“I love the dead before they’re cold! They’re bluing flesh for me to hold. Cadaver eyes upon me see nothing. I love the dead before they rise. No farewells, no goodbyes. I never knew your rotting face. While friends and lovers mourn your silly grave…I have other uses for you, Darling.” – Alice Cooper
2016 has been one hell of an active year for the Grim Reaper. Not only did I lose a very close friend a few months back, but the following icons (among others) have also passed on to the “Great Beyond” or have integrated back into the ever-morphing energy of the universe…or maybe they are just plain old worm food. Among those I admired who didn’t survive the year are David Bowie, Prince, Lemmy Kilmister, Florence Henderson, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Michael Cimino (director and star of The Deer Hunter), Bernie Worrell (of P-Funk fame), Muhammad Ali, Chyna, Doris Roberts, Merle Haggard, Garry Shandling, Maurice White (Earth Wind & Fire), Glenn Frey, Abe Vigoda, Alan Rickman, Sir George Martin, Pat Harrington (“Schneider” from One Day At A Time), and Robert Stigwood (creative mind and musical genius behind such films and soundtracks as Saturday Night Fever). I’m sure there are more that I’m forgetting (or don’t care about — case in point, Antonin Scalia), but the point is, the planet decided to clear itself of a good number of talented celebrities and/or overall good people this year.
Any grief I may have felt upon hearing of their passing was purely selfish, for I am quite sure they are in a better place than the rest of us. That is not a religious platitude, as I do not believe in the notion of an afterlife, as such; certainly not of the Christian Heaven/Hell variety. Yet I find that rather than feeling sad for these people, I am paradoxically envious of them. None of them will have to witness and live through 2017, a year I anticipate will be far, far more cataclysmic than any we’ve seen in decades. And even if they are just “worm food”, they are, by definition, unaware of that fact. They are not desperately clawing at their coffin lids or urns, nor are they any longer conscious of the people or egos they once were (even though the ego is a fallacy, it’s one that is so ingrained in our consciousness that any amount of philosophical negation of its reality usually just amounts to lofty pontification because to us, our egos or separate personalities seem so real).
As the Buddha said, life is suffering. Suffering arises from attachment and aversion. And almost none of us have the spiritual wherewithal to withdraw to a remote cave and meditate for years until we fully internalize this fact. So we go on living and hoping and fearing and loving and when it all gets to be too much, many of us resort to escapism whether through alcohol, drugs, television, food, work, sex, or just plain daydreaming. This is all part of the game of life. Or the “Game of God”, if you will, since we have all forgotten that our “selves” do not end at our skin, but encompass all that is. The atmosphere, plants, animals, and even “empty space” are as much a part of us as what we usually consider our “selves”, i.e. a bag of skin and bones with a brain and nervous system. That is the grand illusion, but just realizing this from an intellectual standpoint gives no solace. So that is why I envy those who have passed on, whether they are in heaven (doubtful), merged with the Cosmic Consciousness, or just plain done with all experience and consciousness. I fear that no matter what their condition is now, they are immeasurably luckier than all of us who still have to stick around and play the pointless game. That being said, let’s try to enjoy the game more while it lasts. Don’t take anything seriously, because everything is one big cosmic dance with no laws or moral codes attached to it. But knowing we are all in the same boat could do wonders for enhancing the fun of the game. Let’s play nice together. Play your chosen role, but never forget that it is illusory. Maybe then, we can all learn to have fun.