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Moving on.

I made myself promise I'd do a LJ/Blog entry this morning, if only to thank the many, many people who've taken a moment to express their sympathy over Sophie's death. You have all helped, every single one of you. It's times like this that I find it particularly hard to hold to those things I believe are true. Like I was saying the other day, before the rain when I wanted rain so badly but knew there was no one and nothing out there listening. I see death as a passage, but not the way a lot of other people do. All things, living and inanimate, are a part of the Cosmos, equal parts of the Cosmic Whole. Some few of those things, some living things, experience the phenomenon of consciousness and self-awareness, and then the body ends, ending the consciousness, which is one of the functions of the body. The body ceases, so the consciousness ceases. It's that cessation that makes death hard for me to face. But. Nothing truly ends. The Cosmos, which is my "goddess," is the great recycler. Things merely pass from one form, from one state of being, into others. There should be no sorrow if each unique consciousness is not as "eternal" as the molecules and atoms which briefly made that consciousness possible. Katharine — Jada's partner — sent me a much appreciated e-mail yesterday. Katharine's a Buddhist, and while it's not a belief system that works for me, I was glad to read the following, for reasons all my own:

May she ride through the bardo on a carpet of squirrel tails....

Indeed and ahmet. And here, for me, the Tibetan bardo ("intermediate state") does not have to mean the time between two lives. Rather, for me, it means simply the brief space between the incarnation I knew as Sophie and all the countless transformations and reassemblies of that constituent matter into other no less valid and no less lovely forms. The matter that became Sophie and which produced her consciuosness, existed for billions of years before her birth. It came from the nuclear furnaces of stars. It drifted across interstellar distances on cosmic winds and comet tails. It was here during the days of the first cyanobacteria and then the trilobites and then the dinosaurs and then the woolly frelling mammoths. Because a particular and transient form may pass away, but the Cosmos endures. The atoms that were Sophie, and were trillions of things before Sophie, will become soil and stone, trees and grass, atmospheric molecules and the dust about which great rain clouds form. They will live again, and they will not live again. For me, this is immortality. It matters not if some particular consciousness or body ends, because its constituent parts go on almost forever. To quote Charles Darwin (1859), "There is grandeur in this view of life...and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."

We all have our myths, and they make life bearable. For me, there's no afterlife and no "soul" beyond living consciousnesses. Ego, which craves conscious immortality, is only a transient artefact of consciousness. But, in my eyes, Ego is only another thing which passes away. I hope I don't sound like I'm proselytizing. That's most emphatically not my intent. I just want to say these things, so I'll have written them down. That's all. We all have our myths, and they make life bearable. These are some of mine. I'm not presently disposed to challenge anyone else's myths. I'm taking a few days vacation from mythbusting, so to speak.

The hard part, for me, is not allowing myself to fall back on more immediately comforting beliefs which are not my own, simply because some hurting part of me might need them at this moment. As Anne Sexton said, "Need is not quite belief." I'd be a hypocrite and would betray myself were I to take solace in someone else's belief of conscious immortality. Times like these are the tests of just how confidently we hold our myths to ourselves, as a part of our conscious selves, in all their comforting and uncomforting aspects.

But I miss her. I miss her like hell.

There were other things I was going to say, but I'll say them in some other later entry. Maybe later this afternoon. Today, I'm going to clean this messy house, try to get eBay started again, lose myself in a little unfinished Wikipedia, and so forth. My contributor's copies of John Betancourt and Sean Wallace's Horror: The Best of the Year (2006 edition), which reprints "La Peau Verte" just arrived. I'll look at those. I'll stay busy. I may be able to start writing again tomorrow. We shall see.

Postscript: Does anyone know what's happened to sclerotic_rings, why he's deleted his LJ?

Comments

( 10 comments — Have your say! )
tactileson
Jun. 14th, 2006 05:13 pm (UTC)
Wow. What a wonderful post. I'm not quite sure why it feels so beautiful to me, perhaps it's the candor with which you speak of Sophie, and moreover, of your own beliefs, but, I think I needed to read something like that right now, as my mind has felt utterly cluttered and depressed for days. Thank you.
cucumberseed
Jun. 14th, 2006 05:27 pm (UTC)
Sometimes atoms do the wonderful and foolish thing of becoming something we love. Atoms are silly things like that.
robyn_ma
Jun. 14th, 2006 05:28 pm (UTC)
When my cat Alex died in 2004 after being with me for 17 years, we buried him out in the back yard. I like to think his decomposing remains have fed the flowers in the yard, and that he lives again through them. Then again, it could be said that it works that way for us all; unless matter is completely disintegrated, some bit of it will hang around.
ladygwyn
Jun. 14th, 2006 06:03 pm (UTC)
Some few of those things, some living things, experience the phenomenon of consciousness and self-awareness, and then the body ends, ending the consciousness, which is one of the functions of the body. The body ceases, so the consciousness ceases. It's that cessation that makes death hard for me to face.

I've been reading your journal for a long time, before you even came over to LJ, and this is the first time I've been compelled to comment. That passage so succinctly conveyed an idea I've had in my head for ages, but was never able to quite put into words. It's the ceasing of consciousness that scares the crap out of me...everything else, not so much. I can't bear the thought of not being aware anymore.

My deepest condoleneces on the loss of Sophie. I lost a cat earlier this year, and still miss him terribly.
the_urban_monk
Jun. 14th, 2006 06:06 pm (UTC)
"And here, for me, the Tibetan bardo ("intermediate state") does not have to mean the time between two lives. Rather, for me, it means simply the brief space between the incarnation I knew as Sophie and all the countless transformations and reassemblies of that constituent matter into other no less valid and no less lovely forms. The matter that became Sophie and which produced her consciuosness, existed for billions of years before her birth. It came from the nuclear furnaces of stars. It drifted across interstellar distances on cosmic winds and comet tails. It was here during the days of the first cyanobacteria and then the trilobites and then the dinosaurs and then the woolly frelling mammoths. Because a particular and transient form may pass away, but the Cosmos endures. The atoms that were Sophie, and were trillions of things before Sophie, will become soil and stone, trees and grass, atmospheric molecules and the dust about which great rain clouds form. They will live again, and they will not live again. For me, this is immortality. It matters not if some particular consciousness or body ends, because its constituent parts go on almost forever."

That's a beautiful and vivid description of another (non-superstitious) form of Buddhism - Zen.

I'm very sorry about the loss of Sophie. It hasn't happened with any of my cats yet, so I can't say I know how you feel, but I know that for me it's going to hurt.
mellawyrden
Jun. 14th, 2006 06:16 pm (UTC)
The bardo states are a continual source of fascination/dread/awe for me.

because, I think, the one thing that we're most attached to as living creatures is time. Once we have no physicality, I think we exist outside of its framework. Our notion of ourselves falls away, leaving.. something. Something pure and real that's covered up during life by the screens and lacework of physical filters (this includes the mind-based ones I think) As taught in buddhism, our minds are not us, and our bodies are not us.

It comforts me that there's no god to ask for things from or to sit in judgement over us. This way it all comes down to the immediate moment, to pure action/reaction, and working every moment to arrive at whatever's most pure and true for ourselves, the simultaneous animal/divine.

Blessings to Sophie, whose picture I've got pinned up in the preservation workroom, as little Sophie Kiernan-Pollnac (beautifully sleeping on her book pillow)
stsisyphus
Jun. 14th, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)
We all have our myths, and they make life bearable.

Indeed.

Does anyone know what's happened to sclerotic_rings, why he's deleted his LJ?

No, but I suppose I might be the nearest to him geographically (being in Dallas), should it be necessary to check in on him. If someone told me where to look, of course.
dsgood
Jun. 14th, 2006 07:51 pm (UTC)
sclerotic_rings
From his wife: First of all, Paul's okay. Those who called and emailed, thank you for your concern and kindness.
Second of all, this was a bit of a shock for me, too. Not necessarily the decision, just the timing. But he's a very decisive person. When he makes a decision, he acts on it.
Paul is going back to school to get his degree. We've been talking about this, and he's getting ready (you know, trying to summon old math skills and all that) He'd been thinking about calling the LJ 'done', because he was spending so much time on research for that. Overall, I'm sure everyone would have preferred a bit of warning, but there's not much that can be done about it now. If (and that's a big if) he decides he has enough time for both, he might come back to it. But he's put off a lot of things he wants to do for a very long time, and he's made this decision so he has no excuses to not get them done.
http://czarina69.livejournal.com/88990.html
mockingbirdgrrl
Jun. 15th, 2006 02:56 am (UTC)
another atheist checks in
you wrote: The hard part, for me, is not allowing myself to fall back on more immediately comforting beliefs which are not my own, simply because some hurting part of me might need them at this moment.

shortly after leaving new orleans for boise on the heels of katrina, i found myself thinking of my methodist upbringing. i laid in bed, staring into the dark, thinking about how much, how deeply, how badly i wanted to pray. how much i wished i believed in god or jesus or buddha or allah.... anyone with omnipotent power to intervene, to care for me and comfort me. and on the verge of that prayer, i began to laugh out loud. like another poster here, i suddenly felt comforted by my belief that there is no god. the idea that my prayer would fall on nothing filled that void in ways i can't quite describe.

in relation to your comments about Sophie being composed of matter, atoms, etc. that existed billions of years before her birth reminds me of a quote by carl sagan, in which he is talking about the self-same concept.
"we are starstuff."
it may not be the consciousness, but some part of Sophie persists.

and though i don't make any claim to knowing the nuances of your presonal beliefs and rituals....
when my childhood dog, steph, died in 2003, my mom had her cremated. we buried the cremains in the back yard and planted a dogwood sapling in the same hole. for those of us who view the cycles of nature as the most "religious" or "spiritual" things we're going to get, watching the tree grow on the grave of steph made me feel at peace with her passing, as though some part of her is still contributing to the cycle of life.
sovay
Jun. 15th, 2006 04:28 am (UTC)
The atoms that were Sophie, and were trillions of things before Sophie, will become soil and stone, trees and grass, atmospheric molecules and the dust about which great rain clouds form. They will live again, and they will not live again. For me, this is immortality.

I like that very much; and I think it is true. If that's your myth, it's a beautiful one.
( 10 comments — Have your say! )