This weekend, to avoid the cold and the shoppers, I assumed the fetal position and read from cover to cover Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky. I had seen the movie a couple of times and had started and abandoned the novel once before, so I decided to give it a second go.
There is a well-known quote from the story that reads,
… we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.
This reminded me of something that I had written before in a post entitled, “Real and Personal Property and Possession” on how the only property that we ever really possess is the intangible:
I often thought that for me the most unbearable thing about death would be no longer hearing my favorite music, discovering a new book, or seeing the images of those I loved. But maybe the tragedy of death is that, after definitively losing all of our tangible things, we finally lose our only possession — the intangible.
I also quote Nuriddin Farah from his novel Secrets, about what is lost when dying:
All that death does is to deny you the opportunity to reinvent your life as you live it. Because dying, you cease to dream.
So after reading the Sheltering Sky and reflecting on Farah and my previous post on property, I though about how death signifies also the death of both memory and dreams, and those are possibly the greatest tragic losses.