At the core of “Swim” lies an obsession with death in its various forms. It is an inevitable bane, a healing doorway, a rite of passage, a complete and total end, a mystery, a surity … To the characters in the story, death is a method of realization, regardless of the method or the revelation itself.
It is, above all, a necessity. And like any necessity, it can also be bent to one’s will.
George’s exploration of death is frikin fascinating, even to me, and I made him up! He possesses a fearlessness I wish I had, and that I think we all should like to have. To him death is silence and reunification with the things he lost in his life and the questions he has. To Elliot, death was an impatient itch. He had to know what it is like, and it was something that, I think, mirrors the human instinct behind fearing death. Fear of the unknown is easy to file it under, but it is more than that. As creatures who lust for knowledge, humans love to go where we “shouldn’t” go. It was incredibly frustrating to Elliot, knowing that there was something the human spirit could experience, yet not report back from … he HAD to know what was on the other side. To Lynn, death was the ultimate slap in the face. It was a punishment for her shortcomings and the ultimate way in which she lost her battles that drove her to being an alcoholic. In a sense, one could say Lynn is already dead, since she’s just kind of floating around and not really present in her life or in her body, until the death of her own brother, and George really forces her to explore a very new and very scary and different — yet seemingly necessary — possibility: experience the other side of death.
I believe in reincarnation. I feel that the soul, the life force, essence, energy, whatever you want to call it, can take many forms — from a tree to a rabbit to a person to a fruitfly, whatever. The easiest way I can describe what I think existence is, is as many rooms in an eternal house. When our time in one area is done, to learn certain lessons and feel and experience certain things, then we move on to the next one. I also feel that this “door” between rooms is our cessation of consciousness and our wiping of memory from our last lives, and that door closes for a reason. I don’t know that reason, but I do know why sometimes that door remains ajar to some of us, and we remember our past lives. Knowing we’ve been here already creates many frustrations and comforts for me, but I think on the whole, I like that I can remember some of my past existences because it shows this mass expanse of consciousness and ability in the spirit, and that there’s this constant need to simply be and learn and do.
I wrote “Swim” for two reasons: my belief that we do learn what we call the “mysteries” of death when we’re earthbound once we die and we take that knowledge to the next phase of our existence. But when it’s not our time to learn it, it will all go heinously wrong. This is George’s shortcoming in this issue; he has mastered the ability to get to this inbetween place but he’s not using his knowledge very wisely. I also wanted to get myself to think about my own death, and what my biggest fear is in regard to dying, for sometimes I think that I, and many other people, fear dying because of the WAY we’re going to go, not so much that we’re going to go. I HATE deep water. This story was such a challenge to create and consider. But I did learn some interesting things about myself by the end.
The second reason is, simply, that Massive Attack gave me the idea, through the cellos at the end of “Butterfly Caught”. I’ve posted the vid below.
What do you think death is?
These people definitely don’t believe it’s the end at all:
Massive Attack: Butterfly Caught – the video about a man who turns into … something else entirely. Listen closely, especially at 3:43 through to the end.
Revisit the reading and excerpt here: Swim
Buy the book! Women in Strange Places: Stories.
Remember, you’re not just paying an author for her work, you’re contributing to the start a very important business very soon, where I will promote literacy, empowerment through the arts, awareness for women and children, and push for the understanding of ourselves, and the wonderful things we are each capable of — regardless of our perceived mortality, regardless of the invisibility of money, regardless of the illusion of time.