The bitch is dead.
So ends Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. It is a great work. It’s not the sort of dense tome you ought to dive into if you’re looking for insight porn, but it’s an entertaining way to spend an hour or two (depending on how quickly you read).
Spoiling as little as I can (I have already spoiled perhaps all of it, but we must try to keep up appearances, after all), I will say that one of the reasons I love this line so much is because of how deeply it is imbued with all these little, messy feelings. Viewed through the eyes of Bond, these words superficially imply that Bond has already moved on, but an astute reader can see through this. Bond is hurting. Bond is in pain. He tries to deny this to himself, but if he cannot even fool the reader, is he really able to fool himself? It is messy and gritty and complicated. Within the context of just this book (we shall disregard the other Bond novels here) we never get an answer.
Bond calls Vesper a bitch her not because he truly feels that she was, but because he needs to label her as such in order to avoid the pain of his own wounded ego. Bitch is not an epithet for unwomanly behavior here, but an opiate to ease his own sense of shock and hurt and vulnerability.
An important family member died recently. It was not unexpected, though the time-frame was sooner than had been anticipated. She was family. She will be missed.
I sometimes think about death. Sometimes I even think about my own. It is coming. That much is inevitable. When will it come? I do not know, but for the entire course of my existence, I have had a strong feeling — one so strong that I even dare call it a premonition — that I will not be all that long for this earth. I will live and I will live very well, but I will die young, before I get the chance to see the ravages of time work their sepulchral decay upon my body.
Will I see 30? Most likely. 40? Maybe. 50? No way.
I would like to be wrong, of course, provided that my quality of life remains high throughout the entirety of my existence, but I suppose there is only so much I can do and that quite a large part of this matter will be decided by forces outside my control.
Sometimes it is very difficult not to believe in fate.
I truly believe that there is a fate in store for me, and that whatever happens to me at the end, it is not something that I could avoid even if I tried.
Would I like to live to old age? I don’t know. I really don’t.
Death seems so unpleasant. So anti-climatic. So unsatisfying an end, even if an inevitable one. I do not fear death, not the way I fear the idea of becoming old and decrepit. I am young. I am fit. I am strong. Death seems like something to be avoided, but even death holds not nearly the same terror for me as the idea of growing old and decayed, no longer able to leap and move and run and jump and fight in anywhere near the capacity I possess now. The thought that my dark hair will turn grey and my bright skin will turn sallow and wrinkled sounds unpleasant, but it doesn’t seem unmanageable. The idea that I will no longer be able to fight and lift and run and jump or any other of a multiplicity of physical feats? That thought terrifies me. I am young and fast and strong and quick and agile. I see abs when I look in the mirror. I feel strength and speed and power when I spar with my friends. I am not so mature that I do not take delight in such things. I am young, and the fire of youth burns within me. Who am I not to bask in its warmth? Who would I be were I not to fear the cold that will come when it slips away from me?
I speak as someone who has stood on the edge of tall buildings and slipped, only just barely saving myself from tumbling to the concrete below. What was I doing up there in the first place? I cannot say. I have always been drawn to heights, and I have always enjoyed that tickling discomfort that flutters across your skin and constricts your heart when you gaze into the emptiness of the open air before you, knowing that all you have to do is let go in order to hurtle to your death. What more poignant expression of life than to choose that moment at which to die? Is there any greater display of power?
Do not fear for me. That is not a choice I feel compelled to make. There is too much to do whilst I am alive. How does that old poem go? Ah, yes:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
There is much I have left to do.
I speak as someone who has miraculously seen buses whiz by in front of my face, practically clipping my nose. Why did they not hit me? Was it luck? It has happened one too many times for me to suspect it was just luck.
I speak as someone who has had knives swung inches from my throat. Once it was on purpose, and my reflexes saved me. The other times were accidental, and yet, each of them could have ended very differently had someone been holding them at different angle or had I been distributing my weight differently.
No, I am not ignorant of what death looks like when it passes by. I have seen his face, and yet the thought of growing old still terrifies me more than the thought of dying. I do not mean to presume to have had quite the same experience as a soldier or a fireman or perhaps a policeman. I expect my readers who have experienced death in much more intimate fashion than I to consider me coddled and ignorant. Perhaps I am. I will most certainly not rule this possibility out. It is probably more true than I would like to admit. Yet, there have been times in my life in which it seems as death was truly passing by. What am I to make of this?
What I have learned is that death is quite frequently sudden and quick and we are likely to not see it coming when it comes for us. I think I fear death. I would most certainly like to avoid it, and that desire seems deeply visceral. Still, I think of death, and even in those times in which it seems most probable, it still does not make my blood run cold nearly as much as the thought that one day I will be old and weak and decrepit.
Is this post really about death? I do not even know anymore.
Let us make this about death. I am a neoreactionary, after all, and I have a certain abstract focus to uphold. Let us make this about death.
What is the proper way to approach death?
There is the idea of death as being something under your control. Suicide is frowned upon within the Christian tradition, and many neoreactionaries would be opposed to it on those grounds.
What of those instances in which the circumstances are not suicide, but do involve a certain willingness to slip away into death? There is a longstanding tradition in my family that all the men have “Do Not Resuscitate” orders. We go beyond that, however. Certain of us have always had a deep faith in the idea that when it is time to go, it is time to go, and it is wrong to accept treatment that might add a few years to a man’s life but make those years agonizing and miserable and unpleasant. We all subscribe to the idea that if something happens, we shouldn’t necessarily be saved.
In an age in which we are obsessed with keeping people on this earth as long as medically possible, it is not always easy to go against the grain. Sometimes, there is a price to be paid.
I’ve seen what happens when the protestations of a distraught wife are interpreted as overriding a DNR. I’ve seen what it does to a man when he has to go in and enforce that such an order is carried out. I’ve seen what it does to a man when he has to order the death of his own father.
My father has two sons. One is caring and compassionate. He possesses great empathy, and he is very concerned about the emotional well-being of others. He hates conflict and he truly wants the best for everyone. He feels much, even if he doesn’t always share it, and he is a wonderful person because of it. That person would be my brother.
As for me? I am the cold-hearted one. I am the one who can put aside compassion and do those things that require that we steel ourselves against our better angels. I am the one who has had former girlfriends call me “fucking sociopathic”, and I am the one who sometimes wonders if that might very well be true.
I am the one my father chose to ensure that care is not provided past a certain point, because he knows that I am the one who will make sure those orders carried out. He does not trust my brother to see this through. He does not even trust my mother to do it; the woman to whom he has been married for many years and with whom he raised two twin boys. He chose me: his firstborn son.
I am the one who knows that one day I will have to give the order to let my father die. Is it right that I should do such a thing? I don’t know. All I know is that it is my duty. If I’m being entirely honest, I don’t even care if it is right. The only thing that matters to me is that it is my responsibility.
Family comes before any other moral considerations.
I suppose I failed at making this abstract and not personal. I wish I had something, anything to say about death, but I don’t. What is there that I could say? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.