For the Fallen

Katabasis, Going Postal

I wasn’t originally planning to pen and submit a piece for today until I saw the terrible news about our Jen the Blue yesterday, and so soon after the equally wrenching loss of Goodnight Vienna. Today of course is also the anniversary of D-Day, something else that demands remarking upon. It is also D-Day in another sense for myself and my family. It is the first anniversary of my Dad’s sudden death. To mark the occasion myself and my sisters will all be at the part of the coast that is nearest to us all at 11.30am, when he died, and we will be throwing roses into the ocean to remember him. Hopefully by the time this post goes up I will have sent some pictures to SB to include of the roses. I will also be throwing a rose into the sea for our Jen. And of course, if I see any attractive women on the way there or back, in his memory I’ll be sure to say to myself ‘would’ with a grin.

Foundations of the world

One of the most powerful and disturbing enduring thoughts for me whenever I thinking about D-Day and world war two more generally is the terrible tableau of young men charging machine gun nests, as ably dramatised at the start of Saving Private Ryan. I’m sure everyone reading this will be familiar with the profound image below. In addition to paying tribute to The Greatest Generation here though, and given the circumstances, I also feel obliged to highlight what is missing from this image. Not only do the sacrifices of previous generations in war hold up our foundations, but all those we have loved and known and who have loved and known us too. Indeed, many of those sorely missed people hold up our skies too, even when they are no longer with us. We are bound with them and them with us in life and in death.

Interestingly, this is a thought that has pervaded much recent science-fiction – that love is not just an ephemeral epiphenomenon that rides meaninglessly on top of our existence. No, many significant pieces of recent sci-fi literature and filmography have instead painted love as one of the fundamental forces of the universe. From Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos, to Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. From Moore and Eick’s Battlestar Galactica to Joe M. Straczynski’s Babylon 5. Love pervades all of the most profound and legendary tragedies as can only be depicted in and delivered as sci-fi can.

Katabasis, Going Postal
Soldiers holding up the foundations of civilisation

Into the Light, Leland. Into the Light

With that thought in mind, one of the most touching and profound scenes I’ve ever seen where someone brings comfort to the dying was in, of all things, Twin Peaks. Agent Dale Cooper brings comfort to the tragic dying Leland Palmer. What made this scene especially profound for me is how it occurs immediately after some terrible (and typically of Twin Peaks, surreal) violence and disturbing events, with much more yet to follow. This scene punctuates the grim and relentless events of Twin Peaks with one perfect moment of peace. It still makes me teary when I watch it now. I’ve clipped and uploaded a copy below:

Reflection on my own mortality

Such considerations naturally lead to reflection on one’s own mortality. I’ve said so many times at so many funerals over the last two years that people die to remind us to live. Today marks a cathartic moment for me when I’ve decided I must step up and finally deal with the grief of losing my Dad and all the others, including members of this parish. Because we lost so many people in quick succession, and did not know what my Dad’s final wishes may have been, we’ve all written down our wishes for our own funerals. I’ve left my wishes with my mother, Mrs K and my sisters and I’ll share them with you here too. Just in case.

This may sound morbid, and indeed it is. However in my case I want to inject both some levity and a chance for philosophical reflection here. When its my time I don’t want people to be sad. I want them to be glad we travelled together, even if just for a short time. I also want them to think.

Personally I think death is absurd.  To that end, and as long as my savings cover it – I’ve requested that the hearse has a sound system on top of it. I want it to blare out the Benny Hill theme tune and I want people to chase it down the road to the crematorium.

For the moment of reflection I don’t want people to be sad about my absence. I’d rather they spent a few minutes thinking as I do. The poem & video below is my request. Most people who have known me well are aware I have studied Western philosophy in great depth for many years. Naturally people will ask ‘can you define the meaning or purpose of life?’ And when I can resist being the philosophical anal-retentive clown, asking them to ‘define define’, below is a good summation of what I would express. Anyone familiar with Nietzsche’s work will recognise the life-affirming urge expressed here in both the poem and the video that illustrates it to grip life and impose one’s will upon it:

To close the ceremony I want people to leave upbeat and remember none of us get out alive. Wherever I go – if anywhere – I’ll be rocking out. It’s about how you loved:

And finally, for my Dad today (with a rose in reserve for Jen the Blue, too). When I throw the roses I’ll be listening to my Dad’s favourite song:


© Katabasis 2019

The Goodnight Vienna Audio file