Once a gazelle found itself in a state of suspended animation. Such a predicament was unheard of for a gazelle, accustomed to bounding along with its companions in graceful, free-and-easy arcs that looked for all the world like a gravity-defying ballet. What had stopped this one in midleap, ironically, was the thought its sheer glee in defying gravity might be shortsighted. Who could really defy gravity for any length of time, after all? Eventually every good leap must come to an end and even a gazelle find itself pulled back to earth. Wasn’t there something empty, in that case, about the herd’s ceaseless gamboling about? But then, what could match the wild beating of a gazelle’s heart as it neared the top of its bound? What could rival the feeling of every sinew and muscle drawn to the full in physical joy? But then again, shouldn’t such breathtaking vaults possess some meaning that transcended the inevitable return to earth? Was the joie de vivre that ran through every fiber of the gazelle’s body in fact only a blind indulgence in sensory pleasures that had no justification beyond themselves? Satisfactions promised by the life of the mind must be more lasting and significant. Still again, however, giving up physical delights in response to the appeal of thought, turning from the triumph of the flesh to the transcendent intellect, what guarantee did the gazelle have it wouldn’t come to regret that too? How far could ideas alone carry one in comprehending what it meant to be fully alive? In sum, the gazelle’s body and mind were at such odds that movement of any sort had simply become impossible. Would this stalemate in every nerve render its powerful legs frail and useless in time, as the constant doubts threatened to paralyze its mind as well? If so, and if the gazelle ever did suddenly come down, the odds of landing on its feet might be no greater than those of ending up on its head. Given that possibility, the gazelle supposed it might have to resign itself to an existence up in the air like this. There’d be no unbridled celebration of the senses anymore, to be sure, but no racking self-recriminations either. Or, to put it the other way around, there’d be freedom from intellectual torment in exchange for an end to sensual bliss. Suspended animation as a way of life.
Copyright © 2005 by Geoffrey Grosshans