Monday, June 1, 2009

Vertigo

The other day, I was up on my roof, tending to the compost bin. The roof is completely flat, so that I could simply misplace my foot and fall if I got to close to the edge.

Occasionally, the feeling of being too close to the edge, even when I've barely even stepped out onto the roof, washes over me. The other day, while realizing that the roof was flat, and that I was so close to the edge, I crept even closer until my legs turned to stone and I had to look away, back towards my house. The knowledge, the idea, that I could fall to my death and could do so willingly, if only . . .is so crippling, so disturbing.

It is at these moments that death becomes tangible, a heavy mass, there in the air, a heavy mass that quickly washes over me, twisting my stomach up, and telling me to go over to the edge, just a bit further. . .but I manage to hold myself back.

This is a common feeling--the strange urge to leap in front of an oncoming subway, to hurl oneself in front of a bus as it barrels by. Aside from those rare cases, we don't do it.

I have nothing particularly philosophical or analytical to say about this, at least nothing more interesting than has been said by others (there was a great article in Harper's a few months back written by a man in his mid-70's who has accepted that death is coming. Also, Sartre talks about vertigo in Being and Nothingness, which I, embarrassingly enough, haven't read). It's just unsettling. I guess all of existence is unsettling.

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