The Joi of Hoi Polloi
First published May 27, 2016
Dying is the final lesson of living. I now understand that it was not mere chance that I died as I did.
Some people die alone. Some pass away surrounded family, or perhaps by those attending to them in their final hours. Some die together in small groups, perhaps in a flood or a fire. Sometimes, war or disease or disaster takes many at once. My death was life’s last chance to teach me what I needed to know. It could not have been any other way.
All my life, I hated the sound of my own useless thoughts, ricocheting around inside my head. They went nowhere productive, just echoing in an emptiness I could not fill. Emotionally, almost nothing moved me. I walked through my life mostly void of any self-generated feelings.
I felt most comfortable when lost and anonymous in a large group of people. In the crush of the throng, I was no longer alone with my own thoughts. Pressed against others, I absorbed their feelings as if through my skin. I inhaled the passions they expired. In my loins, I felt the stir of their sexual excitement. Their fervor became my own. The rabble artificially filled me with what I could not produce on my own. My emotions were by contagion only.
Once evening, I attended a large sporting event. The stands were packed with screaming hoi polloi. Rivalry was high. Fights broke out here and there, not too nearby to be threatening, but close enough for me to feel the heat. I was in my element, pulsing with the energy I’d appropriated from others. Strong drink multiplied the sensations, and so, as usual, I;d downed enough to make me feel loose and open.
Later, on the way home, I discovered my normal route blocked, and I was forced to take a detour. The path was unfamiliar and of course I was in my cups and somewhat off balance. In the dark, I lost my way. I tried to find my way back but I tripped on a rock or root and fell into a deep ravine which was hidden from the path. When I stopped falling, my leg was twisted under my body most unnaturally and the pain was excruciating. I cried out for help until my voice was nothing more than a raspy whisper, but nobody could hear me. There was no rescue. And so I stayed there, for days, in and out of consciousness, dying slowly, alone. Just me and my thoughts and finally, my own feelings.