on death

Xray skeletons

Recently I was reminded I will one day die.

I had gotten an MRI and was viewing the results: a bulging disc near the top of my spine. Even as the doctor tapped her pen on the offending bump, my eyes strayed to other bones, other features. My jaw, especially. My jaw convinced me I will one day die. It was the jaw of a corpse.

The MRI revealed something I knew but didn’t realize: There was a skeleton in there, with a skull like the kind on a skinless body. There were empty black eye sockets. Teeth that would fall out and turn to powder. There was a brain that might nourish a tumor, which would press on nerves. Meanwhile the doctor tapped her pen on the screen, its plastic tip hitting the slipped disc where a nerve was already being pressed. She suggested physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractics, maybe an anti-inflammatory diet.

I came home and e-mailed my 74-year-old friend. He wrote back, “That was pretty scary, thinking of becoming a corpse.” And he’s a Buddhist who meditates on his death regularly.

Happy All Souls’ Day, everyone.

The entire braid of the self is coming unwound in a rush.

Advice for Future Corpses *
* And Those Who Love Them
p. 56

children: pros & cons

currently reading


Someone will take care of you when you’re old. They still might not take care of you when you’re old.
You’ll be placed in the societal category of “normal.” You’ll devote most of your love to your nuclear family, instead of spreading it throughout your community.
People won’t pity you except for nice reasons like “You must be so tired.” It usually detracts from marital satisfaction.
You could try to give them a happy childhood. You have to send them off to college, where they might get drunk, have sex, and recklessly drive.
Your husband is a really kind man and his genes deserve to live on. The crying.
Will you have time to write your book?
It’s scary because they might get hurt or die.
You’ll stop having other things to talk about.
You won’t have as much ability to travel the world.
There’s no guarantee the kid will be a nice person.
You like to control things, and this will prevent much of that.
You’ll never have to wonder, “What if…?” If you regret having them, you’re not allowed to say.
It would make Christmases and birthdays pretty fun. The world is already overpopulated and somebody has to make the wise but hard decision to go against the grain.
Ultimately it teaches you to be selfless. It’s, ultimately, selfish.