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WAKING UP TO LIFE (Extended version)

August 11, 2014

Some time ago, a woman with a gun in her hand demanded of me and my companions that we provide good reasons why life is worth living. Otherwise she was going to terminate us.

I thought to myself: This is the very question that I’ve struggled with for so long and now I am being forced to provide a definitive answer. Do I make up some fancy reason and perhaps escape with my life? But if I lie, then my life is not really worth pursuing.  How many times have I dreamed and read about this kind of a life-and-death situation and convinced myself that I thoroughly understood it, assumed that I knew exactly what it felt like? And now finally it has happened for real and this time I cannot wake up nor close the book.

I realise that we all have to go some day, but what a pity it would be to go on a brilliantly sunny day like this, when the whole world is pulsating with life and every cell of my body is screaming out with the desire to live. How much more fitting it would be to leave on a cloudy, sunless day with the sky shedding cold tears. No, this doesn’t feel like the right time to die! But when is the right time to die? How can one tell that one has accomplished all that one can accomplish on this Earth?

To make the most of my existence, I really should try to cram it all in, all of my life, into these last few remaining minutes, the way that I used to try to squeeze in all of the information just before the start of the exams. Now is the time to live my life to the fullest degree, like I never bothered to before.

Yet this fear of death that I am feeling right now is out of all proportion to the joy and satisfaction that life has brought me so far. Why does my life seem so dear and precious to me now? Is it because only now, on the threshold of death, does the vision of ideal life appear to me, life free of all the illusions that have previously brought me down, illusions that only the proximity of ‘The End’ can destroy?

Is it because that only now can I see life as it really is, free of all the grime that besmirches its true visage, free of all the trivial annoyances that make life such a tedious grind to bear in day-to-day existence?

It is as if during the day of my existence, life concealed her features with dowdy garb and only now, as midnight approaches, does she shed her frumpy dress and stands before me in all of her natural, radiant, shining glory.

In the distance, I saw my friends getting finished off — obviously their answers weren’t good enough. Almost certainly they all used the “My life is unique” defence and it didn’t work.

Should I make my reasons stand out from theirs? But I am a person just like them. Wouldn’t making my reasons more striking imply that my life is more valuable? Surely we all live for pretty much the same reasons and so my answer should be identical to theirs.

But what does the tormentor want from us? Honest, straightforward replies or singular, elaborate explanations? How can one justify one’s existence? Where does one begin? I have no need nor reason to justify my past for it is already gone and she can’t take it away from me. Nor can I justify my future for it hasn’t yet occurred and is therefore of intangible and unknown nature. It follows then that I am only in a position to justify the now, the immediate moment during which I am alive.

Should I appeal to her humanity, her compassion? But what is morality, what is conscience but some intangible, nebulous substance that we can only hope has found a safe refuge in the breast of fellow man.

It was now my turn. I came in and faced the interrogator. In a voice devoid of any tone she commanded me to present my case.

“Life is hard, really hard sometimes” I replied, “and a lot of times I don’t want to go on struggling against the unyielding, overpowering forces. Yet I want to continue living. That is all I can say. I want to live.”

The interrogator gazed at me with an empty look, a look lacking any human expression, deciding on her answer.

Just as she was about to make her pronouncement, I woke up to life.


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  1. I loved this piece the first time I read it. Truly well done.

    • thank you for reading it Pam. How do you think this extended version compares with the short poem version?

      • Boris, you’re cruel. Smart, intelligent, a great poet and writer, plus a good friend, but I don’t like poetry, so I can’t answer your question.

        • I see your point Pam, but like I mentioned before, I don’t really write poetry. Rather I write prose poetry, which is prose arranged in poetic structure.

  2. Which came first, the sketch or the poem? Either way, I’d like to use these as examples the next time I do the topic “Sketch, Then Poem”.

    Have you read the Kurt Vonnegut short story, “All The King’s Horses”? You should if you haven’t.

    • The prose version came first Doug. Actually a lot of my poems started of as prose pieces. You are welcome to use this story and the poem as your examples.

      So can I ask which version you prefer? I explore more ideas in more detail in the prose version.

      I haven’t read that story but I read about it on Wikipedia. Quite fascinating and I can see the connection to my story.

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