Friday, January 21, 2011


How long had I been dead for? All my life maybe. The entire world was just a playground, a way-station for dead souls, deluding themselves into thinking that the afterlife was any different to their current ‘life’. If reincarnation is a reality, our immortal souls have been shifting from one perishable body to another for an infinite time period. Therefore, the concept of there being a difference between life and death is completely ludicrous. If life after death is more or less the same as your life before, why distinguish? This is as much the land of the dead, as the land of the living.

Growing up, as a child, my family and a substantial percentage of the entire country would get their food from Dunnes Stores. It is ironic that the place which sells food, which sustains our lives, should be named after the mythical Irish King of the Dead; Donn.

                  …a reference in the death-tale of Conaire, who is slain by three red-haired men, ‘sons of Donn, king of the dead, at the red tower of the dead’. These three are further quoted as saying, ‘we ride the horses of Donn – although we are alive we are dead.’

Buddhism states that there are six intermediate (or bardo) realms where a soul can be reborn, along with a 7th pure realm known as the Ground Luminousity. Not realising that I had been dead all along, but thinking I had just died, I quickly began reading the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying to ensure the best possible afterlife, for a sinner such as myself. Reasoning that I had been dead for some considerable time–at least a few days– I must surely have encountered at least one of the bardo realms. Then it struck me. My habit of resolving the energy of the universe into recognisable and familiar patterns had duped me into perceiving the hereafter in precisely the same way as I had the world of the living before I died.

That UFO that I saw out my window on Oct 25th, and again from on top of the headland the next day, that must have been the dawning of the Ground Luminousity. I must have reinterpreted the liberation from cyclical death that the GL offered, as luminous extra-terrestrial craft come to rescue me from the Earth. Pretty soon I realised that I had past through the Bardo of the Gods; the faerie realm, the Bardo of the Monsters and Demi-Gods; the celebrity world, and finally into the human world. My next vision was of me as a chicken somewhere, destined for the pot. I felt physically sick.

Having drifted through the six realms of the bardo realms and having been deposited safely back on Earth, I realised that I had gone on a bardo excursion. Such things are not uncommon, in fact they happen all the time. To understand what I mean just think back to the last time a relationship you cherished ended abruptly. Tibetan Buddhist monks remark that each second that passes is a minute bardo running its course. What is remarkable is that my journey into the land of the dead coincided precisely with All Hallow’s Eve, when the gates to the underworld are thrown open and the dead literally walk the Earth.

A similar tale which occurs around Hallowe’en, can be found in the storyline for the movie Donny Darko. Here the protagonist’s name is in reference to Donn, the king of the dead. In Celtic thought, death was associated with winter (commencing after the feast of Hallowe’en), which in turn brought the darker months, hence the surname Darko. At the start of the movie, Donny is told by his ‘imaginary’ friend Frank that the world is going to end in ‘28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds’, which Donny writes on his arm as “28064212”. A version of this; 2864212, corresponds exactly to regional telephone numbers in my home town. This phone number, as far as I know, is not in use.

Donny Darko, as the king of the dead.
Plot elements in the movie such as time travel and the literary references which intersect with the storyline, all strongly indicate to me that this is Donny’s own bardo excursion. Therefor, as the close time loop would suggest, Donny actually dies at the beginning of the movie, leaving the remaining part of the film as a type of introspective afterlife excursion in which he seeks to fix all of the deficiencies in himself and his society. Another of Richard Kelly’s movies, Southland Tales, quotes from T.S. Elliot’s poem The Hollow Men, wherein Elliot refers to this world as “the dead land” and “death’s other kingdom".

So it was that on Hallowe’en Night, the Celtic New Year’s eve ceremony, I found myself wandering home, dressed in a dark suit, as befitting the solemn occasion. Festival goers thronged the streets and pavements in ghostly masks and painted faces. And where was my mask? I was wearing it surely. Just as Donny asks of Frank, “Why are you wearing that bunny suit?” To which Frank replies, “Why are you wearing that funny man suit?” I might, as well reply in a similar fashion.

Life and death are no more different from each other than night and day, up and down, in or out. All of these things are human concepts, and human fallacies. Time does not abide by night and day, which is purely a happenstance of existence on this planet. Likewise, in and out are trivialities from a fourth dimensional (time) point of view, as everything that exists will at some point cease to exist. We live our lives as if walking on the surface of a Mobius strip or Klein bottle, at any time we could flip into the 'underworld' of death, and not even realise it.

It is even entirely possible that you have died a number of times already in this lifetime e.g. being knocked over by a car on the way to the shop. This gives Divine Providence, or your more interested future self, a reason to push the reset button, thus allowing your soul to choose from an infinite number of alternate realities where you did not die. The only problem that might arise from this solution, however, is that the more times you jump dimensionally the further you land from your original friends and family. It is therefore entirely possible that you could arrive at a dimension inhabited primarily by shape-shifting aliens and androids that cannot be told apart from ordinary humans. This is almost certainly what has happened to me.

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