Defining Myself as an Eternal Being by Jackson Birdsong
As the boat rocked back and forth, I felt my mortality washing over me. Ebbing and flowing like the waves on the otherwise placid sea. Lost in thought I swam in ideas of infinity and humanity, reminding me that I am here, right now, grounding me to the world. A tether back to the influence of gravity. To paraphrase Roman Opalka, a man who painted infinity; "We do not know when we will die and, in that sense, we are eternal"
It was July, the annual fishing trip had just begun. I always loved to fish, the thrill of getting a bite and reeling into see what took your bait. The disappointment of pulling in nothing, it didn’t matter. The only thing I didn’t like were the buckets. Buckets of ice and fish. The cold searing the scales of innocent creatures. Their horrific flopping, gasping, glassy-eyed stare into the blue sky that they were not meant to see.
That’s one of the few things I remember from that day. My own thoughts, and of course, the fish in buckets. Whiting, redfish, tuna, nothing was sacred. We caught and we kept without much discrimination. Those fish just five minutes ago never knew they were going to die, they were eternal. But now, they flop in a bucket, fear setting in, they know it’s too late.
After a while of fishing, clouds began to form on the horizon. Slowly approaching our vessel, they loomed. A quiet reminder of inevitable turbulence. A torrential downpour assaulted the water turning it into a churning grey range of infinite peaks and valleys.
There in that cold rain I felt alive and dead. In a state I have only felt a few times, borderline indescribable. Like a warm blanket or having a bucket of water thrown at you. It’s contradictory, it’s knowing you will die, but not knowing when. In a state of superposition, I was, I am eternal.
I discovered that feeling eternal is not a refusal of mortality, rather an advanced form of acceptance. Because I accepted my mortality, I don’t have to fear death. It’s as normal to me as walking.
I realized then and there that I wanted to be more than those fish in the buckets. I want to be more than people who live their lives banking on an afterlife. I want to be more than those people who give up because death is imminent.
I became unstuck from the paralyzing grasp of fear and self-pity.
Those fish were eternal, but they weren’t capable of understanding that. I am, I can enjoy it. My eyes beheld the gray sky, and I felt at ease.
About the Writer...
Jackson Birdsong is a writer who lives his own head more than he does the real world. He deals mostly in creative nonfiction but that doesn't stop him from dipping his toes into other genre's waters.
About the Artist...
Lucas Lowery is a student at DA, he has won two silver keys in scholastic so far, and his preferred medium is acrylic paint.