Life. It was never meant to be for eternity, yet we have the audacity to think so. To think that life will go on forever, weaving through time like a roll of soft cloud of mist over the morning hills, ever softly, ever in elegance. We go through our daily living, thinking that death would not chance upon us. Not today, at least. Not today, we thought. Yet in all our ignorance, we do know deep within that a day will come for all of this to end. We all know it by heart.
But who would’ve thought that that day is today? Certainly not that lady standing over there, grabbing her handbag tightly to her chest. Or that young good-looking fella in a suit with his mouth agape and eyes bulging out of its sockets. Not even the homeless man with the placard saying “The end is near!” saw this coming. For in a fraction of a second after the blast, their faces were painted with the same colour, no matter their complexion or status or wealth. They were all in fear.
That is also true for me. I could not contain the fear within me. I guess it showed on my face too. Though I don’t have the luxury to confirm it, I am dead certain about it. I, like many others, did not have an ounce of doubt that today will be like the rest of our days prior, and the days to come like this day. I, like many others, thought we wouldn’t die on this day. Well, to be honest, I could not say that I died today, because today to me has not yet come to an end. I might survive this day, for all I know, for the blast hasn’t engulf me, albeit it inching closer by the moment.
It is at this particular moment that a conversation I had with a friend a few years back jolts into my mind. Back then, we were housemates. He was an intern at an electronics company, while I was working as an office boy downtown. He was a physics enthusiast and has a penchant for the bizarre and exquisite details about the mundane. He was very into time and relativity, read Gladwell’s books for breakfast, and does not put ketchup or chili flakes on pizza because “it’ll soil the originality of it”, he once said. What he discovered through his daily reading or browsing on the net, he divulge it to others around him. And I was almost always around him when I’m off work. But I didn’t mind it. He wasn’t boasting about it, but rather is just eager to share the troves of knowledge, no matter how trivial the subject is.
One of those sharing sessions was about relative perception. “Reality is in the eyes of the beholder”, he started off that night over some chinese I picked on my way home. “That is why the speed of circumstances is subjective to the observer, not the observed”, he went along. He then went on rambling about tunnel vision and slow motion and stuff, and by the time he was finished, we had gone through all the chinese and the papaya he sliced the night before. It was one of those talks where you don’t feel any particular attachment to it, yet, under certain conditions, will trigger your memory. Conditions, such as seeing the whole world in front of you engulfed in flames and twisted steel beams and smog and shattered windows.
Yet, only under these conditions had I come to the realization of the gravity of what he had said that night a few years back. As I think of this as perhaps my last moment living, a fraction of a second stretched out into near infinity by my power as an observer. Every little detail becomes crystal clear to my myopic eyes, and a certain beauty springs forth with the flames that comes nearer, blooming like a wild orchid undaunted by the harshness of death and reality. Ah, I could drown in such beauty!
Only then it came like an epiphany, both tragic and ironic, that death, too, can be beautiful.
25th June 2016