When Hali’s father asks her to euthanize him, she reluctantly agrees, brooding upon the idea of the afterlife in a way that is both challenging and deeply moving.
Victoria gives an overview of the book:
That night in bed I was restless. I had forgotten what it was like to feel fear so empty, as I had most poignantly at three or four, realizing for the first time that I couldn’t understand what it meant to begin or end.
Outside my window, mockingbirds were swirling around the parklight catching insects. The noises they made. Meaningful noises. You might call it genius, the way they can sound uncannily like the bells of St. Paul Le Jeune, which they have never heard.
There was the consolation one needed. I turned, gaining a cooler patch of pillow. I imagined my father awake in his bed too, feeling not just the family edifice crumble, but also the whole world. Grabbing at the cold comfort that there may be other universes to continue if ours should end in the Big Crunch. And wondering why it should make a difference that this one continue. Clearly it does. If not I, then at least my young, my genetically reminiscent self, would go on. If not I, then my children, or someone else’s children, or if not humans, then extra-terrestrials, and so on. There was something in that, yes. Or better yet, my contribution might continue in the form of thought, a philosophy more solid than any rock, longer lasting than any Rembrandt, more robust than any old god’s dogma.
Why should it matter to me that something survive the Big Crunch or heat death? Why does continuity feel so important? The scaffolding up of good will, so that somehow, someway, progress may come of every human life and the whole business of living be somehow worthwhile.
Continue my work. One wants a bright graduate student to continue one’s theories, even change them if necessary so that they work better. Make some use out of them. That’s the thing.
Lately, Candice had mentioned, Dad had become interested in selecting out various things that he thought one of his daughters could use. Every time Candice went to throw out an old table or can opener, he would say, “Maybe one of the girls could use that.” What really bothered him, I supposed, was that something he had sweated for should go to waste. Our cities and poems erased.
Victoria N. Alexander, “Tori,” author of Naked Singularity (2003) andSmoking Hopes (1996), is co-founder of Dactyl Foundation in NYC. With a Ph.D. in English specializing in Philosophy of Science, Alexander has published articles on science, art and poetics...