Planets vanish in the gaps between constellations; stars drift screaming into the void; the Milky Way runs in glittering rivulets down across the sky’s glassy dome, coming to rest, defeated, against the hard bed of the horizon. There’s no mistaking it. You are going to die. Sam Kriss.
What could be more antithetical to Buddhist emptiness than the infantile notion that spirit or consciousness survives death? I have no idea where the idea came from that dead loved ones become stars in the sky. Perhaps it’s an anthropological fiction which confirms the a priori cultural delusion of permanence. Yes, we are constructs of energy forms forged in the stars, but so what? Mind is an emergent reality of carbon, but so what? We could argue until the cows come home about mind’s purpose, the fulcrum of its personal meaning or the laws of its libraries of evolutionary independence. But imagine the moment of death without any mumbo-jumbo: awesome, yes, but the nothingness you’re sliding into is neither eternal nor permanent. You’re becoming nothing.
We’re beyond history here: our personality and its ramifications are no more significant than a hole in the ground. Our body can no longer answer the question, who am I? Of course we will be remembered, but the minds which will do so are as dust. Galaxies, gods and goddesses, lovers, friends, enemies, children and grandchildren, all dust, as though they never were. The living will do with this as they must: always, they seek. Indeed, in Hell, here on Earth, there are many grey areas: embers of a material world in conflagration, country, the imagination, the unconscious. Perhaps a good death might be no more than the evaporation of the mirage which, shimmering on someone else’s country, we named our pain.
Who are we, the never-were, the forgotten? We are all immigrants into country our ancestors never knew. We live in an alien age, not of sticking it out, making do, with a promise of nirvana or heaven in an afterlife, but of hopelessness, betrayal and envy. Only the mentally ill have faith in an afterlife, or the truth of their ancestors. The rest of us are queuing to get what more fortunate people already have. We are doomed where we are, and life is too short for struggle against the odds. Equanimity is not something you can bequeath your kids. Our ancestors forgot the past, but the future is where we live, and it is a paltry thing to forget in death.
They came to the old man and harangued him to find the spirit of the boy’s sickness and make peace. The old man knew how to dream bad spirits back to the Underworld. He dreamed his Wife, long passed, as the Morning Star, and steered Her to join the Guardian and draw Him back under the canopy [Ophiuchus] to which He was appearing to desert the boy, the strongest hope for their prosperity. On the day he brought Her to join forces with Him, he was reassured that the boy would be saved, even though he was deeply unsettled by the omen of the canoe from the Underworld which his dreams told him was the vehicle of invasion.
Shortly before noon, the boy died, and while the women shrieked and screamed, the old man went back into his dream, and sent his Wife into the Underworld for vengeance.
She is well aware that She is from somewhere else and has a Mission, but She finds Herself overwhelmed by a feeling of being at home with the fishermen who have pulled Her from the sea and clothed Her, mumbling incomprehensible words to each other and to the darkened Moon.
There is so much kindness in this superstitious and pessimistic world, beneath the butchery and inside the walls. Her feelings seem almost alien, like the disappointment which haunts tourism. That’s the thing about dreams, certainly the lingering aura of this waking one we try to share, that their reality eludes words. She is remembering.
Remembering a caravan of migrants escaping poverty, discrimination and violence which includes her without question, though she says not a word; remembering an eclipse of the Moon which is everywhen; remembering an awareness of being a man in a woman’s body, issuing deep laughter in response to the antics of strange people in the colours of the rainbow at the back of a bus. Given a knife by a lovely woman in a man’s body, she remembers how to kill, though the man in uniform is strangely unable to provoke a memory of anger or hostility.
Kumar (not his real name) finishes the last take, and director Lenny (not his real name) says he is in love with it. Kumar “has mastered the physical and mental techniques for a convincing portrayal of death”. For the thirty seconds the camera was exploring his primeval face, time after time until after 9pm, he was banishing nagging thoughts, that the remembered had forgotten him, that he might only exist in unremembered form, and that warriors are doomed to love being forgotten.
Nonetheless, all went well, and it is time to go home and be remembered. Tomorrow is the day of the preliminary hearing of the charge against him of sexual assault of a minor on the set of his first movie fifteen years ago, one year to the day after his arrival. His devout Hinduism and the presumption of innocence notwithstanding, he would be the first to admit there are many things he would like to forget, when his time comes.
The Shadow is most often projected into delusion: such is migration. “L’enfer, c’est les autres.” (Sartre, Huis Clos.) The movie in production has the working title, Death of a Border Guard, and the production house, wreathandstyle.org, in anticipation of no being universally construed as yes, has opened a Facebook page for us to post suggestions of what the old woman might be saying. It remains blank. It might not be the first time a Hollywood movie has starred an extra who walked in off the street, but the bloody #MeToo t-shirt was a first, and when did you ever hear of an extra melting back into obscurity without collecting her pay? #WhoIsShe is trending.
And me, I’m just a simple guy out of the audience listening to the voice of an hypnotist who has me staring at the sky. What will I forget? More than I’ve remembered, that’s for sure. Just like you, I have migrated into a village unable to raise a child. I’m sorry, did I remember you properly?