These first few weeks in January have been filled with death–starting with the world wide sadness over the death of David Bowie. When a celebrity dies, the world mourns. When a child dies of dysentery or hunger in a far away land only the mother cries. I suspect the reason Mr Bowie’s death affected so many people is that he touched something deep inside the psyche of people during their coming-of-age years. He tapped into the inner need to be original and rebel against the inertia of society. So while he as a rock star he was also a talisman for many.
The title of this blog comes from a quote in “The Notebooks of Malte Lauris Brigge” by Rainer Marie Rilke:
Who is there today who still cares about a well-finished death? No one. Even the rich, who could after all afford this luxury, are beginning to grow lazy and indifferent; the desire to have a death of one’s own is becoming more and more rare. In a short time it will be as rare as a life of one’s own.
As I approach 70 years of age, I too am thinking of death—but not in a morbid way. More like looking at an hour glass that has the upper vial obscured leaving one guessing how much sand remains. You can make a pretty good guess because the hour glass is symmetrical in form. What we don’t know is how much year-grains you have been given—or whether or not your life shaper put enough grains in the vial for you to accomplish your goals. Obsessing about it will likely speed the emptying and make the remaining days or years less happy.
For me, having recently been operated on for bi-lateral iguinal hernias, I am having many days resting and thinking. Not being able to lift or do many of my normal routines leaves me with a lot of time to think while laying in bed. Maybe too much time. But the coincidence of the recent passage of many artists (at least as reported in th Euro-cenric press that I read) is too interesting not to use as a jumping off point to think about the inevitable.
I love Rilke’s work. He was a loner. He thought a great deal about life and its complex inconsistencies, injustices and incongurities. Reading Rilke strengthens my resolve to love solitude. After all, why was I placed here and now? We all have our difficulties; our dry patches; those moments of despair where we think “why”? For me it is now a time to think about finishing well.
Bringing together years of searching, exploring, traveling and making architecture. While my body continues its inevitable decline, I still can think, read, paint, and be with the ones I love. I can do my best to create little pictures that convey my mood; my aspirations; my desires. Someday maybe these little pictures will help one of my daughters (and maybe others) to prepare for their well designed and finished deaths. For as we all know it is inevitable. My stating the obvious is not a morbid act but rather one of hope for enabling the next generation to benefit from mine.