It is with a heavy heart that I sit here and ponder on this installation of Manic in Manila. I want to write about something lighthearted, something inspiring, something humorous; heck, even about something cheesy. But I find that I cannot. The hour is late and my cat desperately tries to catch my attention with an array of antics and a miscellany of mischievous misdeeds.
But I cannot move past this heaviness I feel.
My thoughts keep drifting back to current events – the recent, ever-rising body count of indiscriminate killings by trigger-happy, power-crazed policemen in the name of Digong and Drugs. I am particularly troubled by the death of a 17-year-old boy, who, by eyewitness accounts and community consensus, was a good boy who was, perchance, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Has life really become THAT meaningless on these islands? When people drop faster than flies at the mercy of the mindless machinations of madmen, you have to wonder. Does life even mean anything, anymore?
It is saddening, sickening, and way more than slightly infuriating – but all these sentiments are for another discussion. This commentary is not a political one – it is more encompassing than that. For, if I dwell on the oft-opportunistic and self-serving nature of police, politics, and politicians, I fear I will end up a basket case.
My cat continues to brat it up to the hilt, clawing at my ankles, tugging at my bedroom slippers – my mind remains on serious matters, nonetheless: matters of mortality, because mortality matters. Or, at least it should. Otherwise, we waste or lives away.
Death and taxes
“Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” We all know how the adage goes. Many a writer and poet have uttered the line declaring – decrying? – the certainty of these grim realities, in a world in which everything else seems so horribly uncertain.
This rather fatalistic and more than slightly pessimistic maxim draws on the inevitability of death to point out the futility of avoiding the burden of taxes. The statement, or a variation thereof, was first attributed to Daniel Defoe, in The Political History of the Devil, 1726, in which he said: “Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed.”
The most popular version, perhaps, is credited to Benjamin Franklin, who used the phrase in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789, which was re-printed in The Works of Benjamin Franklin in 1817: “’In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
By a stretch of parallelism, then, can we liken the Tax Collector to the Grim Reaper? Hmmm…fodder for thought, tell you…fodder for thought. Selah.
Then there is that famous line from Margaret Mitchell’s well-loved 1936 classic, Gone with the Wind: “Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.”
Whatever your religion (or lack thereof), political leaning, upbringing, social standing, educational attainment, echelon in life, etcetera: death will certainly come. And it will most likely be inconvenient; if not for you, for those left to deal with the repercussions of your demise.
This is not an exercise in the morose, mind you – despite my current state of Melancholy in Manila. Perhaps, it is simply a reality check.
Skulls and bones
Here is where things get interesting – and ironically where they all tie in and take a turn for the less melancholic. Hang in there; there is a lesson here, I promise!
True; you and I never know when we will be knocking on Heaven’s Door, after all. Hopefully, most likely, not at the hands of evil “enforcers” of the “law.” But the fact remains factual: somehow, somewhere, we will look our own finiteness right in the eyes. And there is no looking away.
The reality of our mortality is something of which I remind myself daily. Why? Beyond the reason of “’coz I’m a Goth-girl, like that,” it helps me live each day to the fullest. Ironic that the reality of death and its certainty is what propels me to live life to the best that I can.
For this reason, I am fascinated with skulls and bones – I have to have this design on most everything I own; from fashion to furniture, and everything in between. These bits of dark art serve to remind me that I won’t be around forever – so while I am, I better make it count for something.
The point being…
I said all that to say this: LIVE YOUR LIFE, BECAUSE ONE DAY, YOU WILL NO LONGER BE ABLE TO. Plain and simple, in a nutshell – mortality defined.
I hope that 17-year-old Kian lived out his short life to the fullest. I hope he had many days of laughter, and that heartache was not his friend. I hope that he was surrounded by those dearest to his heart, and that those moments were often. I hope he got to live out even a fraction – albeit, a small fraction – of his dreams.
You see, in my opinion, there is nothing more tragic than those who are of the “living dead” – those who are alive, but not truly living. This, to my mind, is a fate worse than death, and a terrible waste of the gift of life. We all have reasons to be apathetic, unfeeling, indifferent; some more than others. But by that same token, we also all have reasons to care and feel; to be exuberant and joyful. It really all boils down to which side we allow to rule over us in greater measure.
I’d like to think I allow the latter to rule over me more than the former; although I would be a liar to say I do not have more than my fair share of “living dead; the-world-is-dead-and-I would-rather-be-too” moments. Hence, I do not watch the news, daily. It’s all too much, as the events of weeks past have proven.
But I do what I can to shift focus back to the good and the worthwhile. Easy? Nope. Necessary? Yes! A resounding YES. After all, as that little ditty about Jack and Diane goes, “Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.” And when that thrill wanes, it’s really up to you and me to re-ignite it somehow.
Cheers! To living while we can, to the best that we can!
By ANGIE DUARTE
Art by MACJANRY IMPERIO