2020 minus 37: Endless cogitations…

Posted: 25 November 2019 in 2020 minus, comics
Tags: , , , ,

With more details about the tv adaptation of The Sandman, and having listened to an interview with Neil about how it’s planned to bring it to the small screen, it seems as good a time as any to do this.

I’d always planned to redo this at some point, as – as I’ve mentioned before – we all change through our lives, and it’s never a bad idea to revisit opinions you’ve expressed to see whether or how you’ve changed, and whether or how your views and answers have.

It started when I was reminded of a question I was asked when I did an #askbudgie hashtag on Twitter. Possibly knowing of my friendship with Neil Gaiman, I was asked

If you were one of The Endless, which one would you be?

My answer at the time was, as far as I recall, entirely truthful. 

I think like most people, I feel like different aspects of each of The Endless at different times… As a general rule though, I don’t ever really feel like a character created by someone else. I’m more of a self-made person who has a healthy disrespect for my creator.

I think it still applies, in the main. But only in the main, self-deprecation and all. 

But, just for fun, why not, budgie…?

So, what do each of The Endless mean to me? What elements of them do I recognise in my own character? Or at least, do I have anything to say about the concepts?

(At this point it occurs to me that some reading may not have the slightest clue what I’m talking about. OK, very quick explanation. Neil Gaiman wrote a book entitled Sandman, in which he created The Endless, seven characters that embody universal aspects. So, Destruction does not represent destruction; Destruction is destruction. Dream is the concept of dream, and rules over a realm of dreams, which is where we go when we sleep.)

OK then.

Destiny
I actively dislike the idea of people having a ‘destiny’ or a ‘destined fate’, set in stone long ago, and with an unchanging end, even if the journey isn’t planned. And no, this isn’t a claim for ‘free will’, unfettered and unreserved. I’m a product of my own life and experiences. I’m the sum of my own experiences, for good or ill. I could, I suppose, choose to do lots of things that I wouldn’t normally do, that would astonish poeple who know me. That I don’t do them, because ‘that’s not me’… is that a conscious decision not to do it? Or am I merely acting on social and life learned programming? A bit of both, surely.

I once heard some philosophy students discussing ‘free will’, and when learned habit supersedes it. Is it truly an expression of free will to, say, flush the toilet, or to turn off the light when you leave a room?

If it’s inconceivable to you to do Thing X, can you ever claim that you’re exercising free will when you don’t do Thing X?

So, individuals have some say in their own decisions, but habits and societal constructs restrain many from actions which other societies might encourage. And freedom of action does not mean freedom from the consequences of those actions, anyway. But no, I’ve never thought that my life, nor my eventual end was destined to be whatever it ends up.  

Fiction enjoys the concept of a couple being destined to meet, or there being a ‘soulmate’ for everyone. Given the above, it won’t surprise you that I have nothing but mockery for such concepts.

Death
Ashkenazi Jews are traditionally named after those who have died, so you grow up knowing that you were named for someone who’d died.

So, yeah, I was aware of the concept of death from a very, very early age. (In my case, I was named after my mother’s maternal grandmother, Leah.)

On the other hand, I can’t remember the first person I heard of who’d died; not celebrities, but someone I knew, or a relative of a friend. Certainly – while I was still very young – I learned that this friend or that friend had ‘lost’ a grandparent.

And while I never knew my dad’s parents, my maternal grandfather died when I was 17, my grandmother when I was 19. On neither occasion, though, was death was a foreign concept by then; I’d already been to ‘the grounds’ (a colloquialism for a Jewish cemetery), and had attended funerals or stonesettings from the age of about 14 or 15.

There used to be a convention in Judaism, by the way, that you didn’t go to the grounds while your parents were alive; largely, that’s been abandoned now, for the better I’d argue. No one’s first funeral should be for your parent.

As for what happens after death… I have no idea. Not a clue what happens to you ‘after you die’; to you, I mean. Not your body, not your remains, but to you, as a concept. If I had to guess, I’d say… nothing. My own preferred option is, also… nothing. Your body stops, you stop, you.. end, and the world goes on without you, goes on quite well in almost all cases.

It’s one of the things I do like about my religion. Yes, ok, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but basically it comes down to ‘we don’t know what happens after you die… and what’s more, we can’t ever know what happens.’

