Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Unbearble Lightness of Being

Damn, I love me some Kundera.

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Why do I love cemeteries so much? Riding my bike by one tonight, I couldn't help but slow down and look at some of the graves. What's the point of these things anyway? People visit these graves and mourn their loved ones for a while, but eventually those people themsleves die or move on, and the graves and headstones, like the bodies years before, are left there to rot and be beaten by time's all-encompassing ugly mallet. Sure, if I were to lose a loved one, I would want to visit their grave and mourn. But, really, what's the point?

Anyway. In the back of this cemetery were a long row of graves with tiny headstones, all of which were children's and babies' graves. Now, that is depressing. Not just that these infants died and never experienced life (or maybe they were lucky enough not to have to); and not that these infants' graves were in the back of this cemetery, tucked away in over-grown weeds; but what is truly depressing is that this is proof that a person's life really doesn't matter. While I didn't see any graves old enough (the oldest one I saw of these infants was from 1950), if a baby were to die during birth, say, 100 years ago, they'd probably be dead now anyway. The world went on after they died, much like it would have gone on if they were to have lived and died later. Nothing really would have changed had they actually lived. The world would essentially be the same. The people whose lives they would have touched would probably be dead. The world would be no different had they gone on to live *coughcough* full and meaningful lives. Sure, they could have found the cure for cancer, but what would that really matter? The people they would have saved because of that cure would die eventually anyway. If the people they would have saved would have ended world hunger, all the people no longer starving would die one day as well. And it would just keep going on. And the world would still be the same: a long series of sunrises and sunsets, of births and deaths, all of which ultimately mean nothing. Kundera, of course, being the beautiful genius he is, put it best:

". . . the myth of eternal return states that a life which disappears once and for all, which does not return, is like a shadow, without weight, dead in advance, and whether it was horrible, beautiful, or sublime, its horror, sublimity, and beauty mean nothing."

"Einmal ist keinmal . . .. What happens but once, says the German adage, might as well not have happened at all. If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all."

If nothing else, cemeteries fascinate me because of the fact that they are a sort of tangible proof of what Kundera says. Nothing we do in life really matters, and there are the graves of forgotten people to prove it.

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I still plan to invent the time machine some day. It really doesn't matter when I do it, just as long as I do it before I die.

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I really need to stop watching Hitch.