Language versus Death

I never had the luck to meet Marina Keegan before she died, but she was an extraordinary writer. Not extraordinary because her premature death made her extraordinary, but extraordinary in the sense that even if she were alive and middle-aged and paid to do it for a living, her words would still knock you in the gut. Extraordinary in the sense that it is impossible to read her prose quickly, because every phrase twists you around.

The great thing is that I, and so many admirers, have sort of, maybe slightly, gotten to know her after her death, because she wrote.

I’m afraid of dying because of the interesting people who will still be unmet; because the world will keep on going, and I want to be there to influence how it does; because I want to have my say about the world, which will be tough when it is there and I am not. I used to think I would want an enormous gravestone over my body. Some big, heavy thing in the grass, so I would leave some sort of guaranteed footprint on the world after the others had been weathered. A physical object that was only mine, so that some influence, even that of an immobile vanity stone, would persist.

Writing is a better way to not die. Thousands of interesting people got to know and love Marina the past couple of days. We have, a little bit, inhabited her mind, which is proof that it’s still there. And that has moved us in small ways that guarantee that her influence will still move through the world, like the apocryphal ripples, forever.

The body dies, but the soul can live on, because we humans have the extraordinary grace of language, which is a thing that you can bundle your soul up in and send to others. It’s important to have something to say while you are alive; and to write love letters. There are other ways to not die. This is the one that struck me today. I want to leave something behind like Marina did.


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