time, times and half a time
I guess yesterday's shooting at the School of Nursing is national/international news by now. Last night they were reporting it on the BBC. All morning people were calling the house to make sure that my sister, who was at the adjacent College of Pharmacy, was okay. Police and television crews were everywhere, she said; it took hours to get her car out of parking. They cancelled her classes for the day.
Professor Cheryl McGaffic, one of the victims, taught one of my friends in a course on death and dyingthis morning he sent us an eloquent email about her. She was always overworked and overtired, he said; she volunteered at a hospice, worked in the death ward, during one class had to leave the room twice to vomit. Before shooting her, the gunman (a former student) asked, "Cheryl, are you prepared to use your spiritual resources now?"
The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour). I know, however, of a young chronophobiac who experienced something like panic when looking for the first time at homemade movies that had been taken a few weeks before his birth. He saw a world that was practically unchangedthe same house, the same peopleand then realized that he did not exist there at all and that nobody mourned his absence. He caught a glimpse of his mother waving from an upstairs window, and that unfamiliar gesture disturbed him, as if it were some mysterious farewell. But what particularly frightened him was the sight of a brand-new baby carriage standing there on the porch, with the smug, encroaching air of a coffin; even that was empty, as if, in the reverse course of events, his very bones had disintegrated.
Nabokov, Speak, Memory