IN THE END, death is going to be democratic while sweeping all of us off our feet.
Coming to grips with mortality has been no sweat with the recent news about a dear friend's tragic end. Devastated, utterly am. But death, ironically, also breeds and spurs an avenging appetite to live fully, aflame with beauty and meaning in the light of her loveliness, warmth, creative fire and courage to stake a place under her own sun.
Thus William Blakes waxes immortal: Ah, sunflower, weary of time,/ Who countest the steps of the sun;/ Seeking after that sweet golden clime/ Where the traveller's journey is done..." In that spirit, hereunder is a reprint of my recent opinion column in Sun.Star Cebu (July 10, 2007):
An assassin’s bullets and the ravages of cancer have long doomed John Lennon and George Harrison, true. But as long as you crank up the volume, there’s no stopping them from crooning and cuing us to nod with a head-bang against the world and its every blight: “…and I say it’s all right.”
Some songs, like Here Comes the Sun, are sure-fire weapons for fine-tuning one’s inner weather.
To play or sing it now here in America, however, entails a streak of dark humor. As the temperature goes over the top with a swathe of heat waves, wildfires have gone on a rampage across the West— California, Nevada, South Dakota, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon—scorching the woods along the way.
No holds barred, too, are those burning President Bush’s effigy after he sent American troops to the inferno in Iraq and made ashes out of more than 3,500 lives so far. With many Americans in the mood to haul him out of his hot seat and kick him all the way to Baghdad, yes, it would be a holiday for its horde of suicide bombers.
The heat is on, indeed, for the party of the pessimists with all its sound and fury:
The silent spread of global warming. The blood-curdling screams in Darfur, Rwanda and Bosnia. The chorus of last breath from hunger, AIDS and other sickness in Africa’s heart of darkness.
It’s an endless night, if not the end of the world, for many people on Earth where the sun always rises for rotten politics and puss-drenched policies. Along come the vile and violent always, like refrains in a song.
“And I say it’s all right,” insists the Beatles. Never mind if the primetime news and tabloids conspire for Pollyanna to turn a deaf ear to the sun-lit lilt of songs. Or the orchestra of God’s allusions at the end of Job’s lamentations.
Don’t fret, avers the Death Clock, “the Internet's friendly reminder that life is slipping away.” Might as well stick one’s tongue out at the Grim Reaper who will have the last laugh anyway. And so welcome to When-Will-You-Die.com, the online quiz “that tells you when your will die!” After answering the quiz and a consumer survey, one will receive “a death percentage score and a cleverly worded response.” Or, log in at TheHeavenOrHellQuiz.com, “a website dedicated to helping you answer Life's tough questions… whether or not you are going to Heaven or Hell.”
Tongue-in-cheek, indeed, does this dot-com generation makes mincemeat and thumbs down at Death. Or tweaks its nose. As if it suffices enough to pinch away the pain, or flick off the festering despair.
“People living deeply have no fear of death,” wrote Anais Nin whose words my friend Ana Escalante-Neri used to wade through.
Living deeply was how Ana, a scuba diver, lovingly stretched the limit of her own available light against the dark she alone can fathom, whether through her immersion in poetry and photography. Or through the rainbow of her roles as mother, lover, wife, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, and self-confessed “barefoot traveler.”
As a student, Ana once played the guitar in a band. If she opted not to pursue playing music, it could be one of the choices she knew was worth taking. Something along the line of what she wrote in one her columns in Sun.Star Weekend Magazine: “I’ve learned to discern which freedom I can take and which I have to let go. But I will take what I can take.”
In life, indeed, she had the courage of a firefly, fragile while defying the dark night. May she bask under the sun of God’s mercy and rest at last in peace. And for us who mourn our loss, may we have the grace and grit to hope, despite our grief and after all our questions, “it’s all right.”