The Anonymity of Death

A balancing rock, also called balanced rock or precarious boulder, is a naturally occurring geological formation featuring a large rock or boulder, sometimes of substantial size, resting on other rocks, bedrock, or on glacial till. Some formations known by this name only appear to be balancing, but are in fact firmly connected to a base rock by a pedestal or stem.
PD: What does it mean to be anonymous?
AK: Being anonymous might have a direct impact with death. How can one go into ‘being anonymous’? Is it about not leaving any trace of past movements? Does not being anonymous mean operating from a clean slate each time?
PD: I have played with being anonymous in the past by using a number of pseudonyms and I always found that there was fear behind it in some form or another. In justifying my right to anonymity, it feels that I was really protecting myself from all sorts of imagined difficulties in my relationship to the rest of society. But this fact that one protects oneself in a relationship is itself an anonymous fact — it doesn’t have a name to it, belonging to one person or another. So there seems to be a difference between the desire for anonymity and anonymity per se. There is the idea of anonymity as a cloak or a cover; and there is the fact of anonymity which is wide open to the world. Can we love one another anonymously? Does that work? Or it is only by coming out into the open that we discover together the anonymity of love.
In the same way, then, to discover together the anonymity of death and the anonymity of the clean slate. It is not my death or my clean slate. Is this the difference? When we artificially induce or make claim to a clean slate there is motive behind it, so it is no longer an anonymous clean slate. And when death is seen as my death or the death of one to whom I am deeply attached, then it becomes impossible to perceive the truth about it.
DS: Are you saying that to die, or to be a real nobody, totally anonymous — this necessarily entails being naked and visible to all?
PD: I have no idea. But I don’t think we’ll get at it that way. This is first of all a question of psychological anonymity, isn’t it? Is this any different from psychological death? What I mean is that we shall not learn anything about this by listening to the words of other people. The words, the explanations, the descriptions, the entreaties, the subtle arguments, the rational or the irrational statements, the stories, the manifestos and even the most carefully delineated yet passionate poetry — none of this is the way into death or love or anonymity. We can’t use that which is present in order to explain that which is absent.
JM: The significance of death for the brain is to empty consciousness of its contents so that it no longer contributes to the common stream of human suffering, illusion, ignorance, violence, etc.
DM: This would be the ‘maturation’ of the human being?
PD: Do you see the difficulty when we say something like this? It assumes there are degrees of maturity or even degrees of being a human being. Death is about no longer being a human being. Right? Are we ready for that? What I mean is, are we ready to face the prospect of no longer being a human being?
AK: Is it being faced…? The word ‘ready’ brings in my expertise and that which I presumably lack!
PD: Yes, I was probably too excited to get the words out carefully enough. Excited about death! That’s actually how I feel about it.
AK: Being a human being did not help - it is nothing but an ideal, so it appears and proved to be — through our words and so-called actions so far.
PD: It seems that within me there is a being of total order and a being of total disorder. When one is there, the other is not. They are not intermingled. They are totally different. The one does not contain elements of the other. In that way, they are not two separate elements within the same field. They can’t even communicate with each other. They have no consciousness in common.
I can try to control and play around with disorder — as a human being that’s what it means to think and to feel and to express oneself and to get hurt and to get over getting hurt — but whatever I do I am only ever playing around within an idealised existence. For example, I have an ideal of you which makes both of us far more important than we actually are. And probably you have an ideal of me. And I feel we are both very tired of all this, not just personally, but wholly exhausted from being a human being. It seems to be an exhaustion that goes back centuries into time, a deeply ancient weariness. It must be something almost left over from the dinosaurs, it is so ancient and sluggish.
And then you say, ‘Being a human being did not help,’ and I am out of it. I am immediately out of the whole of that human being field, all that nonsense and mess. No-one has told me such things before. Therefore, there is only that which is being said. There is no human being behind it as either speaker or listener.
This now feels like ‘death’ is exactly the right word for it. For any other word takes us right back into that human being mess.

This piece was taken off the forum of the platform KINFONET with the following contributors:

  • PD: Paul Dimmock
  • AK: Ayham Kader
  • DM: Douglas Macrae Smith
  • DS: Dan McDougle
  • JM: James Duncan MacDougall