Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
–T.S. Elliot, “The Hollow Men,” 1920
I read a piece recently by a reborn-pessimist. Months in a hospital bed had changed him. Before he was riddled with anxiety and fear, and now, none. Now he’s a famous author. (Before he was a struggling one.) To face death, he said, was ‘life-affirming’. I didn’t read his book.
But I share his euphoria for not being dead. Four years ago, I toppled from my bicycle to the street, dead at age 42 from cardiac arrest. A stranger was giving enough to administer CPR, and I was conscious again in two-days time. I had no prior knowledge of my heart condition, don’t know who saved me, and when I woke in the hospital, had no idea why.
I can not extend enough gratitude to everyone who helped me, nor tell you the joy of seeing my 4-year old daughter see her father again. But I reject the ‘life-affirming’ trope. Rather, I think like recovered addicts, blessed to be off drugs, but stuck with a sober reading of the world around them. Having access to First World medicine saved me. But its not apart from the technology menacing the poorer world.
That’s not hyperbole. I now sport a Medtronic stent. That same year Medtronic moved its office from Minneapolis to Ireland to avoid $3 billion in taxes. I take Lipitor. Pfizer developed…