Quotes about Death 1: Julian Barnes

From his great little book, Metroland:

There were a few private things which I didn’t confide to Toni. Actually, only one: the thing about dying. We always laughed about it, except on the rare occasions when we knew the person involved. Lucas, for instance, wing-forward int eh Thirds, was found one morning by his mother, gassed. But even then, we were more interested in the rumours than in the fact of his death. A girl friend? The family way? Unable to face the parents?

There must, I suppose have been some causal connection between the arrival in my head of the fear of the Big D, and the departure of God; but if so, it was a loose exchange, with no formal process of reasoning present. God, who had turned up in my life a decade earlier without proof or argument, got the boot for a number of reaosns, none of which, I suspect will seem wholly sufficient: the boringness of Sundays, the creeps who took it all seriously at school, Buadelaire and Rimbaud, the pleasure of blasphemy (dangerous, this one), humn-singing and organ music and the language of prayer, inability any longer to think of wanking as a sin, and - as a clincher - an unwillingness to believe that dead realtives were watching what I was doing.

So, the whole package had to go, though its loss diminished neither the boringness of Sundays nor the guilt of wanking. Within weeks, however, as if to punish me, the infrequent but paralysing horror of Big D invaded my life. I don’t claim any originality for the timing and location of my bouts of fear (when in bed, unable to sleep), but I do claim one touch of particularity. The fear of death would always arrive while I was lying on my right side, facing towards the window and the distant railway line. It would never come when I was on my left side, facing my bookshelves and the rest of the house. ONce sarted, the fear could not be diminished by simply turning over: it had to be played out to the end. To this day I have a preference for sleeping on my left side.

What was the fear life? Is t different for other people? I don’t know. A sudden, rising terror which takes you unawares; a surging need to scream, which the house rules forbid (they always do), so that you lie there with your mouth open in a trembling panic; total wakefulness, which takes an hour or so to subside; and all this as background to and symptom of the central image, part-visual, part-intellectual, of non-existence. A picture of endlessly retreating stars, taken I expect - with the crass bathos of the unconscious - from the opening credits of a Universal Pictures film; a sensation of total aloneness within your pyjamaed, shaking body; a realisation of Time (always capitalised) going on without you for ever and ever; and a persecuted sense of having been trapped into the present situation by person or persons unknown.

The fear of dying meant, of course, not the fear of dying but the fear of being dead. Few fallacies depressed me more than the line: ‘I don’t mind being dead; it’s just like being asleep. Its the dying I can’t face.’ Nothing seemed clearer to me in my nocturnal terrors than that death bore no resemblance to sleep. I wouldn’t mind Dying at all, I thought, as long as I didn’t end up Dead at the end of it.

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://thegenevapush.com/blogs/xian_reflections/quotes-about-death-1-julian-barnes (NB: to comment go to thegenevapush.com/xian_reflections)