“As if armor would stall off Death, if he called my name!” Dunlang
As you read this, realize that we are all Greek heroes in the midst of living out our own legends. Unless either you or I are dead. If I’m dead then, presumably, this section of my myth has been mapped and I (mayhap) pursue another segment of the drama. If you are dead and reading this, then congratulations on adding a new dimension to our topic of death and exploration.
Over the past few days, death has colored my perceptions. Not for any macabre reason, I just had picked the above quote to inspire my next blog so it’s made those places and times where the subject has evidenced itself just really pop, ya know?
A key moment was my introduction to the word “catabasis” while watching a Netflix series (if you know the one, feel free to leave the name in the comments… but no spoilers, please!). It is a word which may be used to encapsulate a trip into the metaphysical underworld, often involving a search for an object or important revelation. I began thinking in terms of this method of questing and wondering how one might capture it and embark upon something similar in the real world setting.
As a lucid dreamer with a large degree of control over my own dreamscapes, I thought of using my dreams to reproduce this journey. However, I like to let my dreams pretty much do what they will, so I decided against this idea. My random researching brought me to a splice of the internet dedicated to the topic of the Thudong monks, in which the practice of corpse meditation was mentioned. Interesting though it was, it was not the direction I quite looked to take (consider that a disclaimer if you go clicking on hyperlinks for it, btw). It had occurred to me that reading some Zen death poems may be the way to go, thinking that the closest to speaking to the dead one might come is to reading the last poetic verses penned by the dying.
Somewhere around there is where it finally occurred to me.
The underworld is supposed to be a place where the personalities of those who have peopled Earth continue to persist. In the mythical sense, it is used as a backdrop for discovery, one in which those life-lost entities may still be interacted with. If we deduct the metaphysical aspect of the underworld model out, focus on these traits, then one may come to the conclusion that the living (such as the likely readership of this post) are actually in the Underworld.
Contemplate how the stories (real and imagined) of our ancients all the way up to ancestors temporally close as your own mother and father still inspire and frighten us. Every superstition we hold to, every science that has happened between fire and computer configuration, all the small nuances of our mannerisms, each and every one is an accumulation of past superstition, science, and mannerism.
We are the confluence of all the eons of humanity: the ghosts of memory preach to us and we practice out the points in their sermons. Even to turn from those points is merely a departure inspired most often by the very existence of those past thoughts.
If we choose to view life through this lens, what lesson does it provide about our lives? I think that it suggests we should recognize that our existence is itself a search for an object or an idea of infinite importance to our own personal plots. I believe that it implies those remnants of our human past which remain incarnate in superstition, science, mannerism and any other facets of the human condition are to be seen as tools through which we might accomplish the goal of our quest – learning the lesson that is our own.
And, with that, I leave you to draw your own conclusions and, perhaps, recognize the rich landscape rendered by death when it is viewed as if it were the underlying swaths of an oil painting being birthed into the masterpiece called “life”.
Also, here are the words and blurbs I found poignant in Conan #3, “The Grim Grey God”:
- [the rearing mountains]
- “Now comes the reaping of kings.. the garnering of chiefs like a harvest.” Borri
- “gigantic shadows stalk red-handed across the world” Borri
- “the kiss of a devil-born queen!” Malachi
- “fire-fingered dawn” King Brian
- “As if armor would stall off Death, if he called my name!” Dunlang
- “And so the old send forth the young to die… while they make merry in their tents. Back in Cimmeria, our kings lead the charge… their broadswords in their hands. Maybe that’s because we’re not… civilized.” Conan
- “for this is the day the raven’s drink blood!” Dunlang
- “He cannot be dead. Live, you spineless worm… Live! LIVE!” [But there is no answer… unless one counts the mocking silence.]
- [two cups of hatred suddenly run over]
- “You’ll not add Brian’s lifeblood to your war-god’s goblet.” King Brian
- “For even the gods must die… when their altars crumble… and their worshippers all are fallen.” Conan
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