Alice Kelley ~ Midnight Sketch

Arthur Asks About Death

part of: The Wanderers

by Lora of Many Generations

related by Lora, Twilit Majz of the Fourth Generation, and Lover to Arthur

The tiny Arthur walked into the Spiral Garden, seeking Tana. It was early morning, before the first kiss of the Sun graced the horizon. There was a freezing mist in the air, rising up off the river…the world was coated in frosting…. “white, lacy, clean, tasty frosting,” Arthur thought, brushing a tall tendril of grass encased in the delicate alchemy of cold, wind, and water with his tongue…the fragile crystals melted with a soft crunch at its touch…he loved that and spent some minutes reveling in the sensation before resuming his task. He had set himself this task, and was proud that he could do so, one so young, still wandering through the Days of Freedom, able to set and carry out a task all by himself!

He would question Tana about Death. He had heard Cole reveal U’Dlyn’s last testimony, tell the story of U’Dlyns’ death, the release of his spirit, his final passing….and he was curious and afraid….he wanted to know more about this thing, this Death.

The one person Arthur most trusted to tell him the Truth about Death was Tana. Each Dawn she did her innerwork in the center of the Spiral Garden…her yoga…her breathing….her meditating…her weeping…her laughing…her questioning…her thinking….her dreaming. He would find her there at this open time and ask her his questions when her time of work was through.

Ah yes, there she was, right in the center, as always. She was sitting in easy pose on her huge dark blue blanket…the one with the suns, moons, and planets embroidered on it. He loved that blanket. Some day he would inherit it from Tana, but he didn’t know that yet. She was waiting for the first breath of light along the horizon to begin her work, breathing deep in preparation.

Arthur approached, carrying his own little blanket, which he placed on the ground a respectful distance away from Tana. She smiled inwardly. She had been expecting him. His wee eyes, bright with questions had followed her for days after U’Dlyns’ death, especially after the Great Feast held in U’Dlyns’ honor, at which Cole at related the story of U’Dlyns’ Final Passage. He needed to ask some questions. She had thought deeply about what she would say to him. It was important to answer truthfully. He had the eyes of a Seer. He would know if she told him a comforting story instead of the Truth. She loved that…to be kept on the straight and narrow by a six-year-old seemed right, somehow.

The Sun’s first golden hairs streaked up through the horizon. The air began to sing its morning song, and as it did, the two Wanderers breathed, chanted, hummed, stretched, worked….Arthur following Tana’s lead, except when they got to the yoga…his little six-year-old self fairly leapt about from pose to pose, gathering speed and power, initiative and spontaneous creation….while Tana, in her 69 year-old body moved precisely, carefully, inwardly, feeling the call of Beauty.

Finally, they were done…panting in the cold morning air, now bright with yellow light, they settled down on their blankets, wrapped thick comforters around their shoulders, sipped a hot drink Tana had brought along, and they looked deep into each other’s eyes. Then Arthur asked his questions.

“Tana,” he began tentatively.

“Yes, beautiful child,” Tana replied.

His eyes glowed. Tana always spoke to him so, her love and regard a sun all its own, raining down a sheltering yurt of gold around him.

His tiny heart opened within that comfort and he blurted out, “Tana, I’m afraid of Death! It takes people away from us!” Then he cried, “I miss U’Dlyns.”

He jumped up from underneath his comforter and stood before her, chest rising and falling with his rapid breath, hands clenched in fists at his sides.

“Why, why is there Death!”

He was a fountain now, and she just waited patiently, for him to run himself out.

“Where do we go when we die? What is our spirit? How can it live without our moms, our dads, our friends….is it black and cold like night when we die?”

Tana gently put her hands out onto Arthur’s shoulders. He was so deep, so serious. “Delightful boy,” she said. “You’re going to freeze, come here.” She drew him into the circle of her comforter and placed him on her knee, then wrapped both of them up in warmth together. “We can talk about Death, Arthur. It is a scary thing for all of us. We don’t really know where we go.”

“Well, what is your belief about that?” Arthur asked… “About, where we go, about where U’Dlyns is now?”

Tana smiled…. “There are so many beliefs about that Arthur, beliefs but no proof, do you know what I’m saying?”

“Well, no…” Arthur said.

“I mean that we can demonstrate some things about Death through evidence…”

“You mean, facts,” Arthur interrupted…

“Facts, yes, Arthur, things that can be seen, felt, touched, weighed, and measured…and this includes energy, not just material objects…”

“Hard things,” Arthur interjected….

“Yes, hard things…” Tana smiled.

“And energy, which is light, or fire, or electricity…right?” he asked.

“Yes Arthur, and electrochemical energy, like what our nerves make in our bodies,” Tana continued.

“Oh,” Arthur said, clearly not completely grokking that part.

Tana smiled and caressed Arthur’s cheek, “our nerves are sort of like electrical wires, they conduct energy, like electrical wires conduct electricity.”

