An Elegy of Consciousness

The strangest thing is to be alive. Or to be conscious. Especially to the fact that, right now, you’re alive. And that your body will keep pumping blood through your heart down miles of thin veins that dangle like the fragile yarn of the Fate’s within your living carcass. One day, your body will die. Unless you do not die, which might be possible. It has yet to be proven that either you or I (unless either of us are zombie or ghost) can die. When someone proves us wrong, it won’t even matter.

But being conscious does not simply mean being awake, yet it means exactly that. Not simply entering into daytime out of deep REM cycles, because even waking, we sleep. Our minds are passive rather than active. We spend a lot of time watching cat videos on YouTube, passively processing information we might possibly forget. That’s why it is strange to finally take deep breaths and truly consider your existence. To ask, what is my purpose here? Why am I alive right now? How am I alive right now? What will happen next? Or most importantly, what will happen when this body of mine crumbles to dust?

Even overweight and overly hairy, I’m not too fond of the idea of my body deteriorating underground, the diet of worms. But we must face the truth of death; we all must. Death is the only disease no doctor can cure. So, if we’re not dead, why are we not alive? Why do we drool while living droll lives? Why do we stare so often at nothingness so that we forget ourselves, forget we even exist?

It is strange to be human, strange to be anything at all. If we were simpler animals, then the existence from moment-t0-moment would make sense, acting on whims and fulfilling basic needs. Yet we are capable of higher faculties, able to wield our minds like razor-sharp swords. We are intelligent with powerful, breath-taking bodies. What our brains do without us even trying, that is incredible in itself. But with application, what our brains can comprehend, explain in words, calculate– those things are worthy of some consideration.

I have undertaken this notion for some time now. To truly consider what it means to be alive, to experience everything as novel and incredible. Even getting a tooth pulled can be a worthy experience. Edgar Allen Poe, as we can see from his gruesome stories, was obsessed with sensation. He once suggested that any prisoner being beheaded should take heart that he is experiencing what not many are able to experience. But it is difficult to think about pain as good, as useful, but even pain is a teacher. For anyone to truly understand himself, he must experience grief, heartbreak, and ultimately death.

He must stand at the abyss of eternity, looking into the dark, uncertain depths. He must teeter forever at the edge, since we can never prove eternity exists or does not since we will never reach the end. And if we do, those who might could have gloated will not be able to.

It is difficult to imagine ceasing to exist while it is also difficult to imagine existing forever. And at least as humans, we can take solace in knowing we were made into being, that we have some origin. When we consider God, who has no origin or end, our minds fail to come to terms with these things. Yet these are the unsettling, fascinating thoughts that make us lie perfectly still in our beds just before sleeping. Those overwhelming questions that can leave you weeping in confusion, that can blast the breath from your lungs with their pure incomprehensibility.

The best we can do, perhaps, is concentrate and appreciate the present as we often do not do. I do not suggest you forgo the past or eschew anxiety for the future, but perhaps to live as we are now with eyes open. Notice what happens around you. Consider who you are and who you want to be. Compare everything you do, each trivial action, to those visions. Often, they collide because we do not live with the constant consideration of our own core beliefs. We stuff them down our own throats for the sake of personal benefit, laziness, and selfishness.

But one of the only ways we will learn to consider others, to consider our own actual beliefs, is not to live so sleepy, where we must consume energy from aluminum cans. You are a body brimming with energy if only you breathe, if only you use it. If only you begin to truly pay attention to the fact you’re even alive.

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About Derek Berry

Derek Berry is a novelist and spoken word poet. Derek is the author of Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County (PRA Publishing, 2016). He co-founded and organizes The Unspoken Word, a literary non-profit based out of Charleston, SC, which provides an intendent home for the poetic arts through regular readings, workshops, and community fundraisers. He is on the Executive Board of the Charleston Poetry Festival, the inaugural production of which will be Fall 2017. His work has appeared in The Southern Tablet, Cattywampus, Charleston Currents, Illuminations, RiverSedge, and other journals.He has performed in venues across the United States and Germany. He has worked as a photographer’s assistant, busboy, and bookseller. He currently works at a curation facility for Cold War History.

Posted on May 23, 2012, in Blogging, books, Controversy, culture, Internet, Language, Manifesto, Poetry, Religion, Revolution, writer, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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