My favourite writing pathologist, F. Gonazález-Crussi begins in The Flowers of Evil in the Garden of Biology , a chapter from his 2004 book of essays On Being Born:
Consider a man's beginnings. Before his father adn mother are joined in sexual embrace, he is nothing: he does not exist. He has never been, throughout the eterniy prior to that moment. Never. But this thought, that a whole infinity had to pass before he was rescued from naught, scarcely troubles him. What he is aprehensive about, if not terrified, is death. Most of us are to a certain extent. Presumably, our fear arises from the awareness that we are to return to the nothingness whence we came. What troubles us is the going there, not the coming therefrom.
Why would it be that non-existence weighs more upon our hearts when regarded as future, than when evoked as past? It can only be because life is unidirectional, and we, who are immersed in its current, feel for what lies ahead only, not for what is left behind. We are creatures of the vital flow, which runs forward without pause, remitment, or reversal. Were it not so, we would feel appeased by considering the two immensities as equivalent: the infinite time that ran its course before my birth, and the eternity that shall flow after my death.
Sad consolation: try to soothe ourselves of the infinite time after death, with the thought of the infinite time before birth!
And yet, theoretically, we must admit that the equivalent is perfect. As Schopenhauer pompously put it, "the infinity a parte post without me cannot be any more feerful than the infinity a parte ante without me," the reason being that the two infinities are absolutely identical. If they seem distinct, he said, it is only because of the interposition of "an ephimeral life dream."
The above words hung heavy in my mind in a conversation yesterday afternoon when the fine hot day had become a cool and more pleasant one in a garden where the smell of roses wafted from all directions. Two men were talking to each other in my presence. One of them, a younger man had been at death's door and by a miracle of medicine he was alive with a future in front of him. The other talked of his long past and how he was making preparations to get rid of material posessions because of the inevitability of a soon to come death. The latter even told us of having cradled in his arms a dying artist. "His death was not a pretty sight," he added.
After they left I noticed how many of my pristine roses, which had given my garden visitors and I so much pleasure during the day, had faded. Petals were falling as death was setting in.
Here you see three gentlemen who have left no trace in history except their name on a rose. Below right is the gallica rose Charles de Mills. Above and right are two Alain Blanchards also gallicas. Top left is a fading moss rose, Rosa 'William Lobb'.
The three gentlemen are fading. The originals are long gone and forgotten. They live on as roses that fade, and die too. To me these three gentlemen are maidens. Roses are all women. I would say of my modern gallica Rosa 'James Mason', "She is a lovely rose."
As for the two gentleman visitors to my garden I can only hope that they both live long and prosper.
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