Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Am I ready for the Dance with Death?
(Dumuzi returns from the Underworld Reborn)
There is a very high price for true 'rebirth' and I wonder how many people really are willing to pay it. It is at the heart of most religious mysteries, but in reality, few ever voluntarily embrace loss enthusiastically in order to begin anew.
As a player of video games who writes guides for them and therefore spends quite a lot of energy and time on role-playing simulation games, people may think that I am not 'in touch' with this reality but in fact, the experience of a role-playing simulation game recently made me aware once again of the ephemeral nature of THIS life.
A defective technology was responsible for two catastrophic experiences I had recently, both of which forced me to realise once again how fragile life actually is. It is not as though I have no personal experience of facing death in reality as I almost died shortly after I 'reached my majority'. Our psyches are conditioned to recover from those shocks, however, and we become involved with daily routines and petty ambitions, despite our best intentions to make every day 'count'.
Those 'near death' experiences that all of us have had are quite different. Usually they occur so rapidly that we have gone through the experience almost before we have been able to respond to it. When I was a passenger in a car that narrowly avoided collision with a juggernaut, or when I was walking down the street in Manhattan only to find myself face to face with a guy with a gun in his hand and his finger on the trigger, those experiences occurred so quickly that my emotions did not respond until after the threat.
In any case, the first of my two recent 'catastrophes' was in my life as a male farmer in Forget-Me-Not Valley. I had done everything properly, worked diligently and formed the highest degree of friendship with every one in the Valley. All the girls were in love with me and any of them would have accepted my Blue Feather, thereby accepting a proposal of marriage.
I had a full set of Mythic Tools, the most powerful tools on Earth as well as every magical Accessory. I had upgraded my crops and animals steadily, never shirking my responsibilities. I attended and participated in every Festival. I was a Billionaire. I had a private Island with a little cottage on that Island as well as the largest farmhouse that could be built. I had completed my Cookbook and my Shipping List. In short, I had fulfilled most of my ambitions and was about to choose a spouse.
It was at this point, when I had prepared fully to embark upon the next stage of my life that the game froze at the point of loading in BOTH files, thereby wiping out my entire existence.
Six months of intensive labour in this 'real' world as well as a couple of years of intensive labour in
Forget-Me-Not Valley were wiped out in an instant.
Even if it is 'only a game', one does invest a certain amount of energy and concentration into it, as well as having an emotional attachment to the character. It is one thing to decide not to play any longer, but quite another to have one's game destroyed arbitrarily by some outside force.
Natsume, the creators of Harvest Moon games, do make an effort to incorporate the vicissitudes of Nature and life into their games. As I thought about this, I realised that, although the 'freeze file' glitch was not intentional, it really was not that different from our reality, where Death can intervene at any moment.
Yes, I had done everything correctly, and had worked earnestly and diligently to fulfil all goals, but what is the significance of this in ANY reality?
In this life, beggars and millionaires are equally impotent when Death knocks at the door. One can do everything right in life as well and still be forced to face the fact that we are not in charge here. We cannot make a 'deal' with Life by fulfilling requirements on some arcane cosmic list in return for longevity or immortality.
I suppose all of this is obvious stuff, but philosophy and experience are two different things entirely and one often forgets that we are not conducting our own symphonies. There is no promise that we will be allowed to complete the 'game'.
'Life in the here and now' is the advice of many philosophers, but I do not agree with that. What I do believe is that one needs to be aware of one's heart's ultimate desire and to strive to fulfil that at least without putting it off. The future may or may not exist for any of us. If we wish to have any share in that future, we need to perform our deeds of glory or create our masterpieces NOW. If we do not have any aspirations of that nature, then by all means, we can live according to an Epicurean or existentialist philosophy or any other code that takes our fancy.
This brings me to the second catastrophe. This was caused by defective technology as well, but had far more ramifications in this reality. My internet provider sent a prompt to the effect that my computer needed to be restarted. When I restarted the computer, I no longer appeared to exist on my own computer. My desktop screensaver had disappeared. More distressing than this, however, was the fact that all my files had vanished as well. All the research for my 'serious' writing, all my notes and journals, as well as the game guides I had written and was in the process of writing were gone. It was as though I never had existed at all, had never typed a single word on the keyboard.
An alien force of some kind had entered my little space and had removed any evidence of my presence completely.
I was devastated. Those who may be experts with computers may not have reacted as emotionally as I. There was a little part of me that hoped it was something that could be reversed, that the information was 'hiding' somewhere rather than having been wiped from the computer. Even so, I did not know if I ever would see those files again.
I spent a sleepless night over it. I could not access the internet at all, and therefore could not access online 'help'. I did not realise that telephone help is available at any hour but even if I had, my physical condition would not have allowed me to become involved with technological problems in the middle of the night. It had to wait until the morning.
While waiting for the dawn, I began to think about both 'catastrophes' and how there are far worse fates...
One could lose everything in a fire. One could lose a limb in an accident. One could be forced to endure terrible tortures or imprisonment. One could lose every loved one...
People are forced to face these catastrophes every day. Even if I had lost all my work, I still am alive to write again. Even if my life in Forget-Me-Not Valley is gone, I can begin a new life there, provided I can maintain any enthusiasm for it. The key here to everything is determination. One must be willing to begin anew. If one cannot do that, one is lost.
It is this that is at the heart of every mystery religion. One must be willing to die in order to be reborn. We read about it and some of us even experience religious rituals that re-enact the death and rebirth of a god. Yet few of us really ever allow ourselves to 'wipe the slate clean' and to begin again with a 'tabula rasa'.
Life is an investment in time, emotion and energy. We do not like to lose our investments. When we 'die', we must let go of every investment we have made.
In the ancient mystery religions, any one who wished to be initiated had to undergo a period of strict preparation in terms of fasting and spiritual questioning. Those who wished to experience the sacred mysteries had to undergo the mystery of death before they could experience a new birth.
We tend to hold fast to our little securities, whether it is our computer files or our homes, jobs and relationships. Society certainly does not want us to do otherwise. 'Vagrants' are a danger to society.
Those who are not concerned with material security cannot be compelled to do things they do not want to do. It is the 'vagrant' who is truly free, but the price that the homeless pay is very high. That sort of freedom is synonymous with deprivation.
Like madmen, vagrants operate according to their own rules, and are not persuaded by the ordinary considerations that regulate our lives. Whether it is a matter of deportment, attire or behaviour, the 'mentally ill' and the 'homeless' are immune to the pressures that control ordinary lives. I shan't say 'ordinary people' because I do not believe that there is such a creature as an 'ordinary person'. I believe that 'facilis est descensus Averni' and that any of us could find ourselves quite suddenly 'on the outside looking in'.
Should we pity those individuals or envy them? When I thought that all my work had vanished, I was distraught but if it had, would it have forced me to embark upon a completely different path? I cannot imagine reliving ANY life again. Only words that are really worth writing are worth writing a second time! How many words have I written are really worth THAT effort?
I hope there are a few, of course, but not having been forced to endure that 'death' and 'rebirth', I must try to use my imagination alone to persuade me to a higher level of creativity. I always have longed to penetrate the sacred mysteries of life, death and rebirth, but when it comes to the 'sticking point', I discover that I am as attached to this reality as any one. I was thrilled to see my desktop and files restored but perhaps if I were truly 'enlightened', I would have embraced the possibility of total destruction with enthusiasm, seeing within it the seed of rebirth.