Tragedy beyond Death

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I think about death. Sometimes more often than not, other times too continually that it is alarming. I think about my death the most. I was once fascinated with how my eulogy would be like, I even wrote about it (read here). Not much has changed, I still think my eulogy should look nice with nice fonts like Georgia (size 10) and pretty selfies. None of those fine art dark images from Mukiri though.

 

I remember what Socrates once spoke about his death, that if his death should be the road that would take him to his predecessors, his mentors and heroes, then he had to make haste. Socrates was an intelligent fellow. He took poison, by the way, not as suicide though, Athens sentenced him to die because, evidently, he was too liberal for them. So, before he sipped his deathly juice, he mocked the leaders of Athens, told them that they cannot punish him with death because no one knows what lies beyond. Maybe, it was a party, a crazy Project X lit party, and how is a bunch of people sending you to a party a punishment? Anyway, long story short, he took his fizzy cocktail, I suspect it tasted nasty. Back then almost everything was brown and nasty, and he died. Now he is probably in the great beyond toasting to some of the successful people who followed his teachings like Plato and Alexander the Great.

 

So when I think about it, it is more like liberty from life rather than loss of life. I am not a sad person, I promise, twisted, maybe but sad, no, I just happen to find it intriguing. Like you never asked to be born, why then should you be worried about leaving?

 

I wonder whether animals can comprehend the logic of death, whether it scares them or anything. Often when I try to understand the very primal nature of human beings I compare them to animals, particularly lions. There is no better indication of the ruthlessness of nature than lions. The Mapogo Lions of Sabi Sand in South Africa. They are born, they fight for territories, they make names for themselves, they have sex, then make babies, a few reach retirement, the rest die most gruesomely. Lions respect and obey only strength. The young are cast out because they do not have enough strength, the old are cast out because they have lost most of their strength. More or less, like human beings. I often wonder whether a lion that was used to strength and intrepidity worries about death, most likely by murder from a stronger opponent.

 

It is curious why I think about these things, particularly today, the day I turn 24 years old (Hurray??). I am far from optimum strength, I am more like a young lion being chased away to the jungle to learn to fend for himself. How successful or unsuccessful I become depends on the skills I accrue during this period. I suppose a lion that thinks more about death than how to survive never does well.

 

I used to have a great grandmother once. I was too young and only met her very few times. She would sit us by the heath in the heavy soot kitchen and tell us tales about death. She would talk of a dream that was so vivid to her. About how she would fall asleep in her bed or drift to a doze on her kitchen chair and her late husband would be standing on the edge of a river urging her to cross it. She would hesitate. She always hesitated. My young self always wondered why she did not just make the cross and be with her loved one and get done with it. My mind was young and I was dumb, and the biggest river I had seen by then was like six metres wide. My great grandmother would keep telling us that she would cross the river the night that followed, but then she never did.

 

The curious thing about her is that her husband had been dead for years, I never met him, I can barely recall his name but he had five or six wives. In my adulthood, I find myself marvelling why she still dreamt of a man who had married four other wives after her. I would never pretend to understand polygamy, it was a way of life just as monogamy is right now. Well, one day my great grandmother just drifted off in her sleep and never woke up. She finally got the guts to cross the river.

 

So, I wonder if death is a reunion with old friends or estrangement from newer friends.

 

In one of the shows I really love, my personal favourite, Boston Legal, one of the stars, Alan Shore, describes how it was when his grandfather sailed the Pacific to settle to the new lands. How happy he was when the ship sailed to the shore and there he was, in the desired proverbial new American lands. To live the American dream. How he was happy after sailing for months and months. At the end of his tale, I wondered who his grandfather had met when he died shortly after. He had sailed worlds away from his ancestral home, would he ever be reunited with his dead forefathers? Are the dead cautious about geographical distance and Visas like that?

 

I don’t have many friends in the after-life, I reckon only one or two of them are anxiously waiting for me. I have nothing to look up to on that other side unless they have good whiskey or enthralling stories. My interests are here, the things I need to do, the achievements and mistakes I need to make, friends and foes I need to meet, books I need to read and write, places I need to visit and love and hate I need to feel. Mostly, a life I need to live. I suppose, if I had a therapist, he or she would tell me to focus on these things instead of the intriguing curious factors of the after-life.

 

I have been trying to make a point. I recently got a call from a stranger, which is very common. The call came when it was dark outside, I am not sure whether it was morning or evening, I hardly keep track of human hours these days. I just sit there typing things, eat when I am done and sleep when I have nothing else to write. My world has no time. Sometimes, my feet get cold and I check the time and it is usually 2 o’clock in the morning which is when I normally flap the laptop and walk to bed, through the kitchen. I digress.

 

This call was particularly startling because the person on the other side had a heavy husky voice. He bellowed more then he spoke. Apparently, anyone who wants my number can get it from Instagram and you people never told me that? That is supposed to be dangerous or something, right? Anyway, he continued to tell me of a story I wrote a while back, Name was Eva (read here).

 

“The story would be a good play”, he said, “but your obsession with suicide is terrifying,” he also said.

 

With all my thoughts about death, the way I would go out would be glorious, like fireworks or something even more lit. Suicide has never been on that list for several reasons; one is that nobody would see it, and two is that it would not be glorious. I did not have these points in my head when he accused me so what I just did was puzzled huhs for a while. What if I was talking to the police? You do not tell the police that when you leave this world you want to go out in a big boom like a bomb, you could get arrested.

 

I am still fuzzy about the details of this call since I was half asleep. I have not mastered enough courage to call my accuser and say these things, so I decided to rant about them here until I was sure I had made a point. I hope he reads this one, especially if it is the police. If he worked theatre, then he should call me back on normal hours and we can engage like artists. I accept criticism. I think. Otherwise, whoever you are, I am not obsessed with suicide. I promise. Sometimes I think of how cool I could draft a suicide note but, I would not call that obsession, would you?

 

What happened to Eva was tragic. What happened to the persona of the story was perhaps even more tragic. But those are just stories. What happens in Kenyan malls and hotels to innocent people seated on the café balconies trying to create something cool on their laptops is not a story though, that is real. You could be seated there typing a funny story and then some armed people just walk in and put bullets in your chest unapologetically before they walk away like you are nothing. To die recklessly on the hands of hateful criminals feeling betrayed by your own country and government. To take that last struggling breath knowing fully well that you die for nothing, you die in an unfeeling city and nobody will ever get to know your dreams, to feel your love or hear your laughter again. That is the real tragedy.

 

When people used to pick arms and go to the battlefield a couple of decades ago, their spirit was built on a belief, an idea that lasted long after their deaths. We celebrate those people because we knew them, we knew what they wanted and what they died for. When I am shot or blown to bits typing my stories on a random balcony in this city, I honestly would not even know what I am going to tell my predecessors, mentors and heroes. What did I die for?

 

Ronald Reagan once said that a “government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.” So, after we are done laying those that left us to rest, recovering from injuries both physical and mental and accusing the New York Times for acting like complete buffoons in a time when our hearts were heavy with sadness, our eyes wet with tears and our faces red with anger, we should turn to our government, call ourselves to a meeting, sit with ourselves and demand to feel and be safe in our own country.

 

Feature Image from the project; Home, Not Home by Mukiri Gitiri.

 

 

Author: Dennis Peters

When I stare at an empty word document, which is often, my font is always Georgia, size 10, and the feeling constantly is that the cursor is mocking me.

4 thoughts

  1. Am just reading this and all I can say is wow…so well written. I also think about death, and no…I would never take my life. I just hope that I’ll go out in my sleep when I am very old. Then I’ll be ready. And it will be peaceful.

    Like

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