"Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn't touched, I was fascinated. It was a though a veil had been rent. I saw on the ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror--of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during the supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision--he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: 'The horror! The horror!'" Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (the death scene of Kurtz).
Kurtz and all the imagery surrounding his development as a character, is one of lust and excess. This is evidenced from the hoarding of ivory and even the very aspect of his African lover. But what was it about those last moments of his life, as he lay dying in a fevered state? Did he have visions of his life? Did it flash before his eyes? And was this the reason for his horror?
Did he see visions of Lethe and the existence outside of life, and even more so Dante's descriptions of the seven circles of hell? Was anticipated terror of the torment after death the reason for his cries of "the horror! the horror!"
In Kurtz, we see our definition of a tragic hero. He achieved power, he achieved wealth, he achieved satiation for his sexual conquests. But at the moment of death, he expresses how completely for naught, it all was.
At his death his spirit cried out in recognition that his life was wasted on himself and ne'er a moment when it was lived for someone else. And the realization that he would die, destroyed his own grand vision of his immortality.
Isn't this the same with us?
We are an entitled people that believe we have the ability to escape death, and if not escape, at least stave it off as long as possible. And we think that it is an incredible injustice if we don't achieve all that we desired to achieve in our life.
We all have dreams of what our lives should be, and we all have experiences that dictated to us what success looks like. Our dreams of wealth. Our lust for sex with as many partners possible. Our need for recognition and fame, so much so, we don't even care if it is for something disparaging.
We think that driving our ideologies and changes for a more progressive future will make us feel important, that we have somehow left our mark on the world. We claim to be rebels fighting against what was unjust of the past, not realizing that we are creating brand new injustices.
And what will it all mean? Will you go into that dark night after spending your life fighting for wealth, sex, fame, change, and feel satisfied; or will you too cry: "The horror! The horror!" when you realize, all you ever wanted was to be loved and to love someone else in return.