A Still Commune

What is the purpose of a community of the dead in the community of the living?
What is the purpose of a community of the dead in the community of the living?
Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash 

You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

Marcus Aurelius

Oftentimes, more difficult circumstances can unravel the desired peace, calm, self-respect, and sense of internal dignity of the individual human being, whether a tough time on the job, a death in the family or simply a day marching from one bad moment to another. 

I take the time to reflect on the commute home from work. I am a custodian at a pub and a bistro (separate businesses under the same umbrella and general contracting). I bike home each day - on a bicycle, not a motorcycle. 

Both the last shift and the bike ride home give me time to gather myself, mentally. The fishing reels were sent out each day and reeled in at the end - trying not to make a jumble of them. 

From whatever tangled weave of the chaos of the day comes in, I can begin to make sense of the overarching of the day, