The Man with the Long Black Coat: Time, Death and Joy

This post is also available in: Italiano

The 2020 is certainly the year in which each of us, directly or indirectly, came in touch with what Bob Dylan use to call The man with the long Black coat: in the Italian dictionary and in many other languages, it refers to a specific noun, Death .

Statistics were constantly popping up on a daily bases on every type of news, with more or less distressing tones, the numbers of deaths from Covid-19, are now a routine to which, frankly speaking, we have all become accustomed to.

But getting used to missing a loved one is much more difficult or perhaps impossible. 

Three people I knew recently passed away, three dear relatives of close friends, with whom I grew up and built a relationship of mutual trust.

In this context, the name of this blog was never more “nailed to”: a land inside my head or a world in my head! Yes, because the mind explores sensations and emotions through our body (but it can be even the other way round): the colors I saw during those mournings were dark, gloomy, opaque, deeply shaded by a dense gray and not at all clear.

After the sadness and anger felt, albeit to a thousandth degree in comparison to that felt by the direct loved ones who have lost their relatives, a thought has made its way into my head that, without shame, I would like to share. You have probably considered it too.

With a clear mind and a less impetuous soul I wonder, thinking about the lost loved ones: what can one feel , apart from pain, when we becomes aware that the thorn is about to come off , that our body is about to abandon us and that the blood so far pumped impetuously every day fueling our existence, ceases to flow?

Instinctively my mind replied: “and now where am I going?”

This question made me terrified . Yes a terrible terror.

Imagine losing the bonds built over time, your life, the beautiful and, for heaven’s sake, even the ugly but that ugly of which you are sure of, at least until then it has never been so horrible, must be a devastating realization!

The answer to, where will we go, may be a double-edged sword. If the destination were better than a person believes their earthly existence is, it could trigger mass suicides! The film The Discovery that I recently watched ( not that I really like the movie, it gives this wired but interesting point of view ) by chance on Netflix, tells precisely these unwanted side effects of knowing what awaits us in the afterlife.

Realistically speaking, I don’t know where I’m going soon after my current life and the total uncertainty is scary . 

Living with the awareness that death is a fundamental and essential part of my life is a duty and a right imposed by mother nature. It is universal, in every sense. How many people ask themselves if they are living their present life with the full awareness that, today or tomorrow, without knowing when, they will be certainly die?

Questions like: If you had one last week left, how would you spend it? How many weeks of your past existence have you done what you really desire or something that really excites you? They can, most probably, generate embarrassment and shame. 

During the first (unexpected) wave of Covid19, in April 2020, I started reflecting on these and other similar questions, thanks to two books, which I think are among the most inspiring in my life: Working 4 hours a week , written by Timothy Feriss together with the book by Richard Koch the Pareto principle 80/ 20 .

In both cases the author’s approach is simple and directed towards the awareness that the only wealth that has value in the world is not money but time .

These Books are basically a guide to revolutionizing one’s working life so that an important surplus of free time is generated, to be used in what makes us happy. But what is happiness? What exites (us), what makes us feelling emotions. Even on this point one can feel embarrassed to ask oneself certain questions.

A single certainty dictated by death: the time available to us is limited .

In the Western culture in which I have grown up and lived up to now, the fear of death is so strong that we don’t talk about it, we are afraid of it, and we only discuss it when it happens to someone else. As if every person were immune from this. 

A book that accompanied me during the last stages of my beloved maternal grandfather’s life was a book where I “lived”, identifying myself between the engaging lines, the mourning of a young boy who loses his beloved (or rather desired) girlfriend , who committed suicide: Norwegian Wood , by Haruki Murakami . I saw for the first time a celebratory approach to death, that I suppose is typical of the Eastern Asian Countries, in which the awareness of death is contemplated daily. A greeting from a deceased, celebrated with notes of guitar and a glass of wine in a sort of commemoration or session of liberation of his soul.

Deciding how to celebrate your death.

How would you like to celebrate your death? In short, how would you organize what’s left of you (I mean the body rather than the goods in this reflection) when there will actually be no you anymore?

Among these questions, those concerning my body and the commemoration have recently become tremendously clear to me.

Nature is my God: it frightens, it amazes; it is wild and raw but it is healing and teaching. It is where I like to live and experience the most and that is where I want my ashes to end when I can no longer do it by myself.

I want to be precise in the details and leave nothing by any chance: I want a friend, my partner or a relative (with anyone who wants to join in the commemoration), to take my ashes to one of the five main peaks of the Pollino National Park and spread them from there, to the wild wind.

These are my words, before, one day, it is too late or I wouldn’t have the time (or the strength) to express the last ones.

Ah, obviously the invitation is retroactive and open to anyone who wants to get excited: it is valid even before the man in the black coat knocks on my (or his/her) door. 😉

And what about your self? I would love to hear if you have ever had any kind of this thought! We are all togheter experiencing an incredible existience in life and I believe it might be a shame if we won’t share it, even when it comes to such difficult topic.

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