It was a vague sensation the first time I died. A distantly throbbing, bulbous pulsation enveloped my consciousness, such as it was. There was no pain, no wonder, just a languid curiosity. There was no tunnel that ended in a divine, bright white light. There was no spinning above my wracked and sweaty carcass, my consciousness looking down at the staring shell. It was a glide more than a floating, a flowing movement, and spinning within it, a quiet sensation of familiarity. Objectively, I probably should have been wondering why I wasn’t more interested in everything. This was, after all, death, the end, the curse of mortality, the deep and dark secret at the end of all that I knew, the ultimate mystery. I had shadowy hints of other entities, lumps of consciousness separate from mine, passing around me in a tortuous dimness. It was the sensation you feel if you are walking in the dark in a cave and you feel a breeze, and though you can’t see it, you know there’s an opening there beside you. How these were other consciousnesses I cannot say, nor would you understand if I could. So I will tell you more and hope that your skepticism does not infect your interest.
The fourth time that I died was the closest to the popular conception of death. I rose up above my fading body and saw the people standing around me. I called to them, exerting every ounce of energy residing in my now insubstantial lungs, but all I could produce was a whisper. I floated in sadness until I felt a tugging, a pulling, and I began to drift like a vague cloud of gas in a room where a vent is suddenly opened, sucked toward the opening. I was shooting down a tunnel, black as the pits of oblivion, darker than any night ever had a right to be. Voices babbled around me. Then a light, blurry, mightily distant, began to show itself. I was racing “towards the light.” It grew brighter, brighter, blurring, blinding, erupting, until in a blinding flash I found myself floating in a white void. There was naught else, just my own awareness and the endless white, the white of doves, the crests of the ocean, the blank of paper uninspired, the pure fluff of unsullied cloud, of soft, new cotton, of imagined and angelic innocence. I had no body to look at, nothing to entertain my senses, which were so used to being over stimulated that this deprivation was like a cement block slammed into my head.
How many times have I lived and died since then? How many bodies have I inhabited, planets walked, skies flown, or seas sailed? How many different methods of dying and disparate states of death have I experienced? These numbers, I suppose, now matter about as much as the difference between life and death, which seems so all-encompassing when I walk alive in the world. The white-hot drill bit in the soft underbelly of my otherwise languorous and serene consciousness is the fact that it is accepted so complacently by all of us, but you and I and the impossible billions before and after us. The routine movement of the cycle seeks to rub out the questions whispering shyly in my mind, but they are feeding on themselves. We die, and we die again. More and more, until it is so unremarkable as to be laughable, as when we are living, we mouth moronic inanities about the Earth’s weather. Hot enough for ya, today, Phil? And that’s it. In life, we have no idea that we have already lived, once, twice, a thousand times, and in death, it’s a fact of….death? And why am I so remarkable that I can recognize that this is, indeed, odd, while no one else does?
The distracted vagabonds in this crepuscular necroverse are not the starry-eyed companions of paradise that I envisioned in the Judeo-Christian-influenced constructs of heaven I nurtured in life. In which life, you may ask? Well, the first one, I guess. I meet other souls/spirits/entities along the way, searching for those who were close to me in life, but I can’t find them. When I can establish a rapport with one, instead of the super-awareness and omniscience you would expect, these are shades, reflections, uninterested in questions of existence and the where of the what and the how of the why that we are. We don’t talk in the conventional sense, but they communicate to me the gists of “leave it alone” and “What? That never occurred to me. How strange.” They look at me the same way that myopic zealots look at you when you express doubt in the constructs of their morality.
I suppose I might come closer to finding the spirits (for lack of a better term) of those that I may have originally loved if I remembered them, but their impressions have long since faded as I move on through lives, unwilling to form relationships because of the hopelessness that any indulgence in love offered.
I am shunted into a new life as an infant, and I hardly know myself, and cannot think clearly, but gradually as my shell learns and grows, my spirit stirs and the newest me gets impressions of doom and desolation, turning later childhood and adolescence into a brooding and unpleasant span. When I am living I do not know for sure that I have lived and died, but I suspect. Former lives intrude their shades upon the current life, causing confusion, dysfunction, and occasional madness. They leave me with just enough of an impression that I know that I have lived before, as when you’ve dreamed a massive, complicated dream and now can’t remember the vaguest thing about it beyond that fact that you had a massive, complicated dream. There was this undulating castle with a bridge of glass and roses and Jennifer was there, and Max, and Jimmie, and Dawn, and my great-grandfather like he looks in the old, yellowed pictures, and my gramma with her smells of Thyme, Lavender, and Wintergreen, and the bridge turned into a massive scroll with flowing script shining in liquid gold, and I cleared my throat to read from it, but then it turned into Latin – no, it was French… was it a scroll? no, wait there was no castle, it was a mountain… no, there wasn’t anyone there… I mean… that was a really great dream…
I have instinctive feelings not to indulge myself in emotions, attachments, hope. By the time I am an adult, I have analyzed these feelings thoroughly and have come to the conclusion that I have lived before, and even have an inkling of the hopelessness of life and the despair of death. Most take my morose disposition and bleary movements as indication of mental illness or instability, and that may be so. But if being more aware of the state of reality than others makes me ill, what does that make them? Oh, to be unaware of the pinprick hintings of death in early life, and of the full-blown blasts of purposelessness that hit me head-on later in life. Ignorance would be more than bliss, it would be pure and uncorrupted utopia.
