“‘Change’ is the description of the adventures of eternal objects in the evolving universe of actual things.”
Alfred North Whitehead, Process & Reality
Death’s a subject that fascinates us. Our films, our books, our religions are full of it. Actors gun down other actors and we hardly give it a second thought. We’ve got violence and death down to a fine art, and yet there’s not much discourse about its reality.
Like you, I’m going to die. Fear of death comes and goes, waxes and wanes with the lengthening of the days. I mean, who in their right mind wouldn’t fear death, right? Picture yourself — the blood pumping through the fractal map of your veins, the complexity of your thoughts, the essential ‘You-ness’ of You — ending… I mean really ending… our brains can’t quite get to grips with that, huh?
Okay, so there are those who believe in a heavenly afterlife, or maintain that they’ll merge with the universal-mind, and it’s not my place to dispute these notions or ridicule them here. I’m an agitated agnostic: I believe there’s something, but I believe it’s unknowable, it’s beyond us, and try as we might to fathom it, no religion can document it, no scientist can grasp it, neither can algorithm and equation.
These are notions that have permeated my writing of late. The book I’m working on now, The Serpent Rose, is set on an island of death perched at the gates of Hades. Death provides the backdrop for this story that explores pre-Christian concepts of life and death, creation and destruction. In my research, I delved back into early cosmological references. For this tale, mythology is like mycelium — it permeates everything.
The core of mythological concepts, across the globe, address many topics, life and death amongst them. Because they are told by humans, they resonate with us. To understand them you mustn’t take them literally, but pare them down to their basic allegories. When you do this, patterns emerge. Ancient stories follow similar sequences and formats, as does much in mythology. It’s almost like myth is hard-wired in the human mind. A study of these ancient tales reveals an apparently intuitive grasp of eternal paradigms. Free from the confines of the doctrine of the Bible or Quran, they can offer deeper perspectives on death than the dualist heaven, or hell.
In our virtual reality world, we’re losing sight of something essential, something that can be reclaimed via mythology, philosophy, ecstatic poetry, art and writing (and healthy doses of psychotropic substances). By injecting a little animism into the world, or a little panpsychism, and ‘feeling’ it. Maybe then we can get closer to the essence of the quote that began this post. Recognising that we, and everything around us, are involved in this process. And the dead, you and me, we’re part of this ritual.