“Oh,” Arthur said, the light dawning in his eyes. U’Dlyns had showed him how electricity worked just last May, before his illness began. This memory made Arthur both happy and sad at the same time.

“What I’m saying is that our understandings of Death involve some facts, but mostly, they involve beliefs, which are things we tell ourselves to explain the facts we have, and to comfort ourselves about the facts we don’t,” Tana concluded.

Arthur thought about that for a minute, then asked, “what facts do we have about Death?”

“Well, we know that the body stops functioning at some point in every living creature’s life…it just stops. It can stop because some kind of illness or injury disrupts its body’s systems until it can no longer function, or its body just simply runs out, like the old-style cars used to run out of gasoline and stop,” Tana explained. “Scientists are still trying to figure out why this happens. This is where belief steps in, because really, those are all the facts we have about Death.”

Arthur just stared at Tana. “That’s not a lot of fact to have about something that scary!” he exclaimed.

“No kidding,” Tana said. “Especially something as unavoidable and irrevocable as Death!” Tana added.

“Irrevocable?” Arthur questioned.

“Something that cannot be undone or changed or reversed is irrevocable…we can’t undo Death,” Tana explained.

“Like we can’t bring back U’Dlyns,” Arthur said….hanging his tousled head.

But then he suddenly looked up, “but, but, that was because we burned him, we burned him up! He could have come back, he could have…”

Arthur jumped up and stared accusingly into Tana’s eyes….

She looked at him mournfully. “Dear child, I wish that were so. We burned him because after death the body decays…it falls apart, and in a very messy, dangerous way. Corpses, dead bodies of any kind, are invaded by bugs and bacteria that help recycle them back into the Earth biosphere…we can catch those bacteria from the body if it isn’t put back into the biosphere more cleanly (for us at any rate). We have several methods available to us, but the ones our community uses are burning or burying. U’Dlyns liked the idea of burning, and so, when the time came to help his body return to the biosphere, we burned him.”

Arthur stared deep into Tana’s eyes, boring into the center of her soul relentlessly….

“This boy might be an Ez Perjezlah,” Tana thought.

He saw she was telling him the Truth as she understood it, and relaxed…his wee forehead wrinkled in despondent query.

“But, where do we go then….to the Earth….do our bits and pieces go into the bugs and the bacteria and the ground and the air…” Arthur asked, his voice trailing off….

“Yes, that is what happens,” Tana replied.

“So, we are recycled,” Arthur stated.

“Yes, we are,” Tana said.

“But, what about U’Dlyns, what about his laughter, what made him think and laugh and move and eat?” Arthur asked, staring into Tana intently.

“That is the part we call the spirit. We believe that part is our energy part, the energy part of our being, very much like light is made of particles and energy….we are made of particles and energy…” Tana said.

Arthur just looked at her and thought about that for awhile. Tana waited for him finish his thinking.

“So, our body is our particles, and our laughter is our energy, our spirit?” Arthur asked.

“That is what we believe, Arthur,”

“So, where does our energy go, when it leaves our body,” Arthur asked.

“Back to the Universe,” Tana answered.

“Back to the Universe?” Arthur queried.

“Yes, it is our belief that our energy, which exists as a unique set of patterns, is recycled into the larger pattern that is the Universe, when it separates from our bodies,” Tana explained.

“We can’t prove that though, can we,” Arthur said.

“That is correct,” Tana agreed.

“Then why do we believe that?” Arthur asked.

“To comfort ourselves in the face of the uncertainty and fear of the unavoidable and irrevocable Moment that is Death,” Tana answered truthfully.

“I see,” Arthur said, his mind blank with open consideration.

“We work somewhat from analogy on this one, dear child,” Tana continued.

“We see around us that life continues, that energies appear and disappear in patterns, that we can sense some kinds of energy like heat and light. Because we so love those who have passed, we chose to hypothesize what might exist for us beyond the Moment of Death. Because there are consistent patterns of processes and forms, forces and arrangements that hold in life, we choose to hope such hold for death,” she ruminated out loud.

Arthur was getting lost. She noticed, and tried again.

“There are repeating energy forms in the Universe, light is one of them…each color of light has its own pattern, its own frequency….we have decided to hope the essence of each of us is like this, an energy pattern with its own amplitude and frequency that persists throughout time and space as we understand it, though we cannot prove this. Yet, once light could not be measured, but now it can. Perhaps someday we will develop instruments sensitive enough to measure the unique patterns and frequencies that are each of our spirits.”

“So then we could measure my spirit while I’m in this body, then we could see if we could measure it when I die, and then we’d know if our belief was True?” Arthur queried…

“Exactly,” Tana answered.

“Hmm,’ Arthur said.

They sat in quiet contemplation for some time, while their community stirred to life around them. Everyone else had long ago finished their innerwork and were progressing toward the Tasks of the Day.

“We had better go get breakfast, don’t you think, precious child?” Tana asked.

Arthur looked out at her from the mists of contemplation and nodded somewhat blankly. It would be awhile before he had any more questions about Death, though they WOULD come.

Tana smiled.