Today I bade farewell to the Richard Russo world of Thomaston, NY, and moved onto a new audiobook – The Brief History of the Dead“, by Kevin Brockmeier.
I almost gave up early on, because the main character is a woman who is left alone in Antarctica after she and her two male colleagues lose communications, and the two men set out for another research base in search of rescue, but fail to return. Today was a gloomy, stormy day at sea and I needed cheering up, NOT to hear about a solitary woman marooned in her own company. It was just a bit too close to home.
But then it got better. In this story, there is a plague on the Earth, and our heroine may well turn out to be the only survivor. Meanwhile, we find out about the existence of an interim afterlife, a staging post on the way to the great hereafter. In a huge city (which bears a strong resemblance to Earth, in fact, to America) souls go in their human form until the last person to remember them also dies. Once they have disappeared from living memory, they then progress to the permanent afterlife.
I’d been thinking quite a bit recently about life after death, and whether it exists. My thoughts had been prompted by Timothy Ray, and also the death a few days ago of a dear friend of my mother’s, a gentleman who passed away suddenly at the age of 89, just as he was about to leave his home to meet my mother for lunch.
The thought had already occurred to me that someone can be said to live on, for as long as there are people to cherish the memory of them. They live on in our hearts and minds, whether or not that individual unit of consciousness that used to be “Tim” or “Peter” continues to exist.
As to that, whether we continue to exist in any kind of self-aware form, who knows?
Although I have read the accounts of people who have come back after near-death experiences, the evidence does not seem conclusive. Maybe they were were experiencing the dying process, and were pulled back before entering a true afterlife. Maybe we continue to exist, maybe there is nothing, maybe we get (re)absorbed into a collective “soul soup”, maybe we get reincarnated, or maybe we get whatever we believe we are going to get. There is no way of knowing.
And ultimately, what difference does it make? Shouldn’t we live good and decent and useful lives, regardless of what waits for us on the other side? So I’m not too concerned about not knowing. But I do like the sound of this fictional temporary afterlife as portrayed in “The Brief History of Death”. It has coffee shops.
Today was grey, rainy and cold. All day. With waves splashing up at me as well as rain coming down at me, just to make sure I got as wet as possible. Even though I am now (of course) in my cabin, it is a bit like camping in the rain. Everything gets damp, no matter how careful you are. Bedding and clothing feel clammy from condensation, and my waterlogged feet are taking a long time to warm up.
If I am to even think about doing the North Atlantic next year, I need to give serious thought to clothing, or I will end up with extremities dropping off. I am particularly concerned about my feet. Neoprene booties don’t seem to be helping all that much, and also make my feet slide out of my rowing shoes. Any ideas?
Anna F – I like your nana’s definition of death, as a chance to savour your memories of life. In a coffee shop, preferably…
Hi to Barbara in Prague, a city I have never been to, but would love to visit one day. I’m imagining dark and gothic…. but maybe that is the Faustus rather than the reality.
Jim Bell – I’m a Terry Pratchett fan too. And Douglas Adams. I wonder what kind of heavens they have ended up in….
Quote for today: “The meaning of life is that it stops.” (Kafka)
Photo: can anybody tell me what this little creature is? It is photographed in my all-purpose bucket, which has made its legs look red, although in fact they are black. It jumps around like a crazy thing.
There were several of them on board my boat today. They must be water creatures of some sort, as I’m sure they haven’t been here all along.
Sponsored Miles: Deed Knerr, M C Edwards, Mary Lu Kelley, Celia Savage, Suwin Chan – thank you!