But these flashes of remembrance of lives fade in and out of my awareness like the click-clack and throb of a train on its rails. Into the tunnels under insubstantial mountains of welcomed darkness and weighty dimness, out into the shattering light of realization once again. Is there any question I have not pondered? Should I not know by now if there is such a thing as a Creator, and if I have been singled out for an eternity of torment? Or is this just a fantasy of self-importance and is it the lot of all humanity, and other creatures besides? But I have learned next to nothing, scarcely more than I knew in my numerous lives. It is ironic that man’s ingrained fear of death should be so stunningly justified, but in a completely different way than he had ever imagined. No gnashing, fiery demons or nine circles of the abyss here. No mocking fallen angel to apply whips of fire to the figurative backs of our pleading souls for eternity. Worse, for that would at least be interesting, perhaps. I look back at some of the feelings that I can remember from my original life with the closest thing to amusement that I can muster. I once believed, in contrast to most people at the time, that there was no God, no soul, and no afterlife. Though every fiber of my being cried out against it, logic dictated that oblivion must follow awareness, and so I sought to accept this against all the teachings, fictions, suppositions, and philosophies of the uncounted generations before me.
How I wish I had been correct.
Since I have found no indication otherwise, I am inclined to believe that for some inexplicable reason I am the only one, or one of the few, to recognize this constant reincarnation, this circle of cursed sentience, and I recognize that most of the time now, I am mad. This is why I believe my visions fade and return, and awareness dims and focuses. The times that I can think clearly, as now, and try to communicate with other entities, indicates to me that I have some gift or curse of higher awareness with which my mind was not designed to cope. I have become aware of my surroundings, which usually become clear after whatever different version of the state of death I experience fades. I can sense the skies, the stars, the planets, the ether, the drifting bodies of sub-celestial flotsam. I can sense the gases, the solids, the liquids; the matter and antimatter; the bright firing of solar power and the brooding void of dark energy; the photons, ions, atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, quarks, bosons, strings, and dots of miniscule existence. I can sense the presence of uncounted parallel planes of existence, intersecting this one at innumerable points, trillions dying and flashing into existence every instant.
But I have become aware of something else.
I can sense an end, beckoning, offering the desperate bliss of nonexistence. I rage, silent in my mind, my soul, my spirit, or whatever it is of me that is my essence in which I am locked, I rage to find this peace. I seethe with need for obsolescence. Through the gibbering haze of my madness I glimpse a tendril of surcease from suffering.
As a people, a mass of souls, pithy and swarming gnats on the surface of an existence annoyed, we return to the roots from which we were spawned. Life moves full circle. The movements of creation impinge upon my writhing consciousness. We circle the Earth which circles the Sun the tyrant of our Solar System which circles the center of our galaxy (black hole devouring messenger of obliteration or dictator of nascence?) which circles the clusters and superclusters and ultimately some center of universal creation… supernovae are sparks and pulsars are playthings, quantum mechanics a math for the blind…My key is the Sun. I flow (physically?) toward the massive burning sphere of hydrogen fire circling and erupting in a torment of heat in the focus of our simple system. The sensation of peace is coming from it. Yes. I sense it. The Sun will destroy me. Peace of a burning. Peace of an ending. There is an unannounced logic that dictates to me that if I return to the Sun, I will merge with the essence of my creation, as it in turn will return to its essence billions of year hence. But time and the years have no meaning now. Nothing has any meaning, no movement, no concept, no impression, nothing. Nothing but obsolescence.
I (stand) here in the center of the sun and I (personality/essence/spirit/soul/ impression) melt in pure ecstasy into nothing. I am released from the torment of existence. My legacy, these unwritten lines, burned into stellar dust-motes, shall float disembodied through the ether until and if another like me discovers them.
Think of me and believe (briefly) that you are not alone in the unquenchable solitude of the Megaverse.
Copyright © 2005 Mark B. Goldman