I’ve been out of Londres for a few days visiting a friend in The West. The coast and countryside were, as usual, beautiful. My friend was in a sad mood due to the death of a friend, and also tired and a little anxious. Talking with her made me wonder, as so often, why we live in a culture that doesn’t prepare us for real life – the plotlessness of it, the twists and turns beyond our control, the aging and dying.
But then, there may be nothing to be done to prepare us for all this, or at least most methods so far invented rely heavily on fictions that don’t always stand up to the harshness of reality. It’s possible, I found myself thinking, that a sense of humour is the best tool we have to deal with it all. Death is difficult to laugh at immediately, but perhaps it is possible to laugh at ourselves later. Perhaps life and our expectations of it can be seen as rather ridiculous. Did we expect everyone we knew to live forever, or to die only of old age? Life takes its toll, but so what? Is that any reason to take its ups and downs so seriously?
Tonight I go out for a drink with The Organiser and some of her friends. We will probably not discuss death, or if we do we’ll take it very seriously, before returning to the lighthearted business of drinking and eating. Which is all a bit strange, given that death – even untimely death – is as inevitable as urination or bad excuses from train companies or rulers who have no empathy with those they rule. My sister’s recent death I have been inclined to take seriously, partly because her end felt unnecessary. But that is silly too: all death is unnecessary, or totally necessary, depending on how you look at it. I should add that it also strikes me as silly to object to feeling bad about the death of someone we love. Mourning is normal. What’s not is that we live in a ridiculous civilsation in which every tragic event takes us by surprise, we are so programed to look for the happy ending. Can we at least laugh at that? Tragedy is part of everyday life. There’s nothing surprising about it at all.
Back in Londres, I wonder how different public politics would be if we could talk about death as though it were normal, if we could talk about any of life’s catastrophes or declines as though they were normal, and our feelings about them also as normal? This, I suspect, relies on an idea of politics that is about being together and caring for each other. The only way to get through the plotlessness is with each other. Crazy thoughts.