Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Passport to the Other Side

Death travels. Death travels well.  Death is a well-versed, first-class traveler who has landed at every destination.  When we think of death, we think “the ultimate equalizer” or “an inevitability” or “a spiritual catharsis;” but rarely do we associate death as a traveler.  It traverses every one of us and transcends life’s abodes by acting as an antagonist.  Death, as we understand it, acts as the antithesis to life.  We see light, we see darkness, we see life, we see death, but this dualistic approach does not attribute death with enough credit.  Death, as a traveler, visits everyone who has ever-lived; if life traveled, it would not visit everyone who ever died. Right?  There is a substantial difference between breathing and bleeding, and living.  But death holds no prejudice.  It will pack its bags and pay you a visit; mark on your schedule that you are going to have to pick death up at the airport on your last day.  If traveling had a score sheet or a record, death would be undefeated. 
            Art Spiegelman illuminates this point.  Death as a traveler is not a restricted concept; death’s impression on history, ideology, and consciousness is profound.  What Spiegelman does, is refresh the readers minds with a repackaging of death.  The Holocaust epitomizes the busy travels for death; it darkens world history, faith in humanity, and overall human consciousness.  The absurdity, the utter disregard for humanity, the calculated genocide, all accumulate for an astounding representation of death’s travels.  He was jetlagged in Auschwitz; they must have lost its luggage.  The horrid and gruesome nature of the Holocaust baffles people seventy years removed from the atrocity.  Is it a matter of mass death or the manner in which they died?  I would usually side with the latter, but for this piece, for death to be a traveler, it is just mass death.  People want to hold on to ideals about life, about flourishing freedom and luscious love, but pay little attention to the travelling entity, that we call death.
            This book, Maus II, conjures up a very interesting installment and account for the horridness of the Holocaust.  Nazi’s extermination of Jews is shocking and puzzling.  But from the perspective of our consistent and undefeated traveler, it was just another hectic travelling day(s).  Unfortunately, the absurdity of genocidal extermination exists in human history, but it is also unfortunate that it clouds our minds.  It dilutes or distorts our perception of death as constant, reaching the destination of each individual at some time or another.  Yes the Holocaust was shocking and awful, but events like this distance our appreciation for the traveler.  Ernest Hemmingway once said, “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”  I won’t interpret this quote or muddy its understated brilliance.
            For this piece, death answers every question for it is the last truth.  The traveler busily rushes from town to town, it takes a breath and realizes it has all the time in the world, it gladly remarks that there are always new destinations.      

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