Precious Fathers

My greatest fear is my father's death.

Well, I don't know how I came to this conclusion. Two years ago my cousin had lost his father (my father's younger brother) and though it must have hurt him, it didn't show. Life goes on. Now I couldn't bear to think of that moment when my father dies and I have to deal with it.

Maybe it's with all the articles I've been reading, just like this article from the New Yorker, Why? by James Wood. Here's a snippet I've been meaning to send to a friend, this friend from college whose father had died just recently of prostate cancer:

The novel often gives us that formal insight into the shape of someone’s life: we can see the beginning and the end of many fictional lives; their developments and errors; stasis and drift. Fiction does this in many ways—by sheer scope and size (the long, peopled novel, full of many lives, many beginnings and endings) but also by compression and brevity (the novella that radically compacts a single life, from start to finish, as in “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” or Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams”). And partly by turning the present into the past: although we move forward through a story, the entire story is already complete—we hold it in our hands. In this sense, fiction, the great life-giver, also kills, not just because people often die in novels and stories but, more important, because, even if they don’t die, they have already happened. Fictional form is always a kind of death, in the way that Blanchot described actual life. “Was. We say he is, then suddenly he was, this terrible was.”

My wife dismissed this (or maybe my condensed retelling of the essay is to blame) as an idea that has been around us for ages; ony this was eloquent and well-written that elevated it to something that can be regarded as highly philosophical. I guess it is, but it made great sense.

Until recently, death strikes me as something to be bothered about. I was anxious and worried about it. Partly my being a nonbeliever of the afterlife is to blame. Once I told my wife maybe we should have a Buddhist wedding, since Buddhism is, for the lack of a better term, interesting. Pretentious, even! Maybe I just need something to believe in--not mankind, not critical theory. ("I'm sick of theory," I once retorted to my wife.)