I was sitting in the hospital about to undergo my second surgery in ten days and as anyone in this situation would do I began to contemplate my own mortality. Ten days previous I had undergone an apendectomy to remove an appendix which had already ruptured causing excruciating pain and the threat of massive internal damage including sepsis and inevitable septic shock and possibly even death. At no time as I was being prepped for surgery did any thought enter my head except that I wanted this thing out of me as quickly as possible so that the pain would be over and my life could go back to normal. Even when the surgeon kept repeating "It looks really bad in there. It looks real bad." after viewing the ultrasound of my appendix. Even after he explained to me that my ruptured appendix may have caused damage to my intestines and that he might have to cut out part of my intestines and then stitch them back together and that I might have to wear a colostomy bag for eight to ten weeks, I wasn't afraid of dying. I was more afraid of wearing a colostomy bag. In fact, that was the first question I asked the doctor when I woke up after surgery. Luckily, the colostomy bag hadn't been necessary. Then, after going back to the hospital a few days later for the relatively minor gall bladder surgery I suddenly found myself wondering what would happen if I never woke up. I had all kinds of statistics running through my head about the number of people who die on the operating table do to a reaction to the anesthesia or infection or some idiot accidentally nicking a vital organ or artery. I started to panic at the thought of dying. I started to but then I caught myself.
What, after all was there to be afraid of?
My rational mind took over and I began to reason through my own own possible death. All that I'd written about death and dying went through my mind and I found that I was almost certain that I knew exactly what would happen to me when I died. Nothing. Nothing would happen to me because there would no longer be a me. I would have ceased to exist. My body and the life force that animated it would break down into all its basic molecules and elements to be injested by the earth and Wrath James White would cease to be. Rather than terrifying I found the notion comforting.
As Epicurus said some 200 years before the birth of Christ, "Death is nothing to us; for the body, when it has been resolved into its elements, has no feeling, and that
which has no feeling is nothing to us." This made perfect sense to me. All the worries I had about dying I had because I was alive. Once I was dead I would cease to worry because I would cease to be. I went under anesthesia with absolute calm. I have life insurance in spades so if I died my kids would be more than taken care of, in fact, they'd be damned near millionaires. That day I'd made it a point to speak to all the people I loved the most with the exception of my Grandmother who has health issues of her own and who I didn't want to worry about me. I hadn't even told her that I was in the hospital. I thought of those I loved and memories I'd had and went to sleep without a care for whether I woke up or not.
Of course everything went fine. It was a relatively minor procedure as surgeries go. I learned a lot about myself during this ordeal, however. I was able to test my theory about pain during one of the most excruciating experiences of my life in the week leading up to my apendectomy. I watched everyone freak out around me as I suffered in relative calm. Even when the nausea hit after the surgery when my severly infected pancreas would not allow me to keep so much as a glass of water down and I was vomiting uncontrollably I found that even this torturous discomfort caused me no great depression. Once the nausea was under control I even managed to laugh and joke with my friends. The worst of it all was waiting day after day for my pancreas to return to normal so that they could excise my gall-bladder without fear of complication. Boredom and tedium were worse than the pain of the ruptured appendix and the nausea of the infected pancreas and gall-bladder. I wasn't able to eat for almost an entire week and when I was finally allowed to it was only liquids. I had lost more than twenty-five pounds of muscle. My body was so weak that I could not even focus enough to read though everyone kept bringing me books for which I was greatly appreciative despite my frustration. As always at times of boredom and frustration my thoughts turned to sex and a welcome release soon calmed my nerves completely and made it all tolerable. I have said many times that sexual pleasure is the only stimulus stronger than pain and once again this theory was proven correct. When logic and philosophy failed a hurried orgasm while a dying old man snored in the next bed separated only by a curtain was the only thing that once again made life tolerable and even pleasant. That's why, in as much as I am an existentialist in as much as I believe in much of what Epicurus taught, I will still always be a sensualist, a sexual hedonist. The life of the mind is lush and wonderful and better than just about anything else in the world the only notable exception being the life of the loins. Carpe Noctem.