When you're young, you have absolutely no concept of never
having existed. On an intellectual level (if you ever felt disposed to
consider the matter), you know there was a time when you weren't
around, but you can't truly conceive what it was like because non-
existence is a difficult if not impossible state to imagine.
Think of any period in mankind's history from before you were
ever. Even 'though you never experienced them, you almost feel as
if you have, thanks to history books, old photographs, artists' impres-
sions, TV shows, movies, etc. And because you can't remember your
beginning, it seems as if you never actually had one and that you've
been around forever. At least, that's what it seems like to me.
Consequently, when I was a teenager of 14, I subconsciously
laboured under the impression that I had always been. (Although
the same perception also applies to any point in my childhood from
when I first became aware of my surroundings.) It's unlikely that I was
alone in that regard, and it's surely the same for 14 year-olds today. It's
only because fourteen years to someone of my age passes so quickly
that I finally realized just how inconsequential such a period of time
actually is. I've got things lying around the house which have never
been out of the wrappers since I bought them that are
older than that.
As you inexorably inch closer to that time when the condition
of non-existence threatens to once again engulf you, it's a prospect
you tend to contemplate more than you did (if at all) in your younger
days. Finally, you begin to be able to nearly catch a glimmer of what
extinction might be like, and the prospect isn't a pleasant one. I recall
waking up in hospital one day after a procedure which required my un-
consciousness, and was alarmed to find I had no recollection of even
a half-sleep-like state between being knocked out and coming to.
As I said, no half-remembered thoughts, vague dreams, or
hovering on the edge of awareness to connect me to my pre-an-
aesthetised self - only an absolute absence of even the slightest sense
of continuity between the two conditions. It was then that I realised
what oblivion must be like. It was as if I'd been dead for however
many hours I'd been out, and, although my body was still function-
ing, as far as my mind was concerned, there was no discernible
difference between death and unconsciousness.
So, death is not merely a case of not waking up, it's also not
even being aware of going to sleep or being asleep at any stage in
the process. Shakespeare was wrong; there are no dreams in the
sleep of death, only a blackness and silence from which we never
awaken - an eternal nothingness, an everlasting night.
That's no doubt why I often find myself wishing I was only 14
again. The illusion of no beginning (and, by extension, no ending),
while temporary, is a comforting and necessary notion, otherwise
we'd probably abandon our journey before we were very far into
it. After all, what's the point of taking a road to nowhere?
Come to think of it, I wouldn't even mind being half that age.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to work on that elixir
of life I'm developing. I just can't afford to relax if I want to be
here in 2113.
We are but older children, dear,
Who fret to find our bedtime near.