“And you, Edward? Is there something in this world for which you’d surrender your life and your soul if need be? You need not answer—I saw in your face and in your heart, last night, as you bent over the bed. Good art, good art—both of you. I have found several sorts of good and original art in this world, enough to justify encouraging your Artist to try again. But there was so much that was bad, poorly drawn and amateurish, that I could not find it in me to approve the work as a whole until I encountered and savored this, the tragedy of human love.”
Cynthia looked at him wildly. “Tragedy? You say ‘tragedy’?”
He looked at her with eyes that were not pitying, but serenely appreciative. “What else could it be, my dear?”
That’s from a scene near the denouement of Heinlein’s The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, which is among my favourite Heinlein stories.
The idea has resonated horribly with me, especially since I chanced upon a blog episode of Michael Prescott, in which he reviews some standard models of reincarnation.
As I read, I felt a deep, wounding sorrow for us. If any of these models are true, why then human love is exactly as Jonathan Hoag pronounced it – a tragedy of the most painful kind.
I remember my parents’ love for each other, the love I hold for my partner, my son, my dogs; many life-bondings that touch us all so profoundly: what if they are as ephemeral as a soap bubble? What if, when we shed this mortal skin, we discover our longings and true attachments are not to our beloved mate, but to another ‘soul group’ entirely? What if all our loves on earth are forgotten entirely in the grand sweep of reconnecting to ourSelves once more, perhaps thence to return to the earth plane and do it all over?
I’m finding a huge reluctance in me to accept any such thing. Something – probably primal, most likely primitive – rebels utterly at the thought that all our deepest emotions here will be swept away as nothing after death. And yes, I’m showing my attachments here – or some of them. I do not want to bring myself to the point where I believe that lasting, real relationships are mortal, too.
There’s an idealist very near the surface of me, I suppose. It wants to believe that there is something – someone, a human or animal or plant – for which we’d surrender our very lives and souls.And it doesn’t want to hear that tolling thought: “What else could it be, my dear?”
Pic: Depiction of the foundation of String Theory, the Calabi-Yau space. Because it’s beautiful, too.