Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Time in Between

The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead.
That’s not just me mumbling morbidly moribund thoughts about mortality.
It’s the title of a book by author David Shields.
I’ve been thinking of the sentence [the title] all day, ever since I saw it on the shelf at a Chapters store last night.
It’s one of these meandering musing-type memoirs, and leafing through the book, it seemed interesting.
But the title really arrests me, I guess.
Think about it.
So much of what motivates us in our life is a result of our awareness of the brevity of this time we are given… this thing we call “our life©”.
So many things would not even exist if we could be assured, beyond any doubt, that we would never die. Religion, for instance.
There would be no such thing as religion, were it not for our inability to accept an end to our life. We invent an explanation. These explanations become religions.
Think of how different our approach to life would be if we entertained the concept that this [our present existence] was just one shot at it, and we would have others, afterward. And I don’t mean as another being [a la reincarnation], I mean another life to live, while retaining our unique individuality and identity. In other words, with full knowledge and memory of our past lives.
But we know it is not this way.
There is no such thing. We’ve got one go at it, and this is it. If you are reading this, it’s because you are living your one shot at it [life] and I am living mine.
It’s not only the Shields book title. I am thinking these thoughts tonight while sitting here in this Starbucks getting way high on caffeine because I just finished reading an excellent novel by Canadian author David Bergen. It’s a book that really makes you think about… “life”.

← The Time In Between.
I won’t go into a long delineation of the novel, but suffice it to say that it is structured in two parts. The first half of the novel focuses on Charles Boatman, a Vietnam veteran coming to terms with the loss of his wife, the reincorporating of his children into his life, and most importantly, the psychological war-wounds he’s carried for decades. He returns to Vietnam in a quest for personal forgiveness and healing.
The second part of the novel focuses on his daughter Ada and son Jon, who come to Vietnam in search of their father. They are worried because Charles has not been heard from in a while. For Ada, the journey is especially cathartic. What she learns about her father’s depth of despair causes her to re-evaluate her own life, and in a moment of clarity, she tells her brother, “I believe we are most alive when we are being thought about by others who love us.”
I loved this book, even though it was a very sobering read, and consistently built around moments describing profound measures of loneliness, displacement, and disconnectedness.
And speaking of book titles, what does this one mean?
The Time In Between.
What is the time in between?
Ada concludes, “..life had been real once, and it would be real again. This in between time, the voyage out and back, all of that was a dream.”
I love the way that is put, because it is very poetic.
But it’s also very wrong, and I think that the author David Bergen knows this.
Life is always real.
Any voyage along the way is just as real, unless you’ve somehow figured out a way to travel while sleeping.
And by the way -- if you have -- you should start a religion!



Beth said...

Yes, life is always real (including each voyage) but sometimes it seems as though "in between times" exist along the way.

patricia said...

I've been thinking a lot about the 'then you're dead' thing lately. I really want to read 'The God Delusion' and 'The Pagan Christ' to name a few books. Speaking of religion and literature and the questioning of that sky-god dude, have you watched this amazing discussion between Richard Dawkins and Ian McEwan? Lots of fascinating things to think about!