Montmartre cemetery, Paris; this gravestone sculpture is both beautiful and melancholy; there is nothing even remotely attractive about “shuffling off this mortal coil”. How much of all the noise and fuss we make is at base an inability to acknowledge this one primordial fact and heavy burden of the self-conscious awareness of our ultimate existential situation and destination ? We celebrate life, and rightly so, but always (it seems) at the cost of not accepting its transience, or at least more often in ways which replace or displace what could be genuine living with so many overlaid assumptions, responsibilities, expectations and narratives of someone else’s idea of what this life should be, how we should live it. Human beings, globally connected as we now are by digital, media and communications networks; currently drowning in the images and noises of so much pornography, evangelical (or other fundamentalist) dogmas, consumerist fluff, ignorant whining, political or ideologically-bound selfishness and the narrative drone of a culturally-entrained and thoroughly narcissistic denial of death; we may all be living lives which are for all of this deception and distraction – not actually our own, enigmatic as this activity may be.
It feels to me a bit like we thickly layer and clothe ourselves in rich, extravagant imageries and semiotic webs of wealth, power and lust in ways which mask or obfuscate the actual terminal vector of all of our paths through this life; that we suffocate ourselves in the symbols and signs, stories and concepts that we think represent life but in so doing we actually distract ourselves from the simplest fact of just living. It is exquisitely difficult to just live when we are constantly bombarded with so many cultural stories of what that life is meant to be, when the values and moralities poured upon our withering consciousness and long-suffering communities by the dozens of media vectors and cultural assumptions within which we are embedded, when these systems present a false life as though it were real. The simple act (and fact) of life and living becomes obscured by all those accumulated mythologies, fictions whose main purpose is (or perhaps has now predominantly become) to distract us from the final destination to which we are all headed.
Dissatisfaction becomes inevitable where enough intelligence exists within a person to comprehend the nature of this strange symbolic game of existential distraction that we are all playing with ourselves through our shared cultural symbols, meanings, moralities and narratives. It is a dissatisfaction born of a resigned awareness that the cumulative bullshit, bureaucracy and bastardry of this world will not allow us to live our lives freely and authentically. The central question here may be of whether even in the light of an informed awareness of the falsity and farce of the carnal carnival and spectacle of our shared narrative, if we are to concede the impossibility of extracting ourselves from all of this mythology, should we merely participate and pretend (with the others) that we do not recognise it all for what it actually is ?