So I finished this book a couple days ago, and have been digesting it and trying to decide how I will approach writing about it without spoiling the ending (Note – do NOT read the introduction to this book unless you want to know how it ends). And also, how do I write about something that contains so many layers of complexity? After stepping away, then going back and reviewing my notes, I decided I will focus on the theme of responsibility, and how that is tied to an individual’s nature.
The first scene I want to examine is when Delirium visits Dream and tries to convince him to join her on a search for her lost dog. The Dream Lord tries to explain to her why he cannot leave the dream realm at the present time.
Delirium: So can you come with me? And look?
Dream: Sister, I have responsibilities. I cannot leave the Dreaming at this time.
Delirium: You use that word so much. Responsibilities. Don’t you ever think about what it means? I mean, what does it mean to you? In your head?
Dream: Well, I use it to refer to that area of existence over which I exert a certain amount of control and influence. In my case, the realm and action of dreaming.
Delirium: Hump. It’s more than that. The things we do make echoes. S’pose, f’rinstance, you stop on a street corner and admire a brilliant fork of lightning — ZAP! Well for ages after people and things will stop on that very same corner, and stare up at the sky. They wouldn’t even know what they were looking for. Some of them might see a ghost bolt of lightning in the street. Some of them might even be killed by it. Our existence deforms the universe. THAT’S responsibility.
This is profound. Not only do our individual actions affect the universe, no matter how small (think the butterfly effect), but our consciousness molds reality and existence on a cosmic level. Nothing we do, nothing we say, and nothing we think is trivial. Everything we do has consequence. Every individual is responsible for the direction that reality takes. Our thoughts and actions ripple across the universe, forming and “deforming” the very fabric of being. The fact that I am writing this, and the fact that you are reading these words, will have an impact on the unfolding of future events. We must, as sentient beings, never take anything for granted.
In the realm of Faerie, the Lady Nuala asks the trickster Puck why he is the way he is.
Nuala: Why do you take such joy in confusion, Robin Goodfellow?
Puck: Because I am true to my nature, Lady Nuala.
This echoes the words of Shakespeare: “To thine own self be true.” Puck knows he is an incarnation of the trickster archetype, and it is his responsibility to accept his true nature. We are all responsible for acknowledging our nature and adhering to it. It is when we deviate from who we are, when we pretend to be something we are not, that we create disharmony in the universe. Honest self-evaluation is requisite for living a genuine life. Do not deny your essence—embrace it, as Puck does.
And this leads us to the final passage I want to share, in which Dream accepts his true responsibilities, understanding that he must make sacrifices in order to fulfill his responsibilities and embody his true nature.
Dream: Rules and responsibilities: these are the ties that bind us. We do what we do, because of who we are. If we did otherwise, we would not be ourselves. I will do what I have to do. And I will do what I must.
We are bound by our natures, by our responsibilities, and by our thoughts and actions. We are intrinsically tied to existence, and all we can do is do what we have to do. So once again, I will repeat the words of Shakespeare:
To thine own self be true.
3 responses to “Thoughts on “The Sandman, Volume 9: The Kindly Ones” by Neil Gaiman”
Excellent post – do you realize you also have an excellent theme going here?
Hey Barb. I’m not realizing the theme. Maybe I’m too close. Please share 🙂
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