"The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.
"When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is 'So it goes.'"
There's something very comforting about the Tralfamadorian concept of time. The idea that death is not an end, but just another moment in a person's life that exists alongside birth and graduations and weddings and car accidents and first kisses. And they all can be revisited, re-enjoyed, re-experienced.
It sort of reminds me of the end of the play Our Town, where Emily dies and decides to return to a moment in her life. A small, insignificant moment. A birthday. What Emily learns is that human beings are completely oblivious. We are distracted by small, insignificant problems--sour milk, ingrown toenails, pimples, flat tires. These things get in the way. Instead of seeing each other, we see the splinters in our fingers instead.
I'm just as guilty as the next person. Tonight, I will spend my time writing blog posts, checking out Facebook. My kids will be playing on their Nintendos. My wife will probably lie down in bed. We will all be in our own little worlds, focusing on our own needs and wants. And we probably won't really look at or talk to each other all night long.
If I was from Tralfamadore, it wouldn't matter. Tomorrow, I could travel back to tonight or last week or this past Christmas. I could take a trip to four years ago, when my sister and brother were still alive. Or eight years ago, when my son was born. If I wanted to, I could go see Lily Tomlin on Broadway again sixteen years ago. Go trick-or-treating in Detroit, see Star Wars for the first time again.
But I am not Tralfamadorian. I'm human. Tonight will come and go. Disappear into memory. The only record I will have of this moment is this blog post, these words. Frozen in the ether of the Internet. Waiting to be plucked like a ripe plum by some visiting alien.
Greetings from the planet of Saint Marty.
|Full moon rising over the Planet of Saint Marty|