Things My Kids Should Know After Their Father Dies

I’m going to do a list post because they’re easy and I’m dying and I have a quota. I just wanted you to know the whole truth right from the start. Okay, I’m probably not dying, but I have the flu and I feel like I’m dying. I also look like I’m dying (see left). I have a fever. My body aches. I have a cough that feels like someone is stabbing me in the lungs with a hot knife. And the sneezing is ridiculous. Also, I’m using those tissues with the lotion on them, which I always used to make fun of but now I rather like. So anyway, another manifestation of my illness is the frequent thought that I’m dying. I’m going to die, I tell myself, this is the end. Then I think about my poor fatherless kids and, as we are all prone to do, I begin to make a list of things my kids should know after their father dies. Below I pull from poetry, fiction, philosophy, psychology, and music in order to provide guidance for my orphaned ones.


1). “You bend the nail  / but keep hammering because  / hammering makes the world.” This is the last line of the Dean Young poem, How I Get My Ideas. It pretty much means, hey, you’re going to bend the nail sometimes, or make some mistakes, but just keep hammering. You can get a new nail. Or just keep hammering, keep trying, because that’s how you build things or get what you want. (I’m not really sure what this means but it’s evocative and it makes you wonder and it’s beautiful and, if you read the whole poem, it’ll probably make you cry; I told you I was very sick.)

2). “The history of the universe… is the handwriting produced by a minor god in order to communicate with a Demon.” This is a Borges quote from the short story Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. This short story is the only piece of literature that made your dad lightheaded and I almost fainted. The reason you need to know this is that it relativizes reality in such a radical way that you realize you don’t know anything and everything is filled with infinite potential. Just read Borges, kids. All of it. After you close the book on Borges, you look around and you’re in a different world than before you opened the book. This experience should not be missed.

3). “Believe me! The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment of life is to live dangerously!” This a Nietzsche quote and it means that you should throw caution to the wind and follow your guts and break all the rules. Doing this will often explode in your faces and you’ll need good friends with bail money and your hearts will, in the end, look like cobbled together messes with duct tape and roofing nails, but you will smile big, my young ones. You will walk the earth, laws unto yourselves and people will be attracted to your laughter like moths hurling themselves toward hysterical flames.

4). “To hold that we are not real means to let go of all seemingly irreducible objectifications of human personality, whether it be the organic body, the human personality, or subjective awareness, and to realize them as fantasies of the psyche.” This is James Hillman from his book, The Dream and the Underworld. Kids. Don’t take yourselves so seriously. Whenever you’re angry or upset, you’ve been duped into some literal traps about yourselves, your ideas, and/or your situations. What I mean to say is that you’re not real, not in the way you think you are, and neither are your problems. Everything we are and think is imagined. Imagine yourselves and everything else in new and different ways (cf. Buddhism).

5). “People might laugh at your tattoos / And when they do get new ones in completely garish hues.” This is a John Darnielle lyric from the song Amy aka Spent Gladiator, Pt. 1. Simply this. Tattoos connote a kind of permanence and sense of the absolute. And, during the course of your lives, you’re going to develop a lot of ideas about what’s good and right and solid and forever. However, there are no absolutes and everything changes, so you need to maintain a kind of flexibility in the face of your own certainties that’s always willing to go get new tattoos in completely garish hues. I love the word “garish” in this context. The definition of garish is “bright and showy”. That’s the bottom line, kids. No matter who you are. No matter who you become. Stay bright and showy. I love you. ~Your Dead Dad


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