The American Philosopher and Naturalist Henry David Thoreau (1816 – 1872) famously wrote:
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
The truth of this clanged through my life for many years.Years arranged around things that were glamourous and fun filled with travelling,, designer clothes, 5 Star hotels, parties and drinking champagne with glamorous people but I began to wonder, “Is this all there is?” and felt l must be the worst spoiled and demanding bitch on earth.
I wrote this poem to try to get my pain outside myself and take a look at it.
MIDTOWN MANHATTAN MEDITATION
by Kit Hammond
Death is the point of life
Death is the direction of life
Death is the inevitable conclusion of life.
To be afraid of Death
Is to be afraid of Life.
We do not choose the manner of our death
Any more than we choose the manner of our birth.
To consider death
And continued life at any price
The predator of disEase
Is to lose sight of Self
The conscious mind which rejects
The thought of death
The caprices of fashion
Is a betrayer.
The “Good Things of Life” are meaningless.
When you die
Will you care
– How many parties you went to?
If this is the day you die
What is the purpose of:
Winning that argument?
Closing that big deal?
Buying that new dress/house/car?
Getting you hair/nails – or facelift – done?
Or doing someone a favour so that they’ll owe you one?
Are those the things you want
To flash before your eyes
At the point of death?
In our over-crowded, over-stimulated world
We huddle together
And pretend not to see
The spectre of Death that stalks among us.
Drugs is no Escape.
All drugs are … is a rehearsal for death.
An attempt to subjugate our agitated spirits
And render ourselves harmless.
The unequivocal acceptance
Of the fact of death.
And the desire
To align your soul
With the inevitable
Majesty and dignity of death.
To live in harmony with nature
And all her immutable rules:
Birth, Death, Regeneration,
Is the only guarantee
Of not doing harm with your life.
Only through pride in our lives
Will we find dignity in death.
Anything we do
That we would not wish to meditate on
In those moments before death – or sleep
Is negative energy.
A waste of time,
If we live gently
And select those things
On which we expend our lives
We live in peace with the World
We will eliminate fear
We will live in dignity
And,what is more,
We will die in dignity.
Well, I was convinced but I didn’t think my happiness was something I had a right to make a fuss about. I thought I should
be happy with all the things that so many people deemed so important and that there was something wrong with me if I wasn’t.
What happened next was entirely predictable in the Holistic Health Model. In 1992 I got a diagnosis of ‘incurable’ cancer. I had a lot of very unpleasant treatment and had a lot of practice with being sick and the best way to go and be bald. When I was at school a question made the rounds and made us laugh with the beastliness of the choice. It went like this…
“If you were up to your neck in sewage and someone threw a bucket of vomit at you would you duck?”
The question was about unacceptable choices and I found it a useful device to squeeze some humour out of some of the choices I was being called upon to make.