Tag Archives: afterlife

“American Gods: The Moment of the Storm” by Neil Gaiman: Issue #4

I didn’t write about the last couple issues, not because they weren’t great (they were!), but because they didn’t include any quotes that I thought were worth looking at more closely. But this one certainly did.

Early in this issue, Shadow is entering the realm of the dead, after being sacrificed on the World Tree. He meets a cat woman, who seems to be some sort of spirit guide in the underworld. When Shadow inquires about her nature, her response is very intriguing.

Shadow: What are you? Who are you people?

Cat-woman: Think of us as symbols — we’re the dream humanity creates to make sense of the shadows on the cave wall.

This immediately made me think of Plato’s allegory of the cave from The Republic. Everything we perceive in this reality is but a shadow of a form that exists in another plane of existence. And we cannot comprehend the forms in their true essence, so we must approach them through the use of symbolism, which allows our subconscious mind fleeting glimpses of understanding, impressions of what thrives beyond our limited scope of awareness.

I know this is heavy stuff, and Gaiman’s work is very complex. But that said, he is a master storyteller, so he presents heady material within the structure of fun and imaginative tales.

That’s all I have to share for today. Thanks for stopping by.

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“Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 16” by Lao Tzu

LaoTzu

Attain to utmost Emptiness.
Cling single-heartedly to interior peace.
While all things are stirring together,
I only contemplate the Return.
For flourishing as they do,
Each of them will return to its root.
To return to the root is to find peace.
To find peace is to fulfill one’s destiny.
To fulfill one’s destiny is to be constant.
To know the Constant is called Insight.

If one does not know the Constant,
One runs blindly into disasters.
If one knows the Constant,
One can understand and embrace all.
If one understands and embraces all,
One is capable of doing justice.
To be just is to be kingly;
To be kingly is to be heavenly;
To be heavenly is to be one with the Tao;
To be one with the Tao is to abide forever.
Such a one will be safe and whole
Even after the dissolution of his body.

This passage seems to reiterate a common theme in the text, that one must clear his or her thoughts in order to become in tune with the deeper spiritual self. But there are a couple things that stand out in this chapter, particularly in the second stanza.

First, it appears that this passage is directed to rulers at the time Lao Tzu lived. I listened to a podcast recently that said China, in the time of Lao Tzu, was undergoing social instability and that the writings of both Lao Tzu and Confucius were in response to the social changes that were under way. So it seems that here, Lao Tzu is offering guidance to rulers on how to best govern the citizens, by tapping in to the deeper spirituality and using that as a guide for making decisions on how to rule.

The other thing that stood out for me was the final three lines, asserting that by becoming one with the Tao, you essentially attain immortality of the soul. I cannot help but wonder if this is more like maintaining consciousness once you pass on to the next realm of existence after death. I do not profess to know Chinese thoughts on reincarnation or the afterlife, but it seems that there is some belief in the eternal quality of the soul. If anyone has insight into this area, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment in the section below.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a wonderful day!

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“Lenore” by Edgar Allan Poe

Image Source: Wikipedia

Image Source: Wikipedia

Ah, broken is the golden bowl! the spirit flown forever!
Let the bell toll! -a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river –
And, Guy De Vere, hast thou no tear? -weep now or never more!
See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
Come! let the burial rite be read -the funeral song be sung! –
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young –
A dirge for her, the doubly dead in that she died so young.

“Wretches! ye loved her for her wealth and hated her for her pride,
And when she fell in feeble health, ye blessed her -that she died!
How shall the ritual, then, be read? -the requiem how be sung
By you -by yours, the evil eye, -by yours, the slanderous tongue
That did to death the innocence that died, and died so young?”

Peccavimus; but rave not thus! and let a Sabbath song
Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel no wrong!
The sweet Lenore hath “gone before,” with Hope, that flew beside,
Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have been thy bride –
For her, the fair and debonnaire, that now so lowly lies,
The life upon her yellow hair but not within her eyes –
The life still there, upon her hair -the death upon her eyes.

Avaunt! tonight my heart is light. No dirge will I upraise,
But waft the angel on her flight with a paean of old days!
Let no bell toll! -lest her sweet soul, amid its hallowed mirth,
Should catch the note, as it doth float up from the damned Earth.
To friends above, from fiends below, the indignant ghost is riven –
From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven –
From grief and groan to a golden throne beside the King of Heaven.”

When I read this poem, I immediately sensed a connection with “The Raven,” Lenore being mentioned in that poem and “never more” appearing in the first stanza in this poem. As I started reading it, I felt the heavy sadness often associated with Poe’s works, but by the time I reached the end, I felt oddly uplifted and hopeful.

The first thing I did after reading the poem was looked up who Guy de Vere was and learned he was Lenore’s fiancé.

Lenore’s fiancé, Guy de Vere, finds it inappropriate to “mourn” the dead; rather, one should celebrate their ascension to a new world.

(Wikipedia)

I completely agree with this sentiment. When we die, I believe that the spirit moves on to the next level of existence, that we are freed from our worldly suffering and progress to the next phase of our spiritual evolution. The pain and suffering that accompanies death is felt the ones who are left behind.

I recall seeing my father’s body after he passed away. He had suffered from a long illness and was wracked with pain and atrophy toward the end. The difference in the way he looked during his last days and after he passed was dramatic. All I could think of was that he was now free from his suffering and I felt grateful for that.

I suspect that after I die, people will mourn me. I would like to say that they should not, that like de Vere, they should celebrate my ascension into the great divine mystery. But that is probably unrealistic. I know I would be devastated to lose any one of the people who are close to me, even though I truly believe they would be moving on to a better place. Death is such an emotional experience, it’s hard to be logical when the bell tolls.

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