Monday, August 2, 2010

The Seduction of the Beloved Dead

In Fantasy Kingdoms, a rather gorgeous Facebook Farming Simulation game that consists more in creating idealised landscapes than any deep strategies, there was a Limited Edition for the Beloved Dead or Beloved Undead, depending on the player's own fantasies. It included a Mausoleum and 'My Beloved's Gravestone'. They both are exquisite.

The entire Gothic mentality has enjoyed a tremendous revival lately. Although our official 'culture' attempts to convince us of the hope of living almost forever through Botox, cosmetic surgery and a host of medications, there is a very powerful counter-culture movement that embraces Death in all its manifestations, both Beautiful and Terrifying. It is no accident that vampires are portrayed as the most romantic protagonists of love stories at present. The Goth movement strives towards death in rebellion against the refusal of our culture to treat it realistically in any way, shape or form.

Less than a hundred years ago, family members died in their homes and were laid out in the parlour so that their loved ones could bid them farewell. The bureaucratic nightmare that now encompasses the 'business' of death had not reached insane heights yet. There was a time when it was not a crime to bury a loved one on his/her own land. Now you have to purchase a lot in a village or condominium for the dead...

However our culture deals with Death, human nature is such that we tend to value what we have lost far more than anything we still possess.

It occurred to me today that our Beloved Dead and especially those with whom we had a romantic connection, whether tenuous in life or binding, are the most dangerous lovers we possibly could have, for they allow us to keep our illusions. Their actions have completed for better or worse. In our memories, we can reconstruct the reality to suit our deepest psychic needs. What living being can hope to compete with one who has died and especially if the death were sudden and unexpected?

I lost my fiance while still at University and he cast an enduring shadow over my life that practically destroyed me. I was very young, even younger than most undergraduates and without any emotional and spiritual guidance, should be forgiven for my selfish longing to join my Beloved in death. At that age, I never had been truly intimate with any one physically nor had I lived with any man. My concepts of romance were extremely idealised. I loved him 'beyond reason' but what sort of love was it really? I never had a chance to discover that because of his untimely death.

I therefore cheated the living and myself by clinging to every memory of the one who died and building a spiritual and emotional mausoleum to him, It did not make him more real. In fact, I created a chimera to some extent, based upon my incomplete (but wonderful) knowledge of him. Being dead, he couldn't snap at me when overtired or row with me over some trivial point. He couldn't shoot down any carefully-constructed illusions from his position in the Unknown. He therefore was the symbol of perfect Love. In time, he became a symbol as well of my unwillingness to accept Life and Love as part of the mundane, imperfect fabric of existence.

Fortunately, I did move beyond that little by little but there still is a part of me that longs for that perfect, unspoiled Love. I hope I am becoming wise enough to realise that any real, living human being can offer far more than a dead person, however beloved and even if his offerings might be less than perfect and sometimes even undesirable.

There is an old cliche that 'no man is an island'. How many of us have no family and no friends who would mourn us if we died? Very few, even if some of us find it easier than others to forget this fact.

When we feal anguish over the loss of a loved one, we should think about the anguish and suffering WE would cause if we were to join that individual in the great beyond. It is a very universal sort of suffering after all.

1 comment:

Fleming said...

This is very good advice.