My mortal coil is a Slinky. It starts at my feet and winds up and up, so tightly wrapped around me that it would take a great deal of doing to shuffle it off. It’s not that I fear the state of death, or what lies beyond, because when I reach that point it will no longer matter. The afterlife will do what it wills — be it roasting my sinning butt in an eternal all-you-can-eat Avery barbeque, or allowing me to pass into floaty happiness as a tiny part of the greater One. And even if there is no sense beyond that which the living body provides, it still won’t matter to me once I’m dead. After all, the insensate form has no means by which to mourn itself. No, I worry more about the single second right before all goes blank (or all is revealed) when I’ll recognize that one moment as the last for me — at least the last as I currently recognize moments.
I’ve been plagued the entirety of my adult life with what I call my Hamlet complex; my considerable concern with becoming whatever it is I will become in the end. Equaling this is my concern for being myself until the end of time.
I guess what I’m saying is, I fear eternity.
The idea of never-ending sameness strikes a chord of horror within me. As much as I don’t relish the idea of being dead forever, I sure as hell don’t want to be alive forever. If I had the choice, I think I’d prefer to be dead a while, then wake up and live a while, going back and forth in that manner until time itself passes into oblivion. I’ve considered the hope of reincarnation, but the thought of not recalling who I am at this very moment bothers me (then again, if I’ve already reincarnated into this particular life, the process hasn’t done much to me in the way of trauma). I suppose it all goes back to that instant when I die. At that moment, when I’m still Avery, I suspect relinquishing my memories to become another person entirely would be an unwelcome idea. But, once I’d crossed over (or up, or down, or whatever direction I’m to take) it might not seem like such a bad deal.
These issues — as with countless writers before me — have wound their way into my book, snaking around the storyline much as my mortal Slinky coil has encompassed me. I’ve flung death onto pages of text, infusing this novel with themes of mortality and resurrection. Mirroring my trepidation of a future without change, Resonance spends some time in a version of the Norse Hel, a icy wasteland that stretches without variation into eternity. My necromancers speak of a cycle of life, death and rebirth — but also with options for those who choose not to inhabit a living shell again. There’s no punishment or consequence, only personal choice. The dead are allowed to select how they want their afterlife to play out. They’re given back their freewill — something ultimately taken from them at birth when they were not consulted about the matter of their eventual demise. And so, I’ve gone on, attempting to placate myself with my own fancies, soothing my inner uncertainties within my characters’ spirituality.
Has this exercise in self-trickery lessened my Hamlet complex? Not really. But, at least I’ve made some use of useless qualms. We writers are lucky; we have the will and ability to forge entire worlds of our own choosing. We can create people, and then pass onto them the hopes we don’t dare hold for ourselves. We are granted the range to give vent to our frustrations and fears, and then to conceal them all under the pretty guise of art. Do you know what the best part is? It’s cheaper than therapy.
I was given a link to this video by my friend X, who is, as always, ever sensitive to my fits of despair:
February 17th, 2007 at 5:34 am
There is something haunting about the promise of forever, but I am a strong believer in reincarnation, which can get morbid. I listen to stories and wonder if I’ve lived back then. I think I fear pain more than I do eternity. The thought that I could have been a prisoner somewhere, or lived when torture was entertainment. I can go on for hours on this subject. I just wish I could touch that “after” in my stories.
February 11th, 2007 at 11:01 pm
Sqt — I’m with you on the carrot thing. Also, the thought of having a perfectly working mind trapped in a useless body is equally disquieting.Kate — I don’t know why eternity freaks me out so much. But, sometimes, in bed, I’ll try to imagine the concept of eternity and my stomach constricts and the room seems to shrink. I guess my little monkey brain can’t handle it.As far as being published goes, I hope that when it happens I can meet both of your kind expectations with some degree of success.
February 10th, 2007 at 12:11 am
This post reminded me of Anne Rivers Siddons books – I’ve noticed in many of her books that at least one of her characters contemplatest the horror of eternity – sounds like you and she have the same take on it.For some reason, it’s never bothered me much. My biggest fear, though, is dying before my daughter is ready for it. My younger brother died a couple of years ago when his son was only 5, and his demented, truly abusive ex-wife now has custody of him. It’s so heartbreaking. On a brighter note, I’m with sqt – I hope you get published soon. 🙂
February 9th, 2007 at 11:17 pm
Great post!I don’t know if all of us ponder our mortality, but I would think most people do. Though I’d be willing to bet most people would rather not meet death if they could avoid it. Me? I think quality of life is important. I wouldn’t want to be 100 if that meant my brain was a carrot. Heck, I wouldn’t want to be 50 if my brain was a carrot. Religion is something I ponder. Is it just the work of man? And if so, what does that mean? Those are the questions that work their way into what I write. I even had a dream years ago that I haven’t been able to shake that has inspired a whole series of book ideas. I’ve rewritten it so many times though. I think I’m still trying to work through it all since I can’t seem to settle on a place to start. But thank goodness for inspired introspection. My favorite authors are the one’s who do ask the larger questions. I can’t wait until you get published so I can buy your books.