The Curious Taboo

Today, in the community library, he read. He flipped through the newspapers - Business Times, Today and The Straits Times. He found out more about economic woes and natural disasters and lifestyle choices. Restlessly, he read words, rows after rows of them.

He wasn't really interested in reading; he was just tired of sleeping, if one could ever grow tired of it.

Then, in the air-conditioned space, he flipped through Veronika decides to die and A Perfect Day.

To him, every event was significant. Each occurrence has its cosmic reasons, has a greater meaning in the scheme of life. They all mean something to someone. Hmm, both stories have similar plots.

Both speak of people who lived their imagination only after being confronted with Death. They had lived in a world of 'should's, 'must's and 'have-to's. They defended their fears against critics, nurturing them as one would nurture pets. They lived lives of quiet hopelessness, of inner emptiness. Only when Death was imminent did those characters start truly living.

He thought about Veronika, who was tricked into believing that she has only days to live. Veronika went on to believe that every day is a miracle, a beauty to behold. Under the specter of death, Evans's protagonist re-conciliated with his estranged family.

Death, it is one of those taboo topics. Like bad breath or body odour. No one wants to talk about it, he wondered slowly for he had two more hours before it was dinner time.

But death is linked to life, it being the conclusion of one phase and the beginning of another. What am I scared of? Dying? 

He picked up his fears, examining them like curious memorabilia from his past.

What am I fearful of? Not presenting well enough. Not being smart/witty/diligent/good looking/wealthy/fit/knowledgeable enough. But these, he reminded himself, are just superficial concerns. They fade with time. What am I truly, really scared of?
Maybe I'm secretly afraid of dying.

He held on to that fear for a while and felt its grainy, porous texture. No, he wasn't really scared of dying.

At this point, he realised what he was most fearful of. Dying without having experienced Life.

How does one do it anyway? To die without living?

The only reason he could think of - for dying without having truly lived - was the fear of failing. 

He understood himself well enough and he understood the world well enough. Many people around him were living lives of quiet desperation, fearful of failing, living without truly living. Day in, day out, they breathed work that they didn't like. 

His friend, for example. She hated the accounting work. And his uncles, they have no passion for the family business.

It all crystallised to this, didn't it? Roosevelt once said that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

In a way, we're all fearful, he allowed his thoughts to trickle out,  but if we live in spite of fearing, then we'd have lived.