• author
    • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

      Columnist, Editor-in-Chief
    • February 4, 2014 in Columnists

    In an infinite universe, anything is possible

    If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.
    William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

    When I was in third grade, I looked my teacher dead in the eye and said “In an infinitum, anything is possible.”  I had been lying awake at night, considering all the variations of reality that could manifest in an infinite universe.  I was nine.

    At least I had progressed from where I was at age four, when I lay awake in terror of infinity because I had some idea of how big that was and I knew it was gonna eat me.  That turns out to be true, actually – but not quite yet…

    Tonight I stood beside my adorable little peacock blue 2008 Nissan Versa, jointly named Bluebell Flashlight by my daughter and granddaughter, six years ago when it was new, staring up between the bony, interlaced fingers of the walnut tree branches, bathed in the radiant winter glory of the stars and felt comforted.

    For the first time, I didn’t feel like a tiny, insignificant speck, lost in all that empty, infinite loneliness.  No, I had company.  We are made of stardust and miracles – the very improbability of life – the stars are my mother and father, my sisters, brothers, aunties, cousins.  The heavens are family to me and to all of us.  They hear our secrets poured out under their kind gaze, they see our deeds and do not judge, but impart their glory to all with eyes that see.

    I was so afraid of death and from time to time, I check in with myself to see if I still am and, indeed, there’s that icy finger of terror tracing chills up and down my spine.  That’s as it should be – survival instinct wears the mask of fear and caution.  Fear has kept me alive as much as anything else, including common sense.

    I’m afraid because I fear pain and uncertainty.  If I’ve died before, I certainly don’t remember how it felt.  I fear nothingness – nonexistence.  This self is so vibrant, so aware, and it’s worked so hard to evolve – to have it all thrown away when spirit no longer holds the flesh to the discipline of continued life is anguishing.  This heart will cease to beat.  My lungs will no longer draw air.  When I think about it explicitly, it feels like suffocation, and that scares me walleyed.  There’s a place for this.  It keeps me appropriately cautious.  We’re designed to want to live, after all, which is a conundrum, since we all will eventually die.  Spirit will flee and flesh will succumb to the sway of entropy and lapse into disarray and then, ultimately, to dust.

    At least from the outside, I know death.   I’ve seen it happen.  I’ve been present, fingers on the wrist of the departing, and felt the final, gentle beats of a ceasing heart, seen the last glimmer of a smile before corporeal reality ends.  As odd as it sounds, it’s a bit like going to the dentist.  The anticipatory fear is generally worse than the deed itself.  Once you’re in that chair, novocain administered, it’s just something you do and you’ll get through it, willy nilly.  Its process is independent of you now and it’s on its way, as, when you die, you will also be.

    When you die, that’s just what you’re doing right then, and it’s actually okay.  It’s the time leading up to it that’s the most frightening.  Anticipation is almost always worse then the actual deed.

    Creatures have more sense about dying than we do.  No great surprise.  They know more about love than most of us do as well.  Dogs, for example, do not anguish over their mortality.  Dogs live each moment as if it’s the only moment that’s ever been because, actually, it is – for us, too.  We think we have a beginning, a middle and an end, when in fact, we are afloat in the endless now.  All partitions are artificial conceptual contructs of the human psyche and this includes borders between countries, the  surface of the earth and the sky above it, a wave and the water from which it springs – they are all one.

    Dogs don’t fret over what-ifs.  They do fret when we’re not there, over not having whatever it is we’re eating that smells so good, when one dog gets a treat that they don’t get.  But dogs don’t worry about dying.

    I wish I was as smart as my dogs, but it’s unlikely I will ever be.  I’m not as good at loving, nor as good at living in the moment.  I’m way too aware of self and the preciousness of my existence even as I realize that I am just one mote of stardust in a universe of glowing multitudes.

    Perhaps it’s just that precious brevity that keeps it special.  Even if I reincarnate, I will never be this person again, so I’d better cherish this life for all it’s worth – I won’t be passing this way in this exact form again.  So I will look compassionately at all my fears and insecurities, embrace them with affection, and leap into the dance.

    This is dedicated to all the beloved souls we’ve lost and hope one day to find again.

     



    • Beautiful.


      • Maya North

      • February 4, 2014 at 8:16 am
      • Reply

      Thank you, Madge. Boogie down. <3



    • I don’t agree on all points, but I do think it is beautifully written and the final dedication is lovely.

      I do wonder that you say that dogs don’t fear death. I would think that it was exactly that fear that brought my son’s dog running like he’d seen Hades himself; when a black bear was chasing him through the woods. Perhaps, they simply don’t ponder it, just react to the moment in time when it is staring them down.

      I don’t fear death, and I don’t suppose I ever will. The nothingness I believe will follow this existence would be nothing more nor less than sleeping peacefully without dreams. I do fear pain and the probability of that is very real; so I’m not looking forward to it but will succumb to the inevitability of it all, I suppose. It was that fear that has stayed my hand at certain times, but it was never the fear of death itself; but rather the act of dying.

      Similarly, I don’t fear life. I do fear a life that is simply existence, with no vigor or adventure. I want to feel joy, love, excitement, etc… So my dear, if you will be so kind as to allow a little extra room, I too will dance.


      • davidlacy

      • February 4, 2014 at 12:36 pm
      • Reply

      That’s an honest and reflective response, Glenna — one I also mostly agree with. However, I’d suggest that the dog doesn’t fear death as he doesn’t know what death is — he just knows fear (adrenaline, endorphins, etc.) and the possible pain that can result from bodily harm (having experienced pain through accidents, roughhousing, etc.) Even when a dog mourns over a death of another (a dog playmate or human companion) I don’t believe it’s so much the acknowledgement of the extinguishment of LIFE but a sensory sadness pertaining to an absence that had so long been filled (which is why a dog is remarkably amazed and happy every time you return home — even though you return every day without fail.)


      • Maya North

      • February 4, 2014 at 2:03 pm
      • Reply

      Oh, Glenna, there’s room on our dance card — step right in! I know dogs fear (my dogs just about pee when I make noise stubbing my toe), but the concept of fearing death I don’t think occurs to them. I am so glad you don’t fear death — at 58, I keep waiting not to be afraid of it. Perhaps when I’m 90, I’ll relax a bit about it. I’m afraid of way too many things, but I press forward anyway… <3


      • Maya North

      • February 4, 2014 at 2:07 pm
      • Reply

      My dogs are always so ecstatic to see me — and I’d have to say that I’m just as happy to see them. I love well and deeply, but of all my loves, the only ones who have never hurt my feelings (and those who have are, with few exceptions, forgiven, as I hope am as well), are my doggies. <3


      • Roberta Kravette

      • February 4, 2014 at 2:17 pm
      • Reply

      Another beautiful and thought provoking piece. Thank you so much Maya for sharing your thoughts and insights. I always look forward to reading your posts.


      • davidlacy

      • February 4, 2014 at 2:22 pm
      • Reply

      It is a great piece, Maya.


      • Maya North

      • February 4, 2014 at 2:26 pm
      • Reply

      Oh, Roberta, thank you with all my heart. <3


      • Maya North

      • February 4, 2014 at 2:26 pm
      • Reply

      David, you honor me. <3



    • The awareness of life’s finiteness is what makes every day, every moment so special.


        • Maya North

        • February 4, 2014 at 10:06 pm
        • Reply

        I try not to waste a minute, although in terms of life’s savorable moments, my 10 hour work days are not right up there. Writing for iPinion and knowing you is… <3



        • Awwww…. 🙂
          Wasting time = wasting life. People who waste my time are amongst my pet peeves.
          Writing is NEVER wasting time!



    • Magnificent piece dear Maya


      • Carolyn Wyler

      • February 5, 2014 at 2:28 am
      • Reply

      This is great Maya! I too fear death. Not necessarily the pain, more the finality and uncertainty of it all. The death of a loved one can really send me into a whirlwind and mess me up for quite awhile. Denial can only work for so long until the realities of life and death come crashing down on my world. I think most people, whether they want to admit it or not, fear death. I wish I could be like you Glenna because it would save so much time and worry that could be better spent on savoring life’s precious moments.


      • Maya North

      • February 5, 2014 at 9:01 am
      • Reply

      Oh, thank you, Maxee! <3


      • Maya North

      • February 5, 2014 at 9:03 am
      • Reply

      Carolyn, I have never been as serene and accepting as I would like to be. Persistence and determination have won me much, but neither will prevail and it rattles my worldview that if I just try hard enough, I can beat anything. I try to move through it, regardless, though, because to dwell on it does interfere with the best parts of life. Hugs!


      • Robin Pratt

      • February 5, 2014 at 9:54 am
      • Reply

      great piece, Maya. It addresses an almost universal fear and does so in a very illuminating manner. I enjoyed reading it and connected to it on a very deep level. Good show!


        • Maya North

        • February 5, 2014 at 6:43 pm
        • Reply

        Thank you so much, Robin! When I was wrestling with the realization that I was not going to get a personal exception to the mortality rule, I realized that I could hide under the bed in fright and that I would still die and would miss everything that way — or I could climb out, live fully and at least die with a life well lived. So, yeah, I got on with it. Big hugs! <3



    • This gave me chills, Maya, and then release. A lovely piece.


        • Maya North

        • February 5, 2014 at 9:42 pm
        • Reply

        Thank you, dearheart. <3



    • i have no fear of death. i do have fear of pain and the way i will leave this world. after john’s death and five years of grieving i must live fully like you. you are so much my hero and inspiration, that i adopted MoMo, without a second thought of him passing away someday.
      i love you always and forever….xoxo


        • Maya North

        • February 14, 2014 at 11:15 am
        • Reply

        I love you, too, angel. If we hesitate to love because of fear of loss, then we lose what makes life worth living because it’s not an if we’ll lose them, it’s when — or we go first. We have to throw ourselves into it and risk everything to have everything. You are worth that full bore love (and so is MoMo) and so was John… XXXOOO



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