Well here’s a start.
Maybe this is the introduction. Very much a first draft, but feedback would be welcome.
Apologies for the western slant. Perhaps it will not hold so true for readers with other cultural references (but I’d be fascinated to know how much of it does…).
So in place of a proper blog post this week, please accept and comment, if you wish, on this extract, while I get back to the matter of the book.
Why am I writing this book?
Because for many centuries people have been persuaded by religious leaders that, one way and another, they’ve failed miserably at being human, which means that a very nasty afterlife awaits them (unless of course they are either incredibly saintly and prepared to die to prove it, or obscenely rich and able to buy their way into Heaven via generous gifts to said religious leaders).
Because over the last few generations humans have largely stopped believing the Hell story and more-or-less let go of the Heaven one too. They’ve settled for the RIP version, where we just doze off for eternity. It doesn’t sound great, but is at least preferable to the Day of Judgement, when all those skeletons in the cupboard could begin rattling nastily.
Because given that there doesn’t seem a lot to look forward to, humans have invested a massive amount of time, energy and money into trying to cling on to life – to staying human for as long as possible.
Because the current attitude towards death is deeply weird. On the one hand, we fill our television channels with police dramas, hospital dramas, whodunits and tales of autopsies, with news reports of starvation, wars, fatal accidents and murder. We play video games in which killing is not only commonplace, but usually the entire point. We conduct wars in which the technology enables ‘push button death’ with any emotional attachment carefully removed; a soldier no longer needs to see the whites of his opponent’s eyes in order to kill him. WMDs and IEDs abound. And yet… Death is a taboo. We avoid discussing it wherever possible. We change the subject with a nervous laugh. “Yes, well, shall we talk about something a bit more cheerful?”
Because when we hear that someone is terminally ill, we don’t know what to say. When friends are bereaved, we don’t have ways to comfort them. We maybe send a card with a bunch of white flowers or a vaguely ecclesiastical-looking gateway on it and tell them we hope they’re getting over it now and that, after all, life must go on.
Because those who feel the need to know that something conscious remains of those they have lost will turn to mediums and spiritualists who, apparently, have polite queues of departed souls waiting to reveal themselves as someone on the mother’s side who had a problem with her knees or a military man who smoked and had breathing problems. Not, please understand, that I’m suggesting the mediums themselves are charlatans. It just seems strange that Great Uncle Cedric should be hanging about for eternity, waiting to reveal his penchant for growing prize vegetables to a great niece who had been hoping desperately for news of her recently departed mother.
I’m writing this book because none of the above sounds particularly healthy to me. Death casts a long shadow, and I’d prefer it not to. I’d prefer ‘life’ to be something wider, richer and stronger than inhabiting a physical body for a while. I’d like it to encompass what came before and what comes after, with death as simply one of the transitional states that lies within it.