t last long enough to learn enough to get around the infinite forms of infinity because we’re busy self-destructing. Someone must emerge to combat that as a unit—probability implies the possibility, but beyond that, there is sadly evidence that many civilizations comparable to ours throughout the universe have already self-destroyed.

         Isn’t it amazing that astronomers have figured that out from microscopic specks found by their telescopes? Mars is yielding up that secret about itself, scientists say.

         The most erudite people on Earth don’t even come close to knowing everything, which a classmate of mine accused me of back in first grade. I was Marta-Smarta, but brushed off that compliment.

         Even Goethe didn’t know everything, though he encompassed the sciences, humanities, and arts. It’s all one lump really, all of those thirds we segregate. Someday they’ll be of a piece if we can send the Doomsday Clock backwards.


    Then there are all the people we’ve met and even known well whom we’ll never see again. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s sad. Facebook is great for looking them up without contacting them to find out what they’re up to. Google works, too, though most of us share names with several others, entailing a long and daunting search.

         And speaking of childhood, way back when, I challenged Death to a fight and lost. I would squeeze my eyes shut and exhort time to stop: “Now’s now and it’s going to stay now!” It never did. I got old. Consciousness, so ephemeral. Marta the child was so scared of Death sometimes she couldn’t sleep at night and would run down the steps to her parents sitting in the living room watching television. They warmly allowed me to stay without asking what was wrong. I didn’t dare tell them. Angst. 

         This child also found herself pitying her family’s garage door because it lacked consciousness. Never would it have an ‘Ich.’ Pity mixed with grappling absurdity. Again: the disease of ‘Never’ that plagues us all, more or often less.

         There’s always belief in an afterlife and any number of people who swear to it through firsthand experience. I drift in and out of that security. It’s possible.

         Somewhere out in the universe, other beings may know what we never will. I want to know all that. NEVER will. I coexist with my own infinities—the universes that may inhabit my fingertips, the infinite amount of knowledge I’ll never have.           

         Again, others out there in telescope-land and beyond may know everything.

         Is that a consolation? 


    I lived in Atlanta during my senior year in high school, for just a year. As I was moving on, the city was building its rapid-transit system, MARTA. I took comfort that everyone I knew there would be using my name in casual conversation for a long time to come and for at least part of that time might think of me at each mention of it. But the few times I rode on MARTA, no one thought it all remarkable that I was named Marta when I announced it. Once I told a driver my name and asked if I could ride for free. “Get on,” he said so dismissively that I paid. Another time I turned to a woman sitting next to me and told her my name. “My name is Jane,” she responded pleasantly. We chatted on—another stranger I’d never see again.

         I once wrote:                                

    Death of a sudden peered / Through the drift of melody /  “Boo, remember me?” he leared …

    I forget the rest—the meter abruptly expanded into longer lines--but death still interrupts my routines and rituals and busy-ness during the day.

         Boo! Being an Earthling isn’t easy. Stay busy and physically active so you can sleep at night.

         All the thinking and studying in the world won’t transcend what we know and can know. But they will try. Even I have always tried.

         I’m going to watch television and forget about it for half an hour.



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