Changing the World Essay - Jackie Middleswarth


When the Earth was created, life also was created. There are now very different forms of life out there who live everyday just to survive. Everything that lives, eats and poops. These are essential to stay alive. Everything lives to survive even humans, because death is the equalizer to life. Death is a natural cycle of life, which people try to deny. When they do acknowledge it, however, they often become afraid of when they realize how much time on Earth they may actually have left.

In the book “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien, who was a soldier in Vietnam, had two comrades in the war, Dave Jensen and Lee Strunk. They became acquaintances because after a while of messing with each other, they learned to trust each other in the war. When there were ambushes, they teamed up and protected each other. ““Dave Jensen and Lee Strunk made a pact that if one of them should get totally fucked up - a wheelchair wound - the other guy would automatically find a way to end it… Lee Strunk said, “But you got to promise. Swear it to me - swear you won’t kill me(pg 65-66).”” When the two guys, Lee Strunk and Dave Jensen, originally set up the pact Lee Strunk expected for Dave Jensen to be the one to get so badly wounded he would need to be wheelchair bound. It was easy for Lee Strunk to agree to this because he didn’t expect for his life to end this way, he would be killing someone else which is what he has been doing the whole time in the war. Although when it did happen to Lee Strunk, he tried to deny his death by making Dave Jensen not kill him. Strunk didn’t want Dave Jensen to kill him because he didn’t want it to be his time to go. He realized that if Jensen killed him, that would be the end of his existence, and he started to panic; he didn’t want to die then.

Rat Kiley and Mitchell Sanders, soldiers in the same unit as Tim O’Brien, were talking about the gruesome pictures that Rat Kiley kept seeing in his head. They mostly consisted of the insides of a person and his own death. “‘Anyway,’ Rat said, ‘the days aren’t so bad, but at night the pictures get to be a bitch. I start seeing my own body. Chunks of myself… I swear, it’s too much. I can’t keep seeing myself dead(pg. 223).’” Rat started to go crazy, and as he saw this he became scared of his own death. Seeing himself dead was a sort of inception that he couldn’t escape, and by being scared of seeing his own death he started to realize one day he would actually die. Now eventually, Rat did kill himself, and that was because he wanted to escape the thoughts and pictures he was having about him seeing his own dead body. By actually being dead, he was able to escape his fear of death. Rat knew how much time he left since he committed suicide, but he also knew that if he didn’t do it now, someday he will die like how he imagined. He wanted his death to be something he controlled because he was afraid of the other possibilities on how he could die and he didn’t want to live with those dreadful images of his death anymore.

Tim O’Brien is reflecting on the characters that have died and how he has grown over forty three years. He reflects on his young self as he moved too fast, not experiencing everything, but when he looks at why he started writing he came to a revelation. “I’m young and happy. I’ll never die. I’m skimming across the surface of my own history,... and when I come down thirty years later, I realize it as Tim trying to save Timmy’s life with a story(pg. 246).” When Timmy was a little boy and thought he would never die, death never scared him because he wasn’t faced with life or death situations that made him scared or unhappy. Since he was young, he felt invincible. Although, as Tim O’Brien grew older and reflected on his life, he figured out that when he went to the war he was afraid of death because he was put in a life or death situation. Since being out of the war, all of the books Tim O’Brien has written has been about his experience in Vietnam. By writing out his experiences with the war, he was able to save himself, the version that thought he was immortal of death. As Tim started to write, he realized that when he was in the war he was aware of the time on Earth he may have left. He started to write to relieve himself of the terrifying almost death experiences he had in the war so he didn’t have to constantly relive them in his mind. This way he gets to feel happy, and like he won’t die again.

Tim O’Brien was interviewed about his reaction of being drafted to the war. He was also interviewed on other aspects like what he wanted to do with his life, and most of his responses are curved around about his surprise of him finding his profession through writing. “His reaction to the draft notice still surprises him. 'I went to my room in the basement and started pounding the typewriter,’ he recalled. 'I did it all summer. It was the most terrible summer of my life, worse than being in the war.’” Tim O’Brien went to his typewriter because it was an antibiotic that let him get his feelings out. Initially when he got drafted he knew immediately that there was a chance he could die. O’Brien was afraid to submerge himself into a death situation because he wasn’t ready and he didn’t want to know approximately how much time he would have left. He felt as though he wasn’t supposed to go to war. He was, in fact, a political science major. Tim O’Brien almost didn’t go to the Army, he tried to deny it as much as possible because the fear of knowing he could die was too much. That is why when he wrote it, it was worse than being in the war because he started to become aware of what the actual consequences could be.

Although death may only seem important to those who are already dead, it does in fact impact everyone who lives. Everyone who lives, will one day eventually die. And when people realize this, their denial put themselves in a state of fear. The realization that death is inevitable is a terrifying fact to acknowledge because people usually feel like they are immortal until death is close.


All the stars are going past me, along with planets, asteroids and other beautiful things encompassing us in the galaxy. Although as I sit here, in the IMAX theatre at the Franklin Institute, I don’t think it’s beautiful. It’s terrifying. I start to shiver as if I were cold, but I’m not. I’m surrounded by a dome of moving pictures, creating a 3D effect. Heavy quick breaths escape me, and I close my eyes which is worse. There are too many thoughts racing in my mind, too many patterns my eyes see when I close my eyes which gives me a headache. I reopen my eyes, and taste the stale air, and I have to lean forward. My stomach is flipped inside out, and I have no control over how I feel. “Jackie, calm down,” I tell myself, “just try to sleep, wait until the movie is over and you won’t always feel like this.” But I’m having trouble keeping it together next to my friends, it’s taking all my might not to bolt towards the exit signs and never return.

As I watched the IMAX movie in the beginning about space, the feeling of things floating behind me as if I was moving through space was extraordinary. But then the fear of death caught up to me. Seeing the Earth from the viewpoint of space made me feel small,  made Earth feel small. Going through the beginning of time and how the Earth started made me realize that time was a concept to figure out the length of things. For example, the length of a life. And as I watched the space video, I feared that when I die there will be no afterlife. It’s a simple matter of a life is created, lives for a certain time and dies, and that’s how life on Earth works, a continuous cycle. When i’m dead I won’t be able to experience things anymore. I know my life is definite, but I want to experience everything.

Right now as a young teenager I feel immortal. So far, I haven’t seen anything die in front of me. It’s almost as death is a foreign concept. Death is foreign because I haven’t experienced loss, I can’t compare it to something. Death is just the end of road for something, and the scary part is when your heart stops, and you die, you can’t then tell someone what it was like. We’re afraid of the part after death. Knowing one day that I will die, like everyone else before me scares me because I want to always have the ability to feel physical objects, have emotions like being connected to those I love, even the ability to come home after a long stressful day, and take a nap, knowing later that dinner will be ready, warm and fill your stomach with satisfaction. But you don’t get that when you’re dead, the fear is that when you die, you just feel nothing.

The pain caused when someone dies is just useless because the person who is dead won’t be able to see your tears, the large amounts of time you grieve in your bedroom, tears dripping down to your mouth, the saltiness just making you feel worse. Death is an inevitable thing to escape, but to know that is terrifying because you don’t want to give up on the idea of immortality.

Comments (1)

Ameer Holmes (Student 2016)
Ameer Holmes
  1. Poops. Poops really grabs me.
  2. You are very imaginative, you felt the stars in the imax theater.
  3. I like the feelings you give to things that don't usually associate with those feelings.