Marching along a downtown sidewalk, the ramrod-stiff psychopath barked at passing pedestrians, "You're living your obituaries!" He bellowed more, but I was arrested by that single phrase.
The words snatched my attention because I'm dying. No news there, of course. We're all born dying, the seeds of our own destruction sown within us at conception. So forewarned, we should each live in persistent cognizance of our gathering twilight. And mostly we do, mostly by puffing up the significance of now, healthing up to fend off inescapable decline, producing offspring to perpetuate our line, or trusting in a promised hereafter.
As the still-raging lunatic passed from view, his epithet clung in my brain, a gift of clarity in a chattering world. Seriously, it's not morbid. Out of roaring chaos, "living your obituary" offers a path to serenity. In small ways, I've tried to make my life meaningful. Through work I have pursued and causes I have aided, I've hoped to accomplish "something." And when that felt inadequate, I've used confidence enhancements, ego inflaters, and soul supplements to attain a sense of significance. None of it worked.
Life, to me, has always seemed to be just living, no more, no less, no matter how much purpose I tried to infuse into it. But "living your obituary" invites new perspective. What the madman meant, I think, is that each moment lived is a testament. He intended it as a condemnation. I heard an affirmation. Living your obituary is living the life you want remembered.
I am not talking about wielding your faith as a cudgel, fustigating nonbelievers to manifest your own righteousness. After all, if you consider battling enemies more important than embracing friends, well, there are more would-be Napoleons in our mental institutions than in our combat zones. Ponder carefully before you commit to being commemorated by the causes you fight for.
Nor am I talking about constructing flashy edifices with public funds or making splashy donations to immortalize yourself as a person of consequence. Living for his legacy has left Victor Ashe memorialized as the architect of a state-of-the-art, cash-digesting cow of a convention center that's currently grazing on Knoxville's tax dollars. Substance is not measured by money spent or buildings built.
Living your obituary is being who you are, finding your avocation, and pursuing it as best you can. If you aspire to juggle 27 capuchin monkeys left-handed while bouncing on a pogo stick atop the Sunsphere, follow that bliss, sister! Come to think of it, if that's what living your obituary means, and your passion really is raising enormous, civic erections funded with citizens' moolah, or gleefully condemning others because their sexuality involves rubbing together different body parts than you do, then have at it. Be all the mooch or bigot you can be.
All of which brings us to this column's conclusion, literally. I am ending Snarls before it rear-ends me. Let it be clear: Metro Pulse did not present me an ultimatum, like "assimilate or die." Nor has CRACKDOWN (the Committee of Republicans to Anoint & Crown Karl [Rove] Dark Overlord of the World, Now!) sent black-hatted emissaries to silence me, threatening to reveal photos that the secret police took of me checking indecent materials out of the library. Nobody has abridged my freedom of speech. I have been doing that, unconsciously.
I've been lying to myself. It's one thing to lie to you, the readers, whom I disdain, but another entirely to lie to me, whom I esteem. No, I'm kidding. Lying to others, lying to yourself, each is equally abhorrent. The difference is, when I lie to others, they usually intuit it and quickly confront me, but when I lie to myself, I'm usually the last to know.
And so it is. I have realized only just now that I've been self-censoring. Maybe I can't catch the scent of the conservative odour of the times. Maybe I could never get the sense of the new Metro Pulse, where old stories seem cherished, but old employees depart on a pace like the slowing pulse of a deathbed patient. Or maybe I'm just getting old and jelly-spined. I don't know.
What I do know is, recently, I have left columns unwritten, fearing the topics were taboo (example: "Developers: rapacious devils or merely scheming demons?"). In columns I've finished, I now realize I dampened inflammatory humor. But a mewling Snarls is not worthy of its title. A Snarls that whines should change its name to Tom DeLay.
"His snarls became whimpers" is not what I want in my obituary. So this is farewell. To those whom Snarls consternated, I say, ha-ha. To those whom Snarls entertained, I say thank you. For those interested in more Snarls, a collection of links to most of my previous columns is accessible with an AOL or AOL Instant Messenger account (I know, I know) at http://journals.aol.com/smcnutt338/MrMean .
Maybe I'll get a real cyber-repository in the future. And rest assured (or uneasy, depending), I will be spewing my spleen in other venues later. Just now, though, I got some obituarying to do.