Random Firings of Neurons

The rest of your life is going to be spent getting back up after life has knocked you down again. You might as well just get used to it.

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Location: Round Rock, Texas, United States

Friday, August 13, 2004

On mortality

Okay, I will admit it. I am very callous towards death. I don't know if it was my very miserable childhood, where I kinda learned to not like people, or if it was because I had faced my mortality at a rather young age, or if it is just because I am what I jokingly call a "passive suicidal", meaning I don't much worry about whether I live or die. In any case, I don't react to death the way most people do. I don't freak out about it, and I rarely get emotional over someone's death. Several times, I have even had to fake emotions to get people to stop staring at me, like I was a freak.

Yesterday (Thursday) kinda drove that point home to me. I was at my trained-monkey, mind-numbingly boring job, unloading carts of engineered rocks, when one of my co-workers, who isn't the most industrious worker in the world, but is better than most of the other morons there, stopped unloading. I stepped past him to keep working, muttering nasty comments under my breath (it's really loud 8 feet from a kiln, REALLY loud, so he didn't here me), and grabbed the next container. As I dumped my container, I saw my co-worker do a faceplant onto the concrete floor. Now, it's hot where we work, as we are never more than 20 feet from a 4000 degree F kiln (it's not 4000 F outside of the kiln, but the bricks still radiate a lot of heat. It's usually over 100 F on a cool day. On a hot day, it's in the 130s), so I first thought he had passed out from the heat. It was a cool day, but I've seen people pass out in cooler temperatures from heat-exhaustion, just because they didn't think they could overheat on a cool day. (you can) Then, I thought maybe he had passed out from a sugar low, as he is a Type 1 Diabetic. Then, I noticed that he had managed to clutch his left pectoral as he fell, and his breathing was awfully shallow. So, now my thinking is "heart attack". So, what do I do? I start trying to analyze the situation, and figure out what I should do. After a minute, maybe more, maybe less, (time moves really weird when one is faced with a crisis) someone says "go get the Tom (the plant manager)". Now, my thought is, "what is Tom going to be able to do that we can't?", but I go anyways. Not running, as it would do no good for my co-worker for me to trip and fall and hit my head on a machine while trying to get him help. That would delay his help even longer, and then I would get to join him in an ambulance ride. I really don't like being in ambulances. Al (the general manager) and Tom go racing back to where our work-area, and someone has finally decided to call 911. By this point, though, I can see Curtis (my co-worker) is breathing. Shallowly, for sure, but he is breathing. I can also see him trying to move his legs. He can't, but I can see him trying. Now, to me, these are all good signs, so I immediately go into "safe" mode, and start looking for work to do. The microscopically polite part of me says "STOP! You idiot! Your co-worker is lying there, probably with a heart-attack, and you want to start stepping over him, just to do some work!?" So, I stood around and watched him do nothing with everyone else. Today, it was confirmed. He had a heart-attack. It was a minor heart attack, and Curtis wanted to come back to work today, but Tom and Al told him to stay home and get better, and if he felt up to it on Monday, then they would think about letting him come back. If it were me, I would think about taking a week off, just to be on the safe side. But, I would also want to get back to work, mainly because I get bored easily, so I can understand Curtis's desire. But, he's got a wife to support.

So, enough morbidity. What my experience with Curtis's heart-attack did, though, was get my mind focused on my own inevitable mortality. I know I am not making it out of here alive, so I am not going to spend any effort trying to delay the inevitable. What I will do, though, is spend effort making my time here worthwhile.

At almost every funeral, there is a string of people who all have stories about how good the honoree was. Now, I have been to funerals, and I know for a FACT that many of those stories are just attempts to not speak ill of the dead. But I have also been to a funeral where a manufacturing plant had to shut down, because everyone on their first shift asked off to attend the funeral. Now THAT is respect. Since it was my grandfather's, I was especially awed. I KNEW he was a great man. I just didn't realize that 700+ other people agreed with me. So, at every funeral, everyone is going to say nice things about the honoree. The difference is, do they mean it?

In all of the funerals I have been to, not once have I ever heard someone say "Well, Bill was making $60,000 by the time he was 19, and he managed 5000 employees by the time he was 35." Nope. Not once. Why? Because no one cares about that shit. What they care about is, how did Bill treat other people? Because, in the end, that is all that anyone will remember about anyone, including you and me. So, why do people brag about how much money they make, or how many things they have, or who they know, since no one will care about those things when they are gone. Nope, all they will care about is "How did they treat me?".

Since I discovered my callous attitude towards death, I have been freed, in a way, to do things that others place no importance on. Since I am aware that I could die at any time, I live my life as if I am trying to write my eulogy ahead of time. So, I don't worry about how much money I make, since no one will care when I die. I don't care about getting the credit for good ideas, since no one will remember when I die. I don't worry about people respecting me, since I'll know how much they respect me when I die. What I do worry about, though, is whether or not they'll be telling the truth when they tell all and sundry about how good of a person I was, while I was still alive. While I have no control over what people think about me, I do have total control over my actions and speech, so I can control what events those people form those thoughts about. And THAT, I can tell you, can confuse some people.

When I buy a new computer game, if I don't like it, I don't return it, or even re-sell it. I give it away. And rarely to a friend of mine. I usually give it away to someone at work. If I am asked to lend someone money, if I have it, I give it, and don't expect it back. If I borrow money, I pay it back, as quickly as I can. If someone asks for my assistance, I render it, and will refuse payment. If someone wants to buy a smoke off of me (yes, I smoke), I won't accept the money. I buy sodas for people I don't like, and refuse the sodas they try to buy me in return. I don't allow anyone to buy me a drink, yet I will buy drinks for others. None of these things is an attempt to buy friendship. Rather, they are attempts to be as good of a person as I can be, without asking anything in return. To quote a old saying, I am attempting "neither a borrower nor a lender be". Because I do nice things for people because they are nice things to do, and I feel that I will negate the nice-ness if I accept anything REMOTELY like repayment in return. I have learned that doing the nice thing, simply because it is nice, is far more repayment than anyone can provide for me.

If you haven't thought about what people will say about you when you have passed on, I would implore you to do so. If you cannot honestly say that people will actually be telling the truth when they say how nice you are, I would suggest that you start taking steps to not make liars of them. Because, if you are a Christian, you are just as damned for causing someone to lie, even about you, as the person who lies, even about you.

Think about it. You might not like the answers you get, but you need to hear them anyway. If you ARE a Christian, ask God for His assistance. If you are not, then do what you have to do.

Semper Fidelis: Always Faithful, to God, Corps and Country