The Art Of Survival

partsThere’s a phrase from Nietzsche’s “The Birth Of Tragedy” that I’ve always admired. It goes something like, “Only when viewed as an aesthetic phenomenon are the sufferings and miseries of life eternally justified.”

Pictured here is an assemblage of parts from the car that nearly claimed my life yesterday.

OK, I’ll admit I have a tendency for dramatic overstatement, but let’s just say I had plenty of New York’s finest tell me how lucky I am.

Of course, I already knew that.

Yesterday, returning in my friend’s car from the best practice session ever at the golf range, a drunk driver ran a red light and broadsided me, totalling both cars. He was taken to the hospital and later arrested for DUI. Wearing my seat belt — something I’ve neglected throughout most of my life — I came out of it without a scratch.

I don’t want to sound self-indulgent nor get all preachy on you, but when something like this happens and you have an audience, you feel kind of chatty. So don’t assume a red light means the coast is clear. And wear your seat belt — really. And don’t drink and drive, nor allow others to do it. You might deprive the world of an entertaining blog or an up-and-coming golfer.

A few years ago, at the crossroads of life that ultimately brought me to New York to draw the curtain on Act Two, I wrote in my journal, “What you need is a near-death experience.” Well I finally got it, now let’s hope I make use of it.

I didn’t see the impact coming, but when it happened I think my body instinctively tightened as an act of self-preservation. My brain must’ve flooded every muscle in my body with a max dose of adrenaline, most of it in the muscles that protect the vital organs. The first thing I felt when I climbed out of the car was that I’d been punched in the gut by an 800-pound gorilla — or rather a 4,000-pound BMW. This morning it just felt like I’d done 4,000 sit-ups.

After the fire trucks and police and neighbors had cleared out, they towed my friend’s car. But the other car remained, wedged against a telephone poll, as it was considered evidence in a DUI case. By the time it was taken away I’d already retired for the night.

This morning I went outside to find just a pile of wreckage on the sidewalk. In the morning sunshine, the first after days of storm, I felt a compulsion to clean up the mess, lest it remain there indefinitely.

Soon an elderly woman came by and said, “Who should clean this up?” I didn’t quite understand the question, so I just said that I was the victim of the accident. She said she knew, that she recognized me from the day before. I told here I was simply cleaning up my neighborhood while meditating on the frailty of life.

I came inside with a few souvenir shards, which I cleaned up while listening to Bach’s “St. Matthew’s Passion.” Then I put them on a shelf above my piano, along with the family photos and artsy bric-a-brac. It felt satisfying to let the creative impulse find some use for the wreckage of  life’s misfortune. The piece in the center, made from steel or cast iron, is damn heavy. Holding it is a chilling reminder of what happens when two cars collide.

Speaking of which, I never even spoke to the guy who hit me. What would I say? “Are you OK? By the way, fuck you.” — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

26 Comments on "The Art Of Survival"

  1. WhollyRoamin | May 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm |

    Glad to hear you’re ok. I, too, was a sporadic seatbelt wearer until I was randomly wearing one in a huge wreck, too. Now I’m a big believer.

    Those things save lives. Including yours, thank goodness.

  2. This a great post.

  3. Horrible experience – very, very happy you made it out okay.

  4. So glad you’re ok. All the best.

  5. I’m happy that you are ok!!

  6. I was in an accident over 20 years ago while on the highway. My car was hit from behind and to the left, and the collision knocked me away from the wheel down toward the passenger seat. The seat belt did it’s job and pulled me back into a driving position before I could lose control of the vehicle.

    I’m glad you’re okay, and yes, wear your seatbelt!

  7. A.E.W. Mason | May 26, 2013 at 6:05 pm |

    Very happy to hear you’re okay and not a holiday weekend driving statistic. Perhaps this will be a wakeup call for the guy who hit you; he’s lucky he’s not facing a vehicular manslaughter charge. Even if you feel alright right now, you should have a doctor check you out.

  8. Glad you are OK. I hope you had a medical evaluation – sometimes there are injuries or strains that are masked by the adrenaline and that start to emerge a few days later.

  9. Thank God you’re OK, Christian. Please do get examined. Often a chiropractor can help more than an M.D. for any physical aftereffects you might experience.

  10. ironchefsakai | May 26, 2013 at 7:10 pm |

    Extremely glad you’re alright. Sadly, I’ve known too many people who have not been so lucky in similar situations. I’ve found that it’s always important to recognize the frailty, fickleness, and capriciousness of life. It helps you live it to the fullest.

    Be sure to take your time recovering and be careful!

  11. Christian | May 26, 2013 at 7:18 pm |

    Thanks for the good wishes, especially from Taliesin, whom we haven’t heard from in years!

    Yep Henry, got a great chiropractor for the daily wear and tear of sports and sitting in front of a computer.

  12. “Comment by DS — May 26, 2013 @ 3:19 pm
    This a great post.”

    Fuckin-A it is

  13. I am very happy to hear you are okay. All of the best.

  14. And I think this part is especially fascinating:

    “I didn’t see the impact coming, but when it happened I think my body instinctively tightened as an act of self-preservation. My brain must’ve flooded every muscle in my body with a max dose of adrenalin, most of it in the muscles that protect the vital organs. The first thing I felt when I climbed out of the car was that I’d been punched in the gut by an 800-pound gorilla — or rather a 4,000-pound BMW. This morning it just felt like I’d done 4,000 sit-ups.”

    Absolutely amazing.

  15. I’ve read and enjoyed your blog for quite awhile, but have never bothered to comment or contribute in any way, until today’s post… I just feel compelled to thank you for your blog and compliment you on your writing, thoughtfulness, and sensitivity, which I feel is what sets this blog apart from the scrum. I was not to the manner born, but still enjoy (and am amused by) Ivy style, and yours is one of my favorite little daily Internet escapes. I doubt I’ll ever meet you; so, via the comment section: thank you. Oh yeah, and I am very glad you are okay.

  16. Jeff Jarmuth | May 27, 2013 at 3:59 pm |

    Glad you survived and that (it sounds) like nobody was injured…

  17. I’m glad to hear your okay. In regards to what you would have said to the other driver, I was in an accident in 1997. Similar to the same situation as yours. I wanted to see if the other driver was okay. The witnesses all around the accident told me not to approach the other car. I never said a word to him. I did hear him confess to the police he was drunk.
    My point is it was probably best you said nothing.

  18. Nick Willard | May 28, 2013 at 2:17 pm |

    Glad to hear you’re OK — take care of yourself, old boy.

  19. Glad you are indeed okay Christian! Take care and best wishes!

  20. Wow, harrowing story. Glad you’re alright!

  21. I’m glad that you survived unscathed, Christian/Ubermensch. : ^ )

  22. Mr. Wyllys | May 28, 2013 at 8:18 pm |

    I would put my trust in a real Doctor, rather than a chiropractor…If you are really willing to go the chiropractor route, I’m more than willing to come to New York and cast bones and read entrails and twirl crystals…:-)

  23. Mr. Wyllys | May 28, 2013 at 8:19 pm |

    Also in addition to my snarky comment, I am very glad to here you are alright, I truly am.

  24. Glad to hear you’re OK.

    Best wishes from Sweden (where not wearing a seatbelt gets you a $250 ticket).

  25. People are the worst sometimes. Glad you made it out unscathed.

    – Oliver

  26. Glad this story has a good ending Christian!

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