Piercing the Veil

The Prudentialist

The Prudentialist

Observing the world from a dissident and realist perspective. Musings on culture, politics, and international relations.

Someone asked me not too long ago to talk about life.

At first I didn’t feel the need or want to, in part because I am a terrible fiction writer, and short stories are not really my thing. I am an ideas guy, an extrapolator, some even say educator. I am not the world’s most educated or well spoken; I am self-deprecating to a fault, and I have a life I very much feel the need to make up for with the life I have left ahead of me.

I live a life on borrowed time. Or at least that’s what I’ve told myself since my kidney transplant back in June of 2021. They don’t last forever, by the way. You take immunosuppressive drugs that weaken your ability to fight infections at the cost of your body not going into organ rejection, and the odds of me dying of cancer in the end have skyrocketed.

It’s a small price to pay for normality, and it’s not something I try to dwell on too much. It’s too easy for unseen enemies to take advantage of that, and it certainly makes sense as to why certain Christians pray for a dreamless sleep.

My story isn’t an interesting one, or at least I think it is boring. Organ transplants happen all the time. I’ve certainly come very close to dying a few times, and I’ve seen death up close. Death up close fucks you up more than your own sense of mortality. The brain and soul know when it’s time for you, but the desire to save and keep another alive even if it’s too late or they have given up changes you. I was driving home from my parents a few years back after a late Thanksgiving dinner, heading back to my apartment and avoiding the construction on the highway. I took a small road by one of the El Paso Community College campuses to bypass the road work. It wasn’t raining, almost never does in El Paso, but the gentleman in front of me on a motorcycle had veered off to avoid hitting a large rock on the road, and lost control, flipping into the air and landing on his back. I had pulled over, called 911, and got my first aid kit out of the trunk and rushed to the scene. Compound fracture of the Tibula, and coughing up blood. Thankfully, he was wearing his helmet, or so I thought at the time.

I don’t speak Spanish very well, I took Latin in college as for an easier language credit to avoid taking an extra year of “beginner’s Spanish” at University. However, I know what “duele” means. You don’t move someone after an accident like that in case of spinal injuries or other internal injuries, or at least that’s what I remember from all the first aid classes and all that stuff that’s supposed to make you an Eagle Scout or something. He never looked at me, although I could see his eyes start to have this strange glazed over look at them as gloved hands apply pressure and bandages to wounds. A gurgling cough and wheezed exhale is what followed after.

He died in the hands of the paramedics that had arrived and took over. I gave a statement as to what happened, gave my name and number and went home when the authorities were done with me.

That was that. I couldn’t tell you what the man’s thoughts were or what even his name was, but Lord grant him rest, and may we be all so lucky to not die alone.

He was a middle-aged guy from what I could tell by his long black greasy hair and the streaks of grey from what I could see by the light around us and my headlights.

I was asked to write about life. Life is a subjective term for many. An objective state of not being dead. You’d be surprised by what the most crippled and mutilated people on earth will do just to survive. Others, in the care of a Church, Family, or Community, can still do great things. Consider the life of Hermanus Contractus if you ever get the chance.

Yet I am to write about life. Living and living well, as the song goes.

The thrill of appreciation, the air smelling different and appreciating all that’s around, fades quickly in your own perspective. That performative, emotional outburst of “ISN’T LIFE JUST FUCKING PRECIOUS AND YOU JUST WANT TO SQUEEZE BABIES” kind of sensation that you see on television all the time fades, because it’s performative. The reality is usually unseen, but then against I think most things in life are unseen, from our spiritual life to what we do for other people. As my dad always says, integrity is what you do when no one is looking. I mean, God’s always looking, but you get the point.

One tends to fade either into some kind of grumpy nihilism about life, that they made it, life’s a bitch, they got lucky, and it’s just a cold, calculating truth about what you have to do. Modern life doesn’t help in that regard either. “Look man, we know you just got a new organ and a new lease on life but you have to go back to work.” The others see a fundamental change. It’s not immediate, but perhaps this is talking more about myself above anything else here, yet that’s really the only thing I can do is talk about my own perspectives and experiences.

The thing that wrecks you the most is usually finding out about the donor. Sometimes they’re alive, and that’s great and you can meet them. Most of the time (don’t quote me on this) they’re not. I never met my donor. He’s dead and buried and was less than a year old. The kidney of his that I have has lived longer than he ever did. That weighs on my soul. I am a wretch, a sinner, and yet I live. I pray before an Icon of Christ every time I enter our small temple and ask him to remember Legend in his kingdom, and to grant him rest. The candle is lit, bows and the cross is signed, and you go on. He is in my prayers for the departed, and yet he lives on in some form or fashion, at least physically, with me.

Life is knowing that you’re alive because others have sacrificed so much for you to be alive. So when a letter comes in telling you about the name and family, about who’s made sure you’re living as normally as you can, you break down. I got the news at the end of January, and it is now September when I write this, and I am still coming to terms with that, much more positively now though.

Life without purpose is no life at all. I’d prefer it of course if you found God in the most Christian sense of the word, but if you have a purpose, a telos, something that animates you to leave a mark and leave something behind, I will respect you immensely for it. So many people live a life that they will look back upon and wonder what did they live for? People turning their phones off at night, and looking at the reflection of themselves on that little screen that’s filled with digital ayahuasca and wonder if this is it for them? I feel the need to quote Lewis or something, but if your life is a life without function beyond the very basics of neuron activation for the sole purpose of getting to the next moment of dopamine or serotonin, what are you doing?

It should not take death, near death, a someone dying in front of you to realize how easy it is to know that any day could very well be your last. Do you view yourself as just some regular guy? An aristocrat of the soul, perhaps? There is nothing more dehumanizing to yourself that to go about on this earth without belief or conviction. Life, at the end of the day, is breath. Breathing life into that meaning.

What good is life without it? You can dedicate yourself to earthly purposes all you want, we’ve seen it countless times before. “Here’s how Bernie can still win” or “trust the plan” only to watch as one drives themselves into a state of despair, an honest confession that maybe that old Psalm about not putting your trust in the princes and the sons of men still has some truth?

What a great tragedy it is that so many of us these days, in their own cries for help, layered in irony beyond recognition to call upon fate to end their lives. Sadly it took that for me, but it shouldn’t take a few near-death experiences, watching death, and receiving new life and faith to do that for you.

What more can I say?

Memento mori.

Now go on and live.

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