Worse Than Death

Chuck Palahniuk says you should write about things that upset you. Franz Kafka hit a similar note when saying, “We ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us.” I agree with both quotes and have pondered them quite a bit, using them as motivators behind what I chose to write and read. In writing horror, upsetting is particularly important and more so, I think, is frightening.

Judging by the amount of religious reflection on the subject, I would say that for many folks, assuming they too follow the above admonitions, the issue that scares them or upsets them or wounds them is death. I, honestly, have never really been afraid of death. Okay, I admit, it’s a upsetting, especially in regards to loved ones, but it’s not all that frightening. Maybe I’m still too young for it to have really hit me. It’s possible I’ve still got that youthful sense of immortality. Maybe, but probably not.

Hell and the possibility of suffering in the afterlife have something to do with it. Past the age of eleven I haven’t believed in it. As I think I’ve made clear in my posts here, Hell is place on earth. We’re already there in many ways and we’ve made it a reality.

Death, I think, is an end, which makes it sad and unfortunate. It might not be an end to everything, however, it certainly is an end to our existence as we know it. But, and to a degree I suppose I am relying on faith here, it is also the start of something new; a new life; a new experience; a new presence; a complete absence; whatevs.

Here’s what upsets me and scares the crap out of me: continuation, the sense that something could go on forever. I get a nasty case of poison ivy each year that covers my body with leprosy-like lesions. It’s uncomfortable, it hurts, and it looks awful. Every summer when I notice the damn rash I get filled with the terrible and irrational thought, not that it could kill me, but that it will never go away. Imagine that, living the rest of your life with a hideous itchy rash covering your entire body. That’s worse than death.

Also what scares me is the thought of being stuck; in a bad job or in poverty in particular. To me, that’s the absence of growth and simply plain boring. A book that truly frightened me because it so accurately captured the dread of monotony and boredom was A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The guy was stuck in a Soviet gulag filled with tedious, meaningless work that went on and on. Luckily, I’ve never been in a gulag, but the thought of it is terrifying.

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