The Undiscovered Country, Part II

Posted: April 25, 2013 in Blogging from A to Z Challenge
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I decided to revisit this post because

  1. upon rereading it, it sounds almost like a suicide note.
  2. it is a wimp out post.  I didn’t say what I really wanted to say.
  3. I can.

I composed a lot more on the original post, which I will get to in a minute.  First I wanted to address something I’ve decided to face, yet again, while writing this.  Fear.  The reason I wimped out on the first posting, was concern about offending.  I worry about this because I hate contention.  I know current popular attitudes embrace it; people eagerly seek out or initiate argument for the sake of argument.  I don’t want to play into what I see as destructive behavior.  Discussion for understanding–Great!  Arguing for ego or adrenaline–uh, no.

Oddly enough, when I got on the internet today, I found this article waiting for me.  I often post links that may be interesting, but this one I actually recommend.  One of the items on the “what writers fear” list is “will piss someone off.”  I actually thought I was pretty much alone in this concern.  I felt like people either were so nice they wouldn’t raise ire, or they actually welcomed the confrontation.  The advice on how to deal with that fear (and the others) was good enough I thought I’d try it.  Here’s the article:   3 Steps to Escape the Fear Trap and Put Your Writing Out There.

So, if you want to read the non-wimp-out version of The Undiscovered Country, here it is:

“The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

No traveler returns…”  –WS

Death.  One of the universal constants.  Everyone will experience it; no one knows for sure what it will be like.  Will we continue as individuals (in this sphere or another), in our current form or some other, or be absorbed into a collective consciousness or simply dissolve into atoms and dissipate into space, possibly to recombine into some other material?  If we do maintain a form, what type of matter will it be?  Will we be sentient, have memory?  Will we have the same or similar relationships, social structures, an entirely new society, no society at all?  Would there be purpose in an afterlife, a reason for being, growth or stagnation?  If we do not have some physical form beyond the atomic, or subatomic, will memory or intelligence somehow stick to “us” anyway?

So many possibilities.  And who really knows from personal experience?  The Dimension of the Dead can be an interesting place to explore.  [By this I mean in your imagination, as a setting for fiction, philosophically, not by applying the “bare bodkin” method.  This was the end of the original post, sans the bracketed comments.]

Personally, I fear death less than the process of dying.  The state of being “nonliving” does not bother me.  Whatever the ultimate outcome, it is what it is.  I’m not going to argue about it now, when no conclusion can possibly be reached, or then, when the evidence will be so overwhelming as to make argument pointless.  However, I think something else from Hamlet’s soliloquy is worth considering directly.

“…Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?”

Shakespeare’s suggestion that our fear of the unknown is what holds us in stasis is evidenced everywhere–in our work, in society, in our private lives.  However, I don’t know that what seems obvious in this sphere applies to the next life.  I think it is less a fear of what may exist there than it is a concern about how the way we live our lives now may affect our later state.  Call it karma or the law of the harvest, most traditions have an expectation that the past and present affect the future.  While a belief in the non-continuance of being is a widely accepted possible alternative to eternal life, the supposition that the Hereafter will be worse than the present, unless we make it that way ourselves, rarely appears as an option.

This leads me to wonder if perhaps it is more the fear of the known than the unknown that drives us.

If our past and present show us compromising the rules that bring eternal reward according to our tradition, it is that which causes us concern about the afterlife, not the afterlife itself.  This applies not just to death, but to our current state as well.  If we prove incompetent in working for our goals, we may assume the future will continue likewise, or perhaps be even worse.  But an assumption is not a fact.  We can make a choice to change.  We can stop fearing the present and the past and believing that it dictates by its very existence the future.  Who would continue in a life that lacks peace, joy, success, for fear of something worse?  Someone who could believe in nothing better.

The fact is that each of us will someday discover the undiscovered country, and that country, whether it is death or the future, will be the same regardless of what we are when we find it.  We can either stick to the level of performance we are comfortable with, whether out of acquiescence or fear of failure, or we can expect something better and, by virtue of that expectation, become equal to it.


And now it’s time for me to overcome fear paralysis and push the button.  Feel free to comment even if you disagree.  Remember?  “Discussion for understanding–Great!”  Have a wonderful day!

  1. Hello, Keli! I’m more afraid of the process of dying than death itself, too. I hope when it’s my time–hopefully no fewer than seven decades from now!–it’s quick and painless. Sadly, that’s not how it goes for everyone. Death is one of those things we can never really know about until we experience it. It’s fascinating to speculate about, though, which is one of the best things about being a writer with a good imagination. Death is but the next great adventure!

    PS) I really like your blog’s name! It’s so fun and clever!

    Happy A to Z-ing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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