I like that.

I choose to think nothing at all happens. I can’t know, obviously, but that’s what I choose to believe. Nothing happens. To you, again. Your relatives, and friends and loved ones will miss you, of course. Of course.

But life goes on.

Your work might continue to matter, especially creative works, but you? Nope. You’re gone. And life goes on.

As it should do.

Dream
I rarely remember dreams; nightmares, yes, but dreams of the less unpleasant, less horrifying, less nightmare-y, type, no.

Occasionally, yes, of course. But only very rarely. And even then, they’re the ‘puzzling’, mystifying type, not the genuinely ‘nice’ kind of dreams.

I have no idea whether I never have nice dreams, or whether I merely never remember them. I’n not sure which would be better, and which worse.

However, I wish I did remember nice dreams. I wish I did occasionally wake up, and think ‘oh, that was nice…’

Instead of waking up covered in sweat, heart racing, suddenly shocked back to reality. (Why yes, I do sleep alone, why do you ask?)

It’s the nightmares I remember, clearly and in detail. Yeah, I’d rather not, to be honest. 

Destruction
While nature destroys tangibly on a daily basis, the destruction of intangibles, like hope, and wishes, and rights, and democracy around the world, does far more damage in every time frame (short-, medium- and long-term).

It’s a constant amazement and continually impressive to me just how people survive such destructions, and what’s more some thrive in resistance to it. Their bravery and determination is a never ending source of inspiration to others. I use the word ‘others’ advisedly; their bravery doesn’t inspire me, which says more about me than them, and nothing good.

What has struck me more and more over the years is that destruction doesn’t have to be complete to achieve its aim. What’s almost worse to me – as a concept – than unfettered destruction is when destruction stops short of absolute, when something is permanently maimed, damaged for all time without complete extermination.

Complete destruction at least allows for the cauterisation of a wound, perhaps. Stopping short, allowing a faint ember of hope that will forever be denied? That is when destruction becomes malicious, becomes cruel. And that can move me to tears. 

Desire
I read some beautiful writings about desire earlier today and it reminded me once again that it’s something I don’t understand properly, and never will. Desire is overwhelming. It’s neither a want nor a wish, but a need.

I’m genuinely in awe of people who are that open, that honest and that authentic to admit their desire for a person (or people), or a lifestyle. And equally in awe of people who admit to others, especially to those who desire them, that they are both desireable and desired. 

I don’t understand it properly.

I can, just about, understand the desire for others, both physically and otherwise. But a desire for me? Again, either physically or otherwise, but especially physically? No. I not only don’t understand it, but I’m always mistrustful when I’m told it exists. And that mistrust is seldom wrong, in my experience.

Oh, I understand it in theory, how it’s written about, how it’s overwhelming, and more than once have written about it convincingly enough to fool people.

But the true idea, the concept of being desired, properly…. physically or otherwise? The idea of being desired to the point of monopolising someone’s thoughts and dreams and wants?

That must be wonderful to experience. It must be fantastic to be a part of. It must be great to enjoy and revel in.

I bet.

Despair
The flip side of desire, and I’m equally in awe of people who are that open about Despair as well.

Again, I don’t think I truly understand it. But in a wholly different way than when it comes to desire. For what others describe as ‘despair’, true despair, I regard as… Tuesday.

And that’s not wholly an exaggeration. A small one, maybe, but not really. It’s not the despair of thinking nothing can ever get better, but the certain knowledge that it won’t, the utter and complete knowledge based on life experiences and your own past.I’d never suggest that what people go through isn’t despair, merely that from the outside, you never, never, know the truth about someone else’s despair.

Delight/Delirium
What was once delight is now delirium, at least in The Endless. The latter is more appropriate for the 21st century. It’s impossible not to be at least slightly delirious if you’re attempting to truly understand global politics nowadays. Global politics? Hell, any politics. I mentioned on Twitter the other day the old line about “if you’re not confused, you don’t understand the situation.”

The comedian Mark Watson chipped in with a suggestion that surely that applies to the entire human condition; it’s a fair observation. Politics was never simple, but now too many regard you as delirious if you try to acknowledge complexity, let alone highlight it.

Here are The Endless, drawn by Bevis Musson, in the order they’re written about above.

Something else tomorrow..

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