This might seem like a strange transition from mulling over being real; but it seems like a fitting bookend. Real? or Dead?
After all my fine words about LOST and being done with it, it turns out that five seasons of investment generated enough curiosity to drive me to watch the final season opener last night. I’d wager that the most disturbing image in the episode, and in fact, one that’s in the running for most disturbing of the series was John Locke walking past his own corpse splayed out on the beach. Right now the interwebs fail to provide me with a screencap, but if I can lay hands on one I’ll add it at some point.
This was troubling not least from the standpoint of jumping the shark – John Locke’s inability to stay dead (now on multiple occasions) was definitely a signpost that things had gone too far for me as a viewer, as if Sawyer getting cuddly weren’t bad enough – but also because it so fundamentally disobeys all our rules and understanding about death, or about resurrection. This post is not actually about LOST, for better or worse.
Resurrection can be looked in a couple of ways: first, in a figurative way, that is to say, bringing something back. The reappearance, however unlikely, of something that had disappeared, ended, stopped. A nice flippant example comes to mind that many may be able to identify with: triceps. You can think they were dead, but really they were just hiding. When they start to reappear you may wish they were dead. Ow. But keep at it, and wow, there they are again. Secondly, then, of course, resurrection ‘fo reals’ – it was dead. It’s alive. We both dread and long for this: I call to witness, the true horror of the lifeless but reanimated zombie on the one hand (because like many things of this kind, zombies are only fun if we can play with the idea; make it a real possibility and then you need to call in Will Smith… AND FIRE); on the other the hope of Easter, the glorious possibility of our burying the old and emerging as something new, better, made of different stuff.
Put plainly, if it’s dead, it’s dead. If it’s resurrected, there ought not to be both something animated walking around and something dead laying there. It’s the spare corpse that causes the trouble. Nobody wants a spare corpse laying around. They’re creepy, they’re not hygenic, they’re depressing and they smell. (You won’t hurt their feelings by telling them though – dead people don’t get offended. But that’s another post.) Was Jesus in the tomb? Yes? No? This was the major contention, was it not? Mary didn’t show up, talk to ‘the gardener’ then see a body. Lazarus came stumbling out in his grave clothes – now that would take some energy.
This also begs the question of what’s walking around, and what it’s busy doing, if there is a body in evidence. If we are to trust most narratives: nothing good (though in the short term, it can really help ratings).
Where am I going with this? Here’s the problem. How do you know when something’s really dead? There are times when we are called to believe the impossible and see life in something that to all appearances is dead. Depending on the circumstances, this can be called various things: hope, aspiration, persistence, fidelity. Please insert your favorite improbable success story here. (If you’re stuck for one, how about Abraham Lincoln’s unlikely road to the Presidency? Everyone loves Abe, right? No? Thomas Edison and the lightbulb? Penny & Desmond? Sorry, I wanted another LOST joke.)
Sadly, not everything is an expectation-shattering success story. Some things end. It happens. Awesome ideas turn out not to work the way you hoped; you end up leaving that job; that person leaves you. In those cases, what seemed like virtues above might be called by other names: deluded, confused, stuck, crazy, stalker-like… if I kept going to the graveyard and digging up a coffin to make sure that its occupant was still there and still dead, I’d need some help. Not with the digging part, either (although think what that could do for my triceps).
Which takes more courage? It would seem like the former; but I think it’s not that simple. Refusing to let go of something dead is just as tragic, and every bit as rooted in fear, as quitting too soon. As a person who values loyalty and faithfulness and who believes in the second chance and all that Pollyanna-ish kind of thing, this has been a challenge for me. As a pragmatic person who likes articulated boundaries and assesses data and looks for closure, it’s even more complicated a balance. I wish there were some other way to find out, but sometimes I guess the only thing to do is just let that body lie there a while and see what it does; it’s either going to get up and ask for something to eat (N.B. if it seems to want to snack on you, don’t hang around), or it’s going to continue to decay, in which case, get the heck out of Dodge and let the dead bury their own dead.
Or, if you have an ongoing contract with an actor, it’ll do both, and then appear on the red carpet.
That’s all I’ve got for now. May this post rest in peace.