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Death and other things

My next door neighbor died last week. I feel a bit guilty that I wrote so much about such trivia as lottery tickets and japanese puzzles and didn't mention that. My thinking at the time was that it would have been disrespectful to include it in the middle of all of the silly little events and thoughts that are my life. In retrospect, this was a mistake.

My neighbor was 93 years old. He was moving a space heater in his home and fell and broke his hip. He died a few days later. I am glad he lived to such a ripe old age, and I'm glad there was no one around to say "Don't move that space heater!! You're too old and frail!". He was indeed too old and frail, but damn, when you're 93 you should be allowed to take a few risks. He was in the hospital only a few days before he died.

Everybody has to die, but if it happens when you're 93 and you are bedridden for less than a week before that actual event, you are doing much much better than most other people.

Speaking of death, I recently discovered another famous person who was younger than me when he died and accomplished a lot more than I have in my life so far. Previous honorees include Evariste Galois and John Keats. My recent discovery is another poet, George Herbert. He died at the age of 40. He was devoutly religious (he was in fact a clergyman) and had produced an impressive body of work. So no matter what standard you use, secular or Christian, he was ready for death.

I didn't think about it when I started this entry, but I guess my neighbor and George Herbert illustrate two very different ways that someone's passing can be deemed a good death.

I learned the factoid about George Herbert from the book Break,Blow,Burn by Camille Paglia. It is a collection of 43 poems along with commentaries by Paglia. She provides a generous helping of the metaphysical poets (including Herbert...three of his poems are in here). In fact, the title comes from a line in one of John Donne's Holy Sonnets.

I've always been fond of the metaphysical poets. Reading Paglia's book made me nostalgic for the very brief time when I was an English major and they were among my favorites. I bought my first guitar then, and set some of their works (John Donne's Song and of course, Andrew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress) to music. I say "of course" about Marvell's poem because it was in iambic tetrameter rather than pentameter, thus more amenable to being set to music. The music itself was rather derivative of Bob Dylan's "I Want You".

Now that I think about it, the poem itself dealt with a lot of the things I have been dealing with in this journal entry...seizing the day because time's winged chariot is hurrying near. I hasten to add that Marvell's poem is a much much much better piece of literature. And the focus is ummm....a little different. Read the poem.