Our Escape From Russia to Canada
People fear dying because they are afraid that they haven’t lived.
ELENA: It seems to me, you had no fear of pain or death when we were sailing to Canada. Would you say it is so?
MEG: Because pain and death are entirely mine. I don’t fear pain, I don’t fear death. Death is the least I fear, actually. Because death means – that’s it, it’s over.
ELENA: Why would you say people are afraid of death?
MEG: I think they fear of dying because they are afraid that they haven’t lived. And to die without having lived is terrifying. That I think is the greatest fear – the fear that you’ve wasted your life; that time’s up. Time is ticking, it’s going to run out, life is going to end. Life is all we’ve got now. Whatever you are experiencing matters only to you; it has to, nobody else cares. Your experience of this massively complex, but terminal, chemical reaction is yours alone! It really has to be all about you. You are the only one who can have your life, you are not living for anybody else, if you do, that’s the greatest fear: that you have not lived for yourself. Then of course, death is a terrifying thing.
ELENA: Have you discovered something amazing during our trip to Canada? Something that profoundly affected you, changed your vision of life or the world?
MEG: Yes, I think I did. Mostly what I learned is that one’s happiness, one’s feelings are entirely one’s own and one’s alone. You have to make it your own way. When we were out there, we would either live or we would die, something could kill us or we would survive it. We either made it through the night, or we didn’t. It was entirely up to us. We fought to survive, we didn’t let stuff kill us. We never worried that something might be too big for us, or bad, or impossible to live through. We just faced it, whatever challenge it was, and dealt with it; doing whatever it took without worrying we wouldn’t get through it. It wasn’t a thought process, it just happened.
What I learned about life is that it is really up to you. How you see your life and world is really your choice. And when you don’t rage against it, feel sorry for yourself, don’t scream and cry about something getting busted, and just get the tools and the spit and glue and try to fix it so you don’t die, life is profoundly, amazingly beautiful. Questions, doubt, worrying… pointless. Whether you enjoy it, whether you cherish it with every breath, or whether you hate your life, resent it, feel cheated – it’s entirely up to you.
Something else I learned was to feel things that I didn’t even notice before. Tiny things suddenly had huge value to me, indescribable value. Like coffee – the taste of coffee. Before I would say “Coffee, start me up!” and hoover it down. Now I actually taste it, and you know, every single brew is different. Even every single cup. I never knew the difference before. I just never cared to notice. I learned that some of the most overwhelming, indescribable, life experiences are the first sip of coffee in the morning; or the feeling of sheets, getting into bed at night; or the call of a crow, or dog barking, or rain just starting to fall. I never noticed that sort of thing before.
ELENA: Why do you think it never happened to you prior to our journey to Canada?
MEG: Because there was so much chatter, so much useless crap in my mind. That was all about paying the taxes, making sure the bills were covered, and endless forms were filled, that the car had the oil changed on time, that I’d had so-and-so over for dinner, that the neighbors weren’t pissed off about the dandelions, that my shoes matched my outfit. There is so much of that chatter, useless crap going on, that you miss life, you miss the truly profound – and every moment is profound. All that chatter prevents you from realizing, “wow, that just made me feel something, I liked the way that felt.” It’s also the dependence. We are programmed to be completely dependent. If we weren’t we wouldn’t be mindless consumers and providers of labor, and we’d be useless to society. For society to function it is imperative that we are dependent on everything but ourselves, to keep that flow of money going that feeds the elite. But out “there,” on the high seas, there is no such thing as dependence. When things go wrong, who you gonna call?