The Mystery Of Mortality

When we weep for the dead, we truly weep for ourselves, for our loss, not theirs, and for our own fear of the grave, not theirs. The tears you shed do you no dishonor. We all weep in darkness.

– Jeff Crook

I live in a small town community that is very closely knit. We recognize each other’s faces, wave when we pass cars, and help strangers on the road if they have broken down. Our peace has been shattered lately, though. Two deaths have shaken our community: that of an eighteen year old and a twenty year old. Their deaths were unrelated and spaced out by a week but the foundation of peace that we formerly stood upon has become unsteady. We are all fearfully waiting to see if we are going to lose someone else.

Their deaths have also shaken my own confidence. How are we to know how much time we truly have? I’ve found myself thinking about death itself: the mystery of it and the fear that we carry in our hearts when it threatens. Death is an unknown that inexorably hunts us throughout our life. It is something that we always face but desperately try not to think about.

After all, Death is a mystery that not even science can pierce. We know causes of death, and what happens afterwards, but that single moment between when you are a living, breathing being and an empty shell devoid of life? It is an inscrutable unknown. The fact that it is an unknown is probably why we fear it so much. We go through life fearing death and we are then held back by that fear, or we rush to face it head on. People jump off of planes trusting a parachute to save them, dive into the deepest depths of the ocean with only a tank of air and a hose to keep them from drowning, and trek up treacherous mountains where a single misstep could end it all just to feel that they are alive.

Why do we do this? Why do we have such a fascination with death? For what else can we call this obsession we have other than fascination? The generations that came before didn’t actively seek out death just to feel that they were alive. They didn’t seek out ghosts and other horrors like we do in books and movies.

This is a question that has been asked innumerable times by people far more distinguished than me, and I am no closer to the answer than they are. The best we can hope to do is accept that our death is coming but we still have a life to live. After all, yesterday is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.


The Dawn Of A Focused Imagination

Always have a vivid imagination, for you never know when you might need it.

– J.K. Rowling

I was an active child, unwilling to sit long enough to do homework or read a book, though my love of television transcended my hyperactivity at all times.I have no doubt that this can be attributed to my overactive imagination. It never stopped. I was always creating new adventures for my dolls and stuffed animals to go on, and when I would play outside I was on a grand quest to save someone who was held captive by a villain who had a master plan to take over the world. My stories often took hours to act out and the plot would get very involved. My imagination was so great that I remember taking a spelling test and, while waiting for the teacher to give us the next word, getting so lost in a daydream that when I came back to reality I had completely missed the word.

Even so, no books interested me. Reading was hard and each sentence was a struggle to get through. In school, we had required reading time and I tried all of the class favorites. I forced myself through The Boxcar Children and The Babysitter’s Club because other people in my class loved them so much, but they barely held my focus. No books interested me and I couldn’t comprehend why people enjoyed reading.

My mom is the reason that has changed so radically. She was always trying to find new books for me to read that might hold my interest until she finally succeeded. She bought Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for me because she heard that people my age loved it and, after my insistence that I couldn’t start the series in the middle, she went out and bought the first three Harry Potter books for me. She then told me that I had to read ten pages a day. For the first thirty pages or so, my main focus was hurrying to finish so that I could go play but then J.K. Rowling caught me hook, line, and sinker. Here was a book that grabbed my imagination and led it onto a path full of plot twists, excitement, and fantasy, with a protagonist close to my age who could defeat the odds and a villain that stayed in the shadows, taunting me until the very end. Granted, I now consider Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to be the dullest of the entire series, but back then it was a hardcover book filled with an entrancing story.

Since then, I have become what can only be described as a bookaholic. I’ve read as many books as I can get my hands on, mainly those that are science fiction/fantasy or have a good adventure story. I love Harry Potter just as much as most people my age and a part of that can be attributed to the fact that it was the first book that I actually enjoyed reading. Those who know me now would not believe that I once hated books and was a slow reader. I can read a 200 page book in under a day with no problem at all, if it interests me. My imagination has grown to the point that I go through the day imagining impossible things happening around me, whether it is me having control of an element and having to hide it for my own safety or a car chase speeding past me while I am driving my car. A book that can tame my imagination and lead it down the author’s desired path without me loosing interest is a book that is worth reading.

I am an English Major currently (based on statistics, that may very well change), and I feel that I can safely say that my love of literature, writing, and grammar stems from two primary factors: Harry Potter and my mother. If my mom had not forced me to read Harry Potter, and if Harry Potter had not caught my attention, I would probably be at a loss on where to go with my life. Now, I have my eyes set on my goal of becoming an editor for a publishing company and I have no regrets.