That Time When I Nearly Died- Diary, August 2013
48 hours ago I was in a car accident that nearly took my life. I remember it still so perfectly even though the doctors claim I still have concussion. Going fast in an old German car, I sat in the middle seat and watched as we started to slide, spinning and then flipping over, crossing another lane of the autobahn and going straight into a wall. The whole car was smashed into pieces. Our luggage had flown out and lay limply on the road. I remember as we were spinning that I was waiting for the impending crash and pain that would take me. I remember laughing. I laughed because a few days ago I had given a talk on life extension at Tech Open Air and here I was, dying myself, on the day that my friend Joel had posted on my Facebook wall a meme calling me a legend. How funny I thought to die now, that talk and that image becoming so painfully poignant. Joel’s going to feel really fucking bad. A last joke from me from death.
I spoke at Tech Open Air about how people don’t think about death consciously enough. The fear of it affects our every subconscious decision as we strive to prove our lives worthy, to leave behind a legacy for not being able to cheat time. I didn’t think I would die at 24 although I have contemplated (and strived to avoid) potential accidents and diseases every day of my life. I spoke about how I didn’t agree with James Dean when he famously said Dream as if you’ll live forever, Live as if you’ll die today. I prefer to contemplate life as if you’ll live forever. To follow desires free from the conscious limitations of time. I dream of many different careers, many different lives, many different loves, many different renewals of my ‘self’ as if I was an immortal being who was able to experiment and explore across an endless timeline.
I guess I still don’t know what it feels like to die, but in those moments I presumed I had fallen to pieces, that my body had failed to protect me from the hurling metal and glass. I couldn’t feel the pain that I expected, but I remembered as with every one of my tattoos that adrenaline often overpowers pain. I got out of the car and stumbled to the side- my head had slammed against the roof of the car as we flipped. I fell to the grass, sick and dizzy, thinking of my mother, sister and boyfriend, how they would continue, how the world was to go on without me. I thought of them eating breakfast tomorrow. I thought of them making coffee. I saw the beauty in the mundane.
Here I am, just a dot on the side of the autobahn, dying, cars still driving past, lives still going on, time still traveling forwards, friends and family still living, eventually moving on from their brief loss. Really in the entire context of the situation, from this little planet within its galaxy within the universe, 13.6 billion years old and potentially still expanding, my death does not affect anything. No planets died, no black holes absorbed mass, no stars burst. My cells simply lost the oxygen supply they once had. That life magic was only ever rented anyway. In the end, entropy gets us all. There is no distinction between my fate (or any of ours) and that of a biodegradable shopping bag. Thermodynamics is the universe’s real god. We all bow down to the same master in the end, whether star, galaxy or slug. Coaxed through life by the forever deceitful and cunning Time, we tumble through the world blindly with no guidebook on how best to deliver us to the bitter sweet. Everything we love will die, or at least for now.
A recurring fascination of death has fueled everything I have done. Theology and philosophy, metaphysics, future technologies and their role in a supposed promised ‘singularity’. Time is dripping. Time destroys all things. And there’s this feeling that I get which I never felt more strongly than today. I blanked out all the cars and the noises and the ambulance and the worldly thoughts- all the distractions- and concentrated on the notion of man’s own demise, connecting with the fortune of a vast nothingness, of the absurdity of it all, of my own existence, my own thoughts, only to feel an intense feeling that I’ve felt numerous times in life. I can’t describe it any better than a sort of emotional orgasm that resembles a stroke. It runs through my body, swelling up the veins and choking all the senses, an internal tornado that blitzes out every other thought. I wasn’t sure if I was dying from the car crash or from the fact that I had trigged death internally by the overwhelming realization of the beautifully ironic insignificance of my own life.
One of the things I found interesting afterwards was that one of the other passengers (there were five of us in the car), possibly the most concussed and hurt out of all of us, had within a minute of the crash automatically called her best friend despite being unable to speak. I guess in those moments there’s an instinct to reach out to your loved ones, to find some last comfort, to expel one last burst of love.
For the last 48 hours I have considered that I should tell someone. My mother, my sister, my boyfriend. Let them know I need them. Let them worry. And it’s not only because my phone was smashed to pieces in the car. I’ve grown increasingly aware that I have to sit this one through by myself. It feels strange and lonely but at the same time it feels correct. I always remember the line from Donnie Darko when he recalls Grandma Death telling him that every creature on this Earth dies alone. I’ve always sensed I agreed with it, but even more so now. In those moments it was only me and it was up to me only what my last experience of this world would be. Of course I laughed. If/when I die, I know I’ll go laughing.
I’ve role-played the conversation of calling my mother, sister, boyfriend repeatedly over the last 48 hours. What I would say, how they might respond, a surreal encounter. I still can’t see myself saying the words, maybe because it feels wrong to even have the chance. Any rational prediction says I should have died 48 hours ago. To mean I can call someone and say I lived through it almost feels like I’m calling my own bluff. That maybe I am still dying. That the impending crash I expected is still coming. That there is a huge wound somewhere. I keep thinking that my head is about to explode to fulfill the crash’s natural ending. That really my headache is worse, more sinister, and that the entropy gods have come to deliver me to my fate. They were just held up in traffic. Then I breathe and rationalize that the pressure I am feeling is psychological and not physical.
The whole of life is a psychological narrative to escape accepting the truth that time destroys all things, because it’s too scary to confront fighting that and failing. But I remembered today, at least partly, what all the intensity was for. It’s going to take some of us to see it, confront it and rise up to the challenge. Just as some people want to die, there are some others who never want to. I wish there were options. There will be some day.