Friday, July 19, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Death Becomes They



People have died for as long as imagination has existed. Death is a franchise that services every religion and spirituality, but it's more of a commerce thing. When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died, he became a set of box seats at an undisclosed opera house. When Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup died, he became a song – I can't tell you which because of afterlife copyright issues, but it's a good one. Underrated, actually.

Many artists become works. Ella Fitzgerald became a tune that homeless children in Hudson, New York used to entertain each other, while Rodney Dangerfield became a Yo Mama joke. It's hard to become your own eulogy, and thus it's a prized afterlife.

But it's not the only option. William Penn became a doorstop, which seems blasphemous to some, unless you were privy to some of the conversations he let drafts into.

Albert Einstein became an equation, and not the one you'd expect. He became "2 + 2 = ?" on the first test that a young boy was taking. That boy is a physicist now. There's a bureau looking into whether that's permissible.

Lao Tzu became a road, but one that cannot be walked.

You don't have to be famous for your death to mean something. I'm fairly certain the telegraph, electric battery and iPad were built out of people you've never heard of. A funny kid who never did more than sketch clouds became the kite Benjamin Franklin flew to test his theory of lightning – or he turned into the folk tale about it. I'll have to look that up.

Often the living do the dead wrong. A river of starvation victims became an ocean of grain – though because there is no reincarnation, live people must harvest and deliver that grain in this life. They must or they dishonor what the dead become.

Many people die angry or hurt, which is why there are so many bullets in the world. Every modern war has been a thunderstorm of the deceased yelling about their unfair shake. Anyone would rather become vengeance, but you can't become an intangible. That's just not possible. Your physicality begets a physicality, and it's your lot to become a bullet fired at the wrong person. The living don't even know how unhappy murder makes the world.

You can make the dead sing in sowing a better world from their contributions, or you can make them regret they ever existed. It is all in how you use their memory.

26 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure Kohn Wiswell will become a ray of sunshine. Either that or the best punch line ever.

    Sorry I haven't been around much lately, John.
    I think of you often.

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    1. I am so down for being a punch line!

      And I'm glad to hear from you again, Judge. How are you doing?

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    2. Balancing the good days with the bad.
      I haven't written anything in such a long time, I think I've forgotten how. Either that or I left my muse in California.
      I hope you are well.

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    3. The only way to defeat forgetting how to practice an art is to jump in again. No one's watching - you can write whatever you want into being, if you want to. And I hope you'll have the time to try it soon.

      Barring a lightning strike and some scares that wound up not harming me, I'm pretty solid! About to cook lunch for my family.

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  2. Very clever way and saying it's what we learn from the past and how we use it to create the future that really matters.

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    1. I like to think I can be a metaphorical thinker from time to time.

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  3. and other memories of us are going to be distorted by our persistent traces in the virtual world, our virtual tombstone epithets being a tweet here or there. Us in our own words...

    marc nash

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  4. Certainly an interesting way to look at how people might influence those who come after them.

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  5. Very clever! Lao Tzu's fate was my favorite.

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  6. Wow, was this profound! Seriously- I can imagine countless philosophy students studying the construct of the afterlife taking this thing apart in liberal college classrooms all over the country. (One liberal college comes to mind, of course.)

    And there were so many beautiful ideas here- Ella Fitzgerald being sung by homeless children in Hudson and Albert Einstein as the first equation of a budding physicist are staggeringly gorgeous. Seriously- I’m gonna remember this one for a long time to come.

    And, totally unrelated but just had to say- THANK YOU for your feedback on my piece! I’m sorry that my past reactions to your feedback were so sensitive. I think (I’d certainly like to think but I also genuinely believe) that I’m at the point now where I can take it because I found nothing but really useful observations in what you wrote. You and Helen made very similar points and hit the nail on the head in terms of what was missing there. I’m going to try to re-write it, simply as an exercise, to see if I can take your feedback and use it. I’m learning all over the place, thanks to you!

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    1. Liberal Arts sounds about right to me, too. I can guess why it'd come to both of our minds! Thank you for the kind words, Bev. I really appreciate it.

      You're very welcome for the feedback. I'm glad that it was helpful and that you're able to process it for usefulness. Perhaps I should have made my concerns private, but I always blurt things out in public...

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  7. Very nice! Simple and profound all at once.

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  8. Quite thought provoking. Enjoyed this rather a lot. :)

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  9. Mind just went kablooey, what an original way of thinking about death :) Loved Lao Tzu's!

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  10. Interesting karmic consequences for lives well lived and not. Very cool.

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  11. My only quibble with this wonderfully inventive piece of literature is that I think the title should be "Death Becomes It."

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    1. May I inquire why you'd prefer that title, sir?

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    2. That's just me being silly. Since the dead became "things" rather than being reincarnated into some new creature as we might have expected I thought "It" de-personified better than "They." Today I think "Death Becomes Those" has a better ring to it.

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  12. What we become when we die and the opportunities we offer to those who come next - fascinating concept for a flash. And well written, as always.

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  13. It makes me wonder what I would want to come back as. A cool mountain brook, I think, or maybe simply a drop in the ocean.

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  14. Deep. Really like how Lao Tzu became an unwalkable road.

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  15. What a great idea! I liked the flow of this too.

    I found it very interesting that copyright/legal issues cropped up in the afterlives twice. I'm not very comfortable with the idea of a regulated afterlife.

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