A Philosopher Reflects on Death; I Discover Destroyer and Leave Things Up in the Air

Hi, All. I’m closing in on the end of a long weekend that has passed with an obscene alacrity (as they all do, anymore) and eating compulsively from a can of smoked/salty almonds with which I am now positive I can’t be trusted. It feels like this long weekend has been the exact opposite of the long weekend I scheduled myself last month. Last month, I felt laid back, creative, soaking up the finer things with ease; this time I have had a difficult time relaxing, being intermittently set upon by concerns, mostly health-related, that I have casually swept under-rug for some time, distracted by the grind of my service profession.

As other parts of this site can attest, I am a seething mass of taken-in-stride autoimmune issues and other neglected malfunctions. I dread the thought of surrendering myself to the health care system and its overconfident assumption-making – but some of the dread also stems from doubting my own ability to effectively describe my unwieldy constellation of symptoms and advocate for myself.

But that is not what I mean to write about tonight. I just want to note a handful of things that have coincided and that feel somewhat serendipitous.

A couple days ago I read a Pitchfork review of the newest album by Destroyer, with whom I was previously unfamiliar. You can read it here: pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/destroyer-have-we-met

A dude who, from a strange remove, writes about gradually becoming aware of his own mortality? Penetrating observations from a cerebral spectator’s vantage point? Touches of glammy folk (whatever that is) combined with electronica? Yes, please. Sadly, I wasn’t as able to readily connect with the music as I had hoped to be – but the fact of this guy being out there and eliciting the sort of response he did from the reviewer is in itself inspiring. Not to mention that there’s a nod to the artistic method of presenting certain elements alongside each other and leaving it to the audience to draw connections, which is my preferred approach and one about which I’ve been totally forthcoming in this blog.

Just have to highlight this, probably my favorite line: “…by now, it’s just where we expect to find Bejar—in luxurious settings, skeptical, eyeing the exits.”

Then last night I watched an Atlantic feature on YouTube: A philosopher and educator facing his own death at 97 years old (filmed a few years prior; the man has since met the death he was contemplating in the video). It avoided excessive sentimentality and was more effective for it; the basis of the whole thing seemed to be him grappling with a fear of death he logically knew to be irrational. Not surprisingly, the question of “What’s the point of all this” came up more than once – in fact, was the thread that ran through the whole – and he couldn’t produce a convincing answer. Which, of course he couldn’t, but the fact that such a brilliant mind was still choking on that after like 79 years of mulling it over was maybe the most fascinating part.

Then some of the same issues re-surfaced when I re-watched the George Clooney film Up in the Air this afternoon. Despite a bit of outmoded gender-stereotype stuff and the inability of the filmmakers to completely avoid moralizing, the central question resonated roundly, and again, it was, essentially, “What’s the point?”. And despite being similarly unable to deliver a solid sales pitch, the film landed on the idea that, even in the absence of a point, companionship – the form it takes be damned – makes the pointless journey richer. Which is something I admittedly find it harder and harder each day to argue against.

Photo credit: Paramount

It bears mention that, with all of this stuff already percolating in my head, I found out that another seemingly successful entrepreneur – one I met years back when her business was new and full of promise, on whom I eavesdropped not so long ago while browsing her consignment shop to better glean her method (in case I ever wished to try something similar) – recently committed suicide. I’m not mentioning this here to be shocking. Just, it’s more evidence that we are all adrift, doing what we can until we can’t any longer. We look at people and we have no idea what we’re really looking at. I guess that is the reminder I ultimately want to issue tonight.

I’ll finish with this song by my boy Elliott Smith which is off the posthumous New Moon but was also used on the Up in the Air soundtrack. Feels like more serendipity, given that still lifes play a role in the new album I’m putting together.

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