“Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?”
~ (deceased) Emily Webb, Our Town
It’s been a rough week. I struggle to write, as my heart is heavy. Recent days marked the sixth anniversary of the passing of my mom, who died by suicide. Days before that, my friend suddenly passed away (at the very same age as my mom). Strangely enough, I do not know precisely the cause of her death; and even if I did, I would not have permission from her family to divulge the details. Suffice to say, I sense parallels to my mom’s situation, and the synchronicities feel inherently uncanny. Incidentally, many years ago, both my mom and my friend were very close, but life circumstances abruptly ended their relationship.
While I can not convince others just how precious and crucial it is to fully breathe existence into our present and respective incarnations — persevering through the obstacles and tragedies — I can only speak for myself. My tethered spirit beckons to me to stay and persist. I recognize that I need to work harder at the living aspect of this life cycle (and frankly, to be more present), before I even venture into considering how to work on the dying part.
I do not believe this is the only lifetime I have been gifted, as I consider life to be cyclical and eternal — in the sense that some part of me (what may be called soul or spirit) — has always been and will always be. Yes, even through my rollercoaster life of triumphs and tribulations, I still remain steadfast that my life is a genuine gift. I would not willingly choose to end it. That said, I have no judgment when others do.
My mom and my friend shared a broken-ness that reflected fragmentation of themselves amidst strained attachments — mainly with their children. In the years preceding my mom’s death, I strived to heal our fractured relationship. It never happened as she chose not to reciprocate. In addition to feeling rejected by my parent, I often pondered how this could potentially end up eating her alive; and tragically, I think it did. It is the emotional bonds among us — built, broken, and repaired — that make our lives meaningful and incredibly worthy of being lived, despite the excruciating pain that most often arises. Some of us have less time than others to attempt to resolve this rupture and imbalance, and there is no time like the present to lean into this mending and amending process.
The biblical passage from Psalm 23:4, speaks to the valley of the shadow of death, and passing over with no fear, as God is there to provide comfort. I am not religious, and I cannot attest to this; though, I hope something resembling this is indeed true. I can also see for some, how life can actually feel darker than death, and thus, death may be perceived as an escape from their pain and suffering. It is challenging and chilling for me to imagine feeling this way.
When I am once again centered — having regained my bearings from this current feeling of sadness and unease — I intend to write about how artificial intelligence (AI) plays into (and preys on) this fear of death, and perhaps even an increasing preponderance of its counter-aspect, the fear of life. Relatedly, one notion that repeatedly enters the AI lexicon is what is called, the “uncanny valley.” Essentially, it reflects the reaction nearly all humans experience when encountering robots, avatars, and current depictions of AI — we innately feel off-put and disoriented. Even those who are staunch proponents of AI admit to this discomfort and dissonance. Unfortunately, though, AI evangelists (and their occulted handlers) are exerting efforts to intentionally overcome this phenomenon. If and when this is accomplished — meaning, AI becomes virtually seamless in the lives of humans — that is the time when they will have achieved their coveted Singularity. Let’s hope, for humanity’s sake that the uncanny valley remains a significant problem and thorn in their side for centuries to come.
In memorializing my friend, at the funeral, her husband referenced Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. It poignantly stuck with me, and, in closing, I would like to offer the monologue from the end of the story, which was referred to as Emily Webb’s “Goodbye”. It portrays the deceased version of Emily, who has an opportunity to return to earth to observe herself and her loved ones when she was young. She realizes that the living do not understand the importance of human existence, and that we fail to appreciate it while it lasts.
I can’t bear it. They’re so young and beautiful. Why did they ever have to get old? Mama, I’m here. I’m grown up. I love you all, everything – I can’t look at everything hard enough.
Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me . . .
Mama, twelve years have gone by. I’m dead. I married George Gibbs, Mama. Wally’s dead, too. Mama, his appendix burst on a camping trip to Crawford Notch. We felt just terrible about it – don’t you remember?
But, just for a moment now we’re all together. Mama, let’s be happy just for a moment. Let’s look at one another.
I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. All that was going on in life, and we never noticed. Take me back – up the hill – to my grave.
But first: Wait! One more look. Good-bye, Good-bye, world. Good-bye, Grover’s Corners. Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking, my butternut tree, and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths. And sleeping and waking up.
Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you.
Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute? I want to live, I want to live, I want to live . . . (adapted from the 1940 film, Our Town)
Goodbye, Mom. Goodbye, my friend. May you be in peace and renewed power wherever you are. I hope there are gigantic and vibrant sunflowers there. The earth realizes and remembers you, and so do those who loved and lost you. Your footprints on the earth, and your imprints in our hearts, will forever endure.