September 15, 2004

RIP Uppity Negro

Aaron Hawkins of Uppity Negro is gone. I've been paying so much attention to the state primary and horserace sites the last few days, I didn't even find out until today. I was going to sit down and write on those topics, but they somehow don't seem very important just now.

Aaron was a good blogger, and that's all I knew him as, so that's all I think I have a right to say. But the people who did know him better have left their own tributes at his site, and if you want to know what happened, this tribute post by Dru Blood has links to the details and other tribute posts. I don't really feel like I have the right to talk about the reason, either, or maybe I just can't bring myself to write the word.

Leonard Schlain says, in his Sex, Time and Power, that humans are the only ones among the animal kingdom who know that we can die. What we have done with this knowledge often amounts to stupid quests for glory that will outlive us, escapism so that we can hide from the knowledge, and sometimes to valuable quests to build something better for those who will inevitably come after. For some people the knowledge is crushing, to some a gift, to some a release.

But we will all die someday, no matter what we do. Just like the other animals, like the continents, like the stars, and eventually, like our universe. We can be afraid, or not. We can live in the moment, or not. We can succumb to despair, or not. And whenever death strikes close to home, we are reminded that someday we will die, too. Then the questioning begins. We wonder if we will be remembered with love, as Aaron so clearly is. Wonder if we will have accomplished very much of what we wanted to do in our time here.

Finally, there are the painful re-examinations. Am I valuing the time with the people that I love? Are my priorities straight? How much time am I wasting? Am I doing what is right?

All this from the knowledge that we will die. It's important to remember. Not out of morbid fascination, but out of reverence for the time that we have. It is a hard thing to feel, not just to know abstractly, that life is as finite as any other physical thing. It's why the easy, self-protecting course is to distance ourselves from the deaths of people who are far away, or whom we've somehow dehumanized. Yet when we mourn because we miss someone, we open ourselves to mourning because we will follow them.

Rest in peace, Aaron. It's a hard world, and I hope you're in a better place.

Posted by natasha at September 15, 2004 01:15 PM | Community | Technorati links |

This is excellent. Thank you. I didn't know him except through his blog, but it's obvious that he touched quite a lot of people. And you've helped me to remember that when one person dies, he takes a little bit of all of us with him.

Posted by: Don at September 15, 2004 05:37 PM