Being dead isn’t as exciting as you’d think. Mostly it’s a lot of sitting around, doing the same thing over and over again. It’s actually a lot like being alive, but you don’t have that ticking clock, so there’s very little incentive to do anything, except hunger and boredom. Sure, we get up to a lot of the same things a living person might. We go to movies, we listen to music, read books. We drive cars and have conversations. Believe it or not, even when you live for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, there’s still usually something worth talking about. Some banal bit of gossip or culture.
The problem is that without the expiry-date, it’s hard to get motivated to keep moving. So you grow stagnant. You fall into ruts, pacing in circles and getting lost in the familiarity of routine. Maybe you want to see the world, and maybe you have already, but when? Next week? Why not next year? Next decade? Perhaps visiting Paris or Rome or Egypt doesn’t have the same appeal it did a hundred years ago. Rarely do places get more interesting as they age. The fetishisation of history falls away when you were actually there when it was good. Especially when you didn’t think it was all that great then either. The stink of human waste has a way of coloring a cultural experience. One might long for a trip to see Israel but worry that it’s a dangerous time for that part of the world. Except that it’s always a dangerous time for that part of the world, and it has been for thousands of years, and will continue to be. Besides, who cares? Another crumbling country built on the ruins of a crumbling country. Built up by men and torn down by those same men in wars they don’t know why they’re fighting. It’s the same as most places. Cities built up, cities burned down. After a few hundred years, it stops being interesting.
In order to find anything surprising or engaging, one must retreat inward. Explore that which makes us what we are. It often takes a few generations before our kind discovers the exhilarating and terrifying depths at the core of our being. One might be inclined to call this kind of self-exploration a spiritual or religious journey, but that’s not it at all. The thing that people call the “soul” or “God” or whatever fairy tale they need to believe to sleep at night has nothing to do with it. The fact of the matter is that at our core (literally and figuratively) rests a doorway to an unwritten history and knowledge that is completely unknowable to those without the means to open it. Hell, most of us don’t even know it’s there. Those who do know only poke at the edges and press our ears to its cold, dense surface.
I know it’s there, and I’ve peered under the crack and seen the pulsating and swirling lights. Taken in the colors of another universe, seeping into my awareness and refusing to take hold because they’re unlike anything I’ve ever seen. A spectrum that doesn’t register in our brain. I’ve heard the whispering behind the lights. A slow rumble that is neither language or decipherable thought, but a deep, base level intention. Part of me wants to throw the door open and announce my presence and demand an answer, but I know that’s not wise or even possible. I’m not sure I know what the question is, and I’m certain I wouldn’t comprehend the answer if one was given.
An answer would not be given. That old metaphor of the ant under your foot may come to mind, but that doesn’t begin to adequately explain it. It’s more like bacteria or a microbe flowing through the blood of a chimpanzee. All the drama and excitement of an army of white blood-cells attacking an invading virus means nothing to a chimp with a cold. All they know is they’ve got a head full of snot and an annoying cough. That ape may evolve into a thinking animal. It might one day build a microscope to peer down at the invading virus with the contemptuous, clinical eye of a scientist, but it certainly wouldn’t condescend to engage that microscopic annoyance in conversation. It’s not a spiritual or religious exchange. The primate is not a god to the virus. They are incomprehensible to each other.
Occasionally, always unexpectedly, you may feel their eye on you. Especially when feeding. The being at your core will get excited and eager, and a little of that unnameable light might spill out from under the door. It’s those moments that make being what we are worth continuing. The mystery of it. The horrifying truth of us. Knowing that they’re there, stomping around, carrying us through the cosmos in their wake as they go about whatever it is they do. The thing that makes us what we are, starts with them. To even know that they’re there is a reason wake up and keep doing it. To keep splashing blood across the doorway, because they demand it.
Perhaps it is not entirely unlike a religion after all. The difference is that I know it’s true. I’ve seen it, and I don’t have a choice.