A Classic Review - My vision of death sprung from my memory of a before-breakfast horse riding accident I had when I was 8 years old. My horse's name was Stormy, she was purchased at an auction on the Yakima Indian Reservation in the mid 40s. She was a large, round pinto with an "iron" mouth, who tolerated me, mostly. I liked riding bareback, but for those who don't know, you can control a horse better if you use a saddle. In my case, a saddle allowed, a 50 pound kid to just about control this 16 hand, 1600 pound animal; that is, unless she had other ideas.
Our land, which included an apple orchard and a large pasture, sat between the sagebrush foothills of the Cascade Mountains and our small town. I loved riding through the sagebrush, especially in the early spring when there'd be small patches of snow on the north side of the sage and even behind the tall, yellow bunch grass. Green shoots of new grass would be peeking up through the snow. On a sunny day, the new spring warmth left me with a good feeling
In retrospect I see that all this was really too incredible for me to fully appreciate at that age. But even then I enjoyed my solitude, and the only thing I knew was that it made me happy just to be there. Some-times I would pack a can of baked beans and some bread into my saddle bags; I would nudge the can into the side of a small fire, put the bread on a stick and try not to burn it.
The shortest path into the foothills was through the orchard. My father, being aware of what my odds were with a determined horse, told me to never take her into the orchard when I rode bareback because she
could scrape me off by simply walking under a low-hanging limb. Now, even if you're not a horse person, you've most likely heard the term, "heading back to the barn." Horse people know that once their animals get turned around and are heading back to a manger of oats and hay, they become very single-minded.
With benefit of hindsight I realize that at 8 years of age, I never gave my father the credibility he deserved. When Stormy showed up in the corral without me, and looking for her oats it didn't take my dad and mom long to follow her hoof prints in the soft ground and find me.... out cold! Twelve hours later I woke up in the doctor's office and the first thing I said was, "where's breakfast?"
In my young mind those 12 hours did not exist. At that age the significance of that non-existent interval was regist-ered only, but significantly, in my subconscious where it sat unexamined for many years. And then along came the ‘60s and I was living in New York City… ontology was now up for discussion.
I’ve now unpacked and examined those missing 12 hours. I've come to the conclusion that the total absence of sensation, awareness, and the passage of
time was what we call death. Examine the concept of the infinite and boil it down to those 12 hours, and you will conclude that death is not something to fear. It is merely the cessation of all conscious awareness. So… that means that you’re not going to be sitting on a cloud somewhere in a pissed off mood saying, “What a bummer I’m dead!” As Ray Charles said, “When you’re dead… you’re done.”
Life is a movie you're not going to see the end of.