Monday, April 23, 2007

Intimations of Mortality

Death was the overarching theme in that black, black week just past, and it's left me many things on which to ponder and reflect.

Truth be told, the incidents of last week hit close to home. In many ways, I feel lucky and relieved to have dodged the bullet. But I also feel sad that kindred spirits should have been felled in their prime.

If you think I mean the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre, then you are partly correct. Deep down inside, I'm still an academic, and so I feel the kinship and the loss that students should be murdered so senselessly. And closer still: a friend is just finishing his graduate studies there, so it was with much trepidation that I received the news. Fortunately, he was not on campus at the time.

More besides: there was also US Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell, found murdered on a trail in Banaue. I have friends in the Peace Corps and the death of one of them was another shock. But with Julia I found another connection, albeit too late -- she also had a blog.

Reading her blog brings a lump to my throat. Her blog is zesty yet unpretentious, probably one that would have gone undiscovered were it not for the circumstances of her death. It's painful to think that the person that wrote it with such life should have moved on. No more words, no more stories, just a memory.

Quietly passing last week, without fanfare except in his circle of friends, was Ricky Sunico. Ricky died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 48. He was a beloved member of the New Worlds Alliance, that conglomeration of fantasy and sci-fi fans in the Philippines.

Unfortunately I never got to know Ricky very well. Being an occasional visitor to NWA gatherings, I felt much too shy to approach people I didn't already know. When I did see Ricky, the best I could do was smile my goofy smile. And that was that.

A sci-fi geek at 48 is a truly dedicated geek , one unswayed by the demands of convention. That, too, is the road that I'm following, and I feel sad at the loss of a fellow traveller. And so I mourn his passing.

By some coincidence, I finally watched "Solaris" yesterday. It was a slow but thoughtful film, not the usual sci-fi fare, significantly different from the book. I enjoyed it nonetheless, perhaps because of all the preceding circumstances. "Solaris" is, in a sense, about death and remembrance, and its recurring refrain comes from Dylan Thomas:

They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.


  1. I have come to understand death... as i tried to understand life. In all essence.. one cannot understand life if one don't understand death itself. its like the hot and cold thing. one cannot exist without the other.

    But death for me is not permanent and so is life. It is just a transition from one world to another... so its not particularly cruel. Death is a release... and death is a beginning as well.

  2. All the same, I'd rather postpone this once-in-a-lifetime experience as long as I can. =)

  3. It's also sad that her last post was about death.