Thursday, October 09, 2008

A little talk about death

I have been asked to talk to you tonight about death. A few of you in the audience may not have experienced death yet, while some may be significantly more dead than others. Some will be looking forward with anticipation and a little trepidation to the event, whilst others will be looking back with that combination of nostalgia and regret that we all view significant past events and achievements in our lives (or lack thereof). To those members of the audience who are dead already, I ask you to return the evaluation forms at the end of class to me.

In any case, death is something that has happened, will happen, or may be currently happening to you at the moment, so we can be relatively certain about it to an unprecedentedly ambiguous degree.

It is easier to be dead than alive. Statistics prove it: nine times out of ten you are more likely to be a non-living entity than a living one. But in one hundred years time, according to the figures, this will be even more so. Some people, it is true, have attempted to raise the dead. However, those who have attempted to raise the dead are now dead; and many of those living people who attempted to make dead people out of other living people will shortly become dead people themselves. Death is, then, just about the only thing that happens to us all, which makes it nothing more than a generalisation. But if you look at it in a certain way (the right way) it is a vast overgeneralisation.

As the poet puts it, death is the great inevitable ineffable. In fact, it is so inevitable that it may be said to be the only inevitable inevitable, which is what makes it so ineffable in its inevitability. This inevitably ineffable inevitability inevitably could confuddle even the most infallible with its indelible incredibility. Or, as another poet puts it, "Death? That's some scary shit, man."

We can of course console ourselves by reasoning that death is a part of life. Then again, life is a part of death as well. Death is mysterious. But then, so are cream puffs. It is reported that the great essayist Emerson contemplated writing about his death after the event, but he was not there at the time. A pity: it could have been quite a scoop.

Many famous people have died. Amy Winehouse is reported to be working on it. In fact, one of the best ways to ensure a famous life is to have a famous death. However, there is no way of being certain about this: you may end up being more dead than famous (which is bad) or more famous than dead (which is worse; just ask John Howard). And the quality of life for dead people is reported to be worse than the quality of death for live people. However, officials at the Department of Human Services are working on it.

Why do we die? The answer to that is unclear, but customer service representatives recently reported increased satisfaction rates with the quality of life for dead people. Let's look at these surveys in detail:


1) How long have you been dead for?
a) 10 years.
b) 100 years.
c) 1000 years.
d) None of the above.

2) How do you find it here?
a) Great!
b) Could be better.
c) Lousy (literally).
d) None of the above.

3) What are somethings that we could do to improve your quality of life as a dead person?
a) Better room service.
b) Better trained maggots.
c) Cheap drink nights.
d) None of the above.

4) As a dead person, what do you prefer doing?
a) Having long walks on the beach.
b) Having one-on-one sessions with a highly-trained masseuse.
c) There's nothing better for my necrotic rotting corpse than a bit of me-time.
d) None of the above.

5) Who is your preferred Prime Minister?
a) John Howard.
b) Kevin Rudd.
c) Napoleon.
d) None of the above.

PART TWO: Personal evaluation.
We describe below several personal attributes, and ask you to rate them on a scale of one to ten, one being 'not like me at all', and ten being 'exactly like me'. Write the number in the box provided below the description.

6) I have a lively sense of humour.

7) My favourite colour is blue.

8) I have the most handsome corpse on the street!

9) I am kind to maggots and small animals.

10) I have a strong belief in the power of positive thinking to make a change for the better in my death.

Thank you for participating in this survey.

Of the ten thousand copies we received back of this survey, nine thousand nine hundred and ninety eight dead people had not filled out the survey, which were ranked as 'none of the above'. Two other copies of the survey had some questions filled out, but we ranked that as experimental error. However, I would note in passing that there does seem to exist one dead person out there whose favourite colour is blue.

In conclusion, I would like to end my talk conclusively by saying that while death is the conclusion of life, you wouldn't want to do it too assertively: you might end up ending it all before things have really got going, which would be a bummer.

Thank you for your time.

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