Relax, death welcomes you
All the decisions in life, big and small, lead you strangely to your present situation. Somehow, this is all the more palpable in the context of death; for when you think of it, this is the end result of all your decisions. Should I apply for that job in Japan? Should I cook tonight or eat out? Should I study physics or biology? Should I learn the Tango? Should I buy my friend a drink at the bar or just take care of myself this round?
Of emotions, there are few so painful as regret. That is why the answer to whether one should embrace a particular challenge is generally “yes”. When choosing between a number of strong options, however, I break down in doubt and find myself paralysed by indecision. I am far from a satisficer and, instead of seeking a solution of adequacy, always seek the optimal which, ironically, is generally a sub-optimal strategy. The current decision with which I am faced is subject of a future post. The macabre inspiration for the topic is, of course, the subject of the present one.
This morning I awoke with my heart racing and a mournful yet peaceful disposition. My early hours were full of wild dreams as is often the case. Today I was on some tropical island with a cohort of Brazilian colleagues from modelling days. Stranded or vacationing I recollect not. That dream was displaced by one far more salient.
I boarded a Korean air flight and remember being taken to my seat. It was spacious and comfortable and perhaps in first or business class. After showing us to our seats and taking the usual preparatory actions, the (American, not Korean) flight attendants were seated nearby for takeoff. They sit facing rearward as it affords a higher likelihood of survival in the event of a crash - you might take notice on your next flight.
Shortly after takeoff, I felt the plane was flying at a decline. I could see buildings outside the window flying past and growing larger. Though terrified I expected the plane to pull up and tried to imagine the pilot landing successfully in a field or in the water, but the density of buildings suggested that was impossible. The flight attendant made some announcements about remaining calm and the imminent impact but I wasn't paying attention. People started to panic and push and the flight attendant announced "If you want to live, you won't stab the seat in front of you".
I felt then that I was going to die and felt resigned to my fate. I stared forward and thought I saw white light rushing through the front of the plane. The flight attendant, in a sweet, calm voice then announced: "Relax, death welcomes you." And suddenly I woke.
When I arrived at the office this morning, my friend informed me that (Lee) Alexander McQueen was dead. Enabled by gilt, I have assembled a small and cherished collection of Alexander McQueen paraphernalia including a frock coat, broach, silk bow ties, and silk pajama shirt. Most of these items I wear infrequently, if at all, but relish in the opulence and associated Victorian nostalgia.
I followed @mcqueenworld on twitter, and enjoyed photographs and videos from shows. The closest, however, I got was from crashing a casting (run not, of course, by the man himself) in Milan. My agency didn’t send me, but I went anyway with my friends. After I walked, I had my Polaroid taken but that was all. No callbacks, options, or bookings. I have some friends who must have met him when doing the shows.
His death is largely meaningless to much of the population, but any kind of connection, peripheral as it may be, has been embraced by the fashion world. The end of a great man reminds us not only of our own mortality, but of our unused potential, lest we too pass without reaching it.
His death reminded me also of Daul Kim’s suicide late last year. If such exceptional individuals were within such reach of despair, then what of us and our friends, family, and neighbours? Daul’s blog was removed swiftly after the news of her suicide. I returned to it today, expecting to see the same message of access restriction, and found that it has been mercifully restored to public access. I am happy that one of her outlets for expression and contribution to society can once again serve to inspire us and recall our duty to foster a sense of community and appreciation of and amongst our peers.
Reflecting on the lives of others reveals the most about your own. Your own triumphs and fears, goals and insecurities, achievements and failures. Behind the skull motifs and melancholy music are a series of decisions - conscious ones, passive ones, acquiescent ones - that brought you to the gears of your current life and will bring you, ultimately, to the end of it.