Thursday, June 13, 2002

The Great Hereafter

When I got home from the movies this evening, I logged onto the computer to check my web-based email and my blog counter and visit a couple of other places...while so doing, I discovered in my "Go" pull-down window that somebody had typed in the address for Mountain View Cemetery. Since I am usually the only person who uses this computer, I was somewhat taken aback by this entry. Kind of spooky, like seeing your name on a gravestone, or having a hearse drive by in the middle of a beautiful day.

The answer was rather simple, of course, as any good answer must Uncle was over this afternoon, and looked up the website to see their hours of operation and find if there was still time today to go visit the cemetery where my grandfather (his dad) is buried (because Uncle is working on Sunday, so won't be able to go on Fathers' Day). So, anyway, I went to the site myself and had a look-see, and was quite impressed with the design and gallery. I forget sometimes how beautiful that cemetery is. Not only is my grandfather buried there, but his parents are also there, as well as a variety of cousins and family friends and what-have-yous. It is one of the most beautiful landmarks in Oakland, originally landscaped by the great Frederick Law Olmstead (of Central Park fame) and filled with some of the finest examples of funerary sculpture in California. It is also near my old high-school, so I've spent a lot of time at the place over the years.

Another rather synchronous thing that's come up today is the number of Celebrity Deaths that have happened of late. I was just blogging over at the Galaxy Girls site about the sad passing of one of Fashion's greats, Bill Blass...and in the process noted how many other deaths I and others have blogged about there...Kevin Aucoin, DeeDee Ramone, HRH Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, etc. So Death has been a recurring topic today.

Well, visiting the cemetery, or rather the cemetery's site, and looking up Bill Blass' information, got me thinking about death and the afterlife. Or, really, what I started thinking about was the way survivors deal with death. It's something I've never quite's about halfway down my long, long list of things I don't really understand. The horror of death, the elaborate public grief of death, the varied coping mechanisms that society has erected to deal with death. These sort of bemuse me.

My feeling about my own death is one of curiosity...I am curious to know what happens after I die. Not so curious that I wish to hasten the process, mind you, but curious enough to not fear death itself. Though I am not entirely finished with this life, still having things I want to do before I check out, I do feel quite prepared to die when my time is up, even if that time is now, tonight or tomorrow or next week. I don't think there's any reason to be afraid of or angry about death...I guess my ego isn't developed enough to care what the world would do without me, or what the universe would be like without my spiritual presence. While I do rather hope that my 'self' remains somehow, in some state, and while I also hope that the afterlife is not the one depicted in Christian lore (cuz, if so, I'm in trou-ble), I don't have any attachment to a particular outcome, I have no expectations of what awaits when this body ceases to function.

When it comes to the deaths of others, I find myself similarly detached. While I miss those who have gone ahead, regret their cessations of potential, abhor the destruction of the flesh, and do not wish to part with any of my loved ones any time soon, I don't see getting all bent out of shape about someone's passing. It may be terribly sad, but it is nevertheless inevitable. We all must die. Preferably at the end of a long and fulfilling life, but there's no way of controlling that or even evaluating when a life has reached its fullness. Death is a part of life the way that down is a part of up and in is a part of's two sides of the same thing. So why get so damned worked up about it?

I dunno. But people do, and one has to be sensitive to that. I just wish I understood it better.

Well, anyway...the movie I went to see tonight was The Importance of Being Earnest. I loved it! The costumes! The Wildean wit! Dame Judi Dench as Lady Bracknell! The sets! Rupert Everett! The jewelry! Reese Witherspoon as an English girl! It was all just too much! The critics apparently savaged this adaptation, no doubt thrown by the strange Gilded-Age/Jazz-Age anachronisms and the rearrangement of scenes and dialogue from the constraints of a stage-play to the loose back-and-forth openness of the film format...not to mention the plain and inescapable fact that Dame Judi, while certainly the most fabulous termagant character actress in current English cinema, just isn't Dame Edith Evans (who presented the echt Lady Bracknell in the classic 1952 Anthony Asquith film version, to which all other adaptations on stage or screen are compared).

Personally, the movie would have had to be really, really awful to disappoint me. I love period films, no matter what, especially if they are set in English Country Houses...I love adaptations of Oscar Wilde, no matter what, especially if there is just a skosh of homoeroticism involved...and I love the entire cast of this film, almost without reservation (I can't quite forgive Rupert Everett, though I love him dearly, for having had the egregious taste to star in The Next Best Thing with that egregious whore, Madonna...not to mention that hackneyed fiasco, Inspector Gadget). Let's not forget that Rupert Everett and Colin Firth both starred together in their first serious roles, the film that launched both of their careers (as well as yummy Cary Elwes's), the movie that completed my ambition to become a raging Anglophile, Another Country. It's almost like they made The Importance of Being Earnest just for me!

So it was a fairly satisfying film experience, to say the least. I am going to end on one of my favorite Bracknell-isms of all time--when, during the course of her prenuptial interview with Mr. Worthing, she discovers that he is an orphan, she quips: "To lose one parent may be regarded as unfortunate; but to lose both parents seems rather like carelessness."

Speaking of carelessness...XYZ, honey! It's almost closed!

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