5 min read

The end of things

The Hospital de Sant Pau i de la Santa Creu is an early-16th-century building in Barcelona.
The Hospital de Sant Pau i de la Santa Creu

If you've ever seen my Instagram account, you might notice that I'm rarely featured in the pictures I post. Or maybe you didn't notice at all (it doesn't matter). I realized this only a few days ago while thinking about the end of things, of people, of whatever. My profile is quiet. Always in the middle of a moment, it seems like, and the narrator that is my camera, feels like it shouldn't be there, shouldn't take up space, bearing the guilt of capturing a moment that should have just passed without the fuss of being captured all all. My photography, more than anything, tells me to delete this shit you fucking creeper.

I don't like the end of things. I hate new beginnings too, because you never know if this new beginning is the start of something great or something horrible. And these two events, the end of one thing and the beginning of something else, so often butt up against each other, making for a very uncomfortable time. I think it's why I've stayed at my current job for so long, I don't want it to end and I'm fine with the devil I know, but the reality is I probably should have left a long time ago. It's not the career ladder or the work that are important to me, but the people, and the people I love are leaving or have left.

Early morning along East Beach in Santa Barbara. Boats are out in the harbor, the sky is dark blue because the sun isn't up. There is a lifeguard house with the number 4 on it.
Early morning, Santa Barbara, East Beach

This week, I have found out that a dear friend of mine, not even a month ago, discovered that they needed surgery for a brain tumor. And despite the successful surgery, I found out, not even a week ago, that their situation is still terminal.

I don't know if I couldn't do the math or if I didn't want to, but it never occurred to me that we were facing the end of something. That the last time we grabbed dinner would end up being the last time. And that all the things we talked about, in light of what we know now, mean so fucking little next to the end of their life, rapidly approaching.

And then there is the unknown beginning of something else. Or not. No one has died for a year and suddenly come back with the down low of what to expect next. We don't have any reasonable information of what to expect after we die, if anything at all. It's a reasonable assumption to believe that the end is end. It's also reasonable to believe that energy never really dies and that we simply don't know what happens to our energy after the life we know is done. What we do know, what is certain, is that this life and the connections we have in it, will come to an end.

I hate the ends of things. My relationships with people are so fucking hard to come by that when things like this happen, I feel cheated and picked on and the truth of the matter is that this particular situation has nothing to do with me. Maybe grieving often looks like selfishness, I don't know. But I am grieving.

A rare selfie of me at the Madonna Inn, looking into the bar mirror
A rare selfie of me at the Madonna Inn, looking into the bar mirror

On a much lighter note, but still in the same vein, I'm grieving the end of Twitter. It's a piece of fucking software now run by a mad man, I get it, but I've learned so much from Twitter. It was the platform that taught me about privilege, about racism, how to be antiracist, it educated me on trans issues, and honestly, in spite of it being the proverbial hellsite, I'm grateful for Twitter. It's changed me for the better.

It's a sad thing to know that I can't keep track of everyone I follow or where they go after, if anywhere. And frankly, I don't have the energy for it. Maybe that's always been Musk's goal, I don't know, but I'm going to miss the platform. I'm paraphrasing (horribly) something I was told, but Twitter felt like slaking the top of your brain and sticking that shit into a vacuum you can forget about. For me, that really rings true.

The end of Twitter feels like another situation where I don't know what comes next and I have anxiety about it. I want to keep the devil I know.

Whenever I think about the end of a person's life, whether mine or someone else's, I think about "Eulogy from a Physicist" by Aaron Freeman. And every time I read it, I weep. It seemed appropriate here.

Eulogy from a Physicist, by Aaron Freeman

“You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.”

Have a good holiday this week. Eat lots of food. Enjoy the company of friends and family. Life is embarrassingly short. ❤️