I hold in my hands a review of an old book I guarantee you won’t locate…

 

                              VANATASIA

                     (or “The Will of Artemis Leach”)

 

 

            In this obscure 19th century British novel*, Artemis Leach, more than anything, determined to escape hellfire.  He’d spent his life sailing 4 of the 7 seas and was one of the 5% or so who’d survived after a lifetime on the high seas and returned to where he’d started.

.

           His life was actually a pretty ordinary adventure for such an old salt.  Still…

 

[For MORE you need to use the DOOR...]

 

[MORE]

 

years of splicing bowline, enduring storms at sea that drenched the half of the body facing pelting rain, landing in harbors that didn’t exist for those back home, and viewing sunsets alongside those with soft, haunting, smiling eyes whose gentle gibberish was enough to fuel the outlandish lies he would later create.

Though his wife in Glasgow had passed, four sons survived.  As well as a small fortune he secretly placed bit by bit into the hands of Hedgewick, the family lawyer, who was so well off and unbelievably boring that Artemis trusted him.  It was a situation where you had to trust someone, and he seemed the best choice.  Truth was that the sum was not overly large, but still enough not to ignore.

The will was clear: Upon death, Artemis was to be totally burned in a nearby kiln—not illegal, but certainly unusual—after which the ashes were ground in a pestle and burned again, then carefully collected and divided equally and placed in four jars. Each surviving son would then receive a jar from which he was to privately, secretly, and independently, scatter the contents “far and wide” to the “four corners of the earth.”  Exactly one year later, the sons would return to his office, provide a written report of what they’d said they had done, and the son whose report was most thorough and imaginative, as judged by Hedgwick himself, would receive one-half of the inheritance; the remaining one-half being divided equally among the remaining sons who’d still honored their father’s request and returned on the appointed day, and Hedgewick himself as a fee for services.

A God, if he exists, thought Artemis, who can reassemble such remains and attach them to what makes me smile, has earned the right, if necessary, to let me burn again forever.

But little did Artemis know that his charmed life was over. That is, the charmed part. But not life itself. Days he’d never dreamed about were still to come.

                           The End

 

   [So far as we can determine, the question of personal destiny beyond life on Earth is unique to the human mind. Billions of people have been comforted by, terrified of, or obsessed by what happens after one’s “personal time” on Earth ends. What drives such concern? Roger Ebert, who died in April 2013,  was a movie critic who skillfully evaluated how we pictured life on the silver screen. When seriously ill in 2010, he wrote that he did not fear death because he didn’t believe there was anything “on the other side of death to fear…I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state.” **. Setting aside any (typical) religious thoughts, one wonders if the Darwinian evolutionist (usually a materialist or naturalist) would consider this Ebertian reversal of typical concern over one’s larger destiny to be a “step ahead,” or a throwback to humanity’s more primitive past? One wonders, too, if a perception of “contentment” before birth is a bit of an overreach, or a wannabe projection–without the possibility of being proved–that provides an adult comfort for “faith” in a future emptiness free from pain? Or, is there or should there be more than that, given the deep well of modern information from several sources, the extended reach of present knowledge-gathering, and the insatiable curiosity of the magnificent human mind?] 

___________________________

* With n.d. or no date in the front matter of this lost book, we’re guessing at the actual date.

** Quote regarding Robert Ebert reported by Florida Life Today (April 5, 2013).