“. . . a comet’s nucleus emits X-rays and leaves tracks. . . “

Pulling the covers up around my shoulders as I got into bed, I said to Chachi the cat, “I don’t want to be alone when I die; that’s all.”

That followed an evening of particular awareness of and grieving over my aloneness. Aloneness in both a physical sense—in this moment home alone—and in, shall I say (even though it seems pretentious), a metaphysical sense.

Every 100,000 years

Every 100,000 years

Metaphysics. noun
“branch of speculation which deals with the first causes of things,”
from Medieval Latin
metaphysica . . . from Greek ta meta ta physika
“the (works) after the Physics,” title of the 13 treatises . . . on physics
and natural sciences in Aristotle’s writings. . .  misinterpreted by
Latin writers as meaning “the science of what is beyond the physical”
(“metaphysics.”
Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, ed. 2001-2014. Web.)

If I use the word, I’m sure to misuse it. Because I don’t know what it means. Is it philosophy? theology? psychology? some new-age mixture of the three? One example of the uncertainty of its meaning is that the people who have codified their ideas in the 2004 film What the Bleep Do We Know? have preempted the word to mean an association with “channeling,” that is, speaking for a dead person who whispers truth to the channeler, and the channeler teaches these truths to the rest of us on the dead person’s behalf.

This film features students of JZ Knight of “Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment” in Oregon. Knight channels the teachings of the 35,000-year-old Ramtha the Enlightened One (from an ancient city in what is now Jordan). Who am I to decide whether she’s is bogus or teaching the truth? I mention the (far out-of-the-mainstream) use by “Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment” of the word “metaphysics” only as an example of the possible corruption of a word (an idea?) This “channeling” seems to me to be an attempt to short-circuit the universal experience, the ultimate human experience of being alone when we die.

Dying is the last and greatest undertaking of our lives, and we do it alone.

I’m not trying to be profound. And if you find that statement depressing or jump to the conclusion I’m depressed, you will probably miss my point (of which I am not at the moment certain—I write to discover what I’m thinking, remember).

The belief someone from 35,000 years ago can speak to someone alive today obviously presupposes some kind of “life after death.”

Last night I wrote to a friend,

I know how to be alone. I know all about solitude. But simply to want someone to talk to, even to hug–I’ve touched one person today—I put my arm around [a friend’s] shoulders for 5 seconds in my office—is not pathological. It is not pathological to grieve my isolation. And it’s not pathological that I don’t have a clue how to find someone that I want to be with, rather than simply calling up someone I know in a desperate attempt not to be alone. This probably is pathological: I don’t want to be alone, but I feel uncomfortable and out of place with anyone and everyone I know. This is probably bipolar rapid cycling. Or some shit like that. But I’m too old to be this miserable. [Note: “rapid cycling” because the night before I was seemed quite happy.]

“So,” you say, “this is not ‘depression?’”

OK, have it your way.

To channel or not to channel, that is the question.

To channel or not to channel, that is the question.

And you’re probably thinking, “Someone ought to call Dr. Bret, the Gerontological Psychiatrist at UTD Southwestern Medical School who prescribes his meds and with whom he does regular (somewhat—because he forgets appointments) ‘talk therapy.’ Surely anyone who’s thinking and talking and writing about dying alone and being in grief over his loneliness is depressed and needs counseling if not hospitalization. This can’t be healthy or simply speculation. He needs help.”

On the other hand, let’s posit this is a “metaphysical” (speculation which deals with the first causes of things) rant.

. . . In 1996, we saw the [the comet] Hyakutake through binoculars . . .
Comet Hyakutake will not pass earth for another 100,000 years—.
. .

Many (I suspect most) of my friends maintain some belief that includes their being around in some form somewhere the next time human beings on Planet Earth will be able to see Comet Hyakutake’s tail. By that time, human beings from Planet Earth may well possess the ability to meet the comet in space. Who knows?

When my late partner was on his hospital death bed, I spent virtually 24 hours a day with him for his last three days. The hospital brought in a “Lazy-boy” for me. About 72 hours before he died, he opened his eyes and said, “Water?” I moistened his lips—he could not swallow. That was the last communication we had, and I’m almost certain I was the last person he saw before he died.

That moment gave me a responsibility I carry until I die. And an invaluable gift.

This can’t be a “metaphysical” rant because that word itself exists in our language through an error of interpretation (see etymology above) from its first use until, for example, its use by JZ Knight. (Barnes and Noble’s online catalogue has 152 pages of book titles using the word.)

I’m not writing about “the science of what is beyond the physical.” I’m writing completely about the physical. Dying itself will be the last solitary physical act. Whether it happens now or the next time Hyakutake makes its rounds to Planet Earth’s skies, “no matter, ardor is here.”

I said, “I do not want to die alone.” And saying so makes my life whole. I need to give to someone else the fragment of reality Jerry gave me. Ardor (“heat of passion or desire,” from Latin ardorem “a flame, fire, burning, heat”) is here.

“Comet Hyakutake,” by Arthur Sze (b. 1950, New York City)

Comet Hyakutake’s tail stretches for 360 million miles—

in 1996, we saw Hyakutake through binoculars—

the ion tail contains the time we saw bats emerge out of a cavern at dusk—

in the cavern, we first heard stalactites dripping—

first silence, then reverberating sound—

our touch reverberates and makes a blossoming track—

a comet’s nucleus emits X-rays and leaves tracks—

two thousand miles away, you box up books and, in two days, will step through the

        invisible rays of an airport scanner—

we write on invisible pages in an invisible book with invisible ink—

in nature’s infinite book, we read a few pages—

in the sky, we read the ion tracks from the orchard—

the apple orchard where blossoms unfold, where we unfold—

budding, the child who writes, “the puzzle comes to life”—

elated, puzzled, shocked, dismayed, confident, loving: minutes to an hour—

a minute, a pinhole lens through which light passes—

Comet Hyakutake will not pass earth for another 100,000 years—

no matter, ardor is here—

and to the writer of fragments, each fragment is a whole—

Not to be lone

Not to be lone

2 Responses to “. . . a comet’s nucleus emits X-rays and leaves tracks. . . “

  1. Gede Prama says:

    visit your blog, read an interesting article. thank you friends for sharing and greetings compassion 🙂

  2. bonnie sato says:

    You are not alone. I understand that you feel you are, but you are no more alone than those of us who have extended family and friends near by. God blessed you to be with several folks that you love who have passed before you. You heard the last breath of some pretty amazing folks. Think of those gifts rather than fear being alone. You have the time, the talent, the willingness and the graciousness to be with others who may be alone. Most areas of the country have hospice. Remember there was someone who did nothing but play a harp for Mom. There was a young seminary student who read scripture to Dad. The chaplain brought her iPod with recorded music and a hymn book for Dad. You played Christmas piano for a group that did not want you to stop. There is someone who feels so similar to you right now that needs to hear some music, get a ride to the doctor, have poetry read to them… And then there is that undocumented child that struggles with grades and needs just a little encouragement. There are premature babies that need someone to rock them. You have too much to feel that your life is ending. Having faced my own mortality, and I know we share genes but are different, look up and look outward for the opportunity to be blessed having been blessed for 69 years. You went around singing “when I am 64” and now it is 5 years later. Sing a new song.

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