There are likely countless ways to die.
Some of us believe in the virtues of cautious longevity, a cultured picking through the days and weeks and months and years; a habit of eating smaller portions and greener portions, imbued on a greater faith that cells and cellular systems will behave and will not disorient toward a bleak and successful mutation; a polite demeanor, careful around knives and around hotheads and eager for pleasing and for the nourishment of agreement and friendship; a run in the park, and the pounds on the knees and the soles from the beating heart and from the ground the park delivers.
To some of us, these pursuits are living.
To others, there are the winks made in the gallows, the shadows awash in promise and in desire and in the curious and persistent tick toward an unmade moment; a push too hard in a tight club and a sneer at a sneer given, retributions made in parking lots with shuttle steps and torque; a rush for the gates when the gates are closing and when the lights and bells are screaming that the gates are closing; an obliterated evening, erased in the rage of folly and in the burning gut and the fearlessness in the crave of that gut; a line crossed between friends and a can of paint for the new line drawn.
These pursuits are a different living method.
I have no interest in dying of cancer. I have long believed that my death would be had at gun point and after a particularly pointed exchange. Such a death is quick and is one that comes together after points are made in heat. It is a stomp and a blare and a snuff. There is a staccato in this ending - as there is in the beginning and in the middle.
I often think about the occasional insect that wakes up too early and emerges before the clock of its species has governed the tick. Here it hovers, on a Tuesday in late March, settling on a perch on a sleeve or on a cold leaf. It rests for a beat and takes a listen. It takes to flight and scouts. And it listens. Then it makes a sound, trained as it has been by the inner drum of instinct to make a precise sound. It listens again, and there is no reply. And on Wednesday the temperature drops again. It finds a perch, but it can no longer make its sound.
Felix Baumgartner, as profiled by the Daily Beast
, will drop back to earth from 120,000 feet on Wednesday, weather permitting. This is an incredible feat from both the scientific perspectives of both physics and biology, as he will be effectively diving back into the earth's atmosphere from a specially crafted balloon. The ascent will take Baumgartner 2.5 hours to complete, and he will be in free fall for a full six minutes.
He will be sheltered in a special suit that has been designed for the occasion and has been sponsored by energy drink maker Red Bull.
A malfunction in this suit would result in a death that would involve the boiling of his blood, the collapse of his lungs, the freezing of his body, and, of course, the high-speed re-acquaintance with the earth's surface. So, freezing to death is one bitter thing - but doing so while you are in rapid descent and while your circulatory system is boiling and while you are suffocating is a brand of intensity unknown to even the most creative suicidal fundamentalist.
Baumgartner is a person to celebrate.