17 January 2004

I saw a dead body

Riding my bike today, I saw a dead body. Traffic was backed up all along 202, and when I came up to one of the large intersections near Imajuku station, the police had closed off the road. I got off my bike at the barricade and looked up the street. In the middle of the road about 100 meters up, there was a white blanket covering a body. Scattered around it, pieces of the body looked like broken watermelon. I turned away quickly. There was no gathering crowd like you might except in the States. Standing up the side streets, there were pockets of people standing, not saying anything. The police were staying at a distance on each end of the block, directing traffic. The body was the only thing in the street. I didn't see a bike or a car. As I rode up the side street, I caught another quick glimpse and was struck by how alone it (body, person) seemed.

I was more careful riding my bike. I thought about the suddenness of accidental death. One makes a wrong turn and suddenly he or she is dead. There is no explanation. A person is just suddenly dead. Paul Auster writes that there is some consolation in accidental death because it can be ascribed to fate. I don't think there is. The thought of being unable to prepare for death is terrifying to me.

Augustine writes, in his confessions: "It is vanity to wish to live long, and to be careless to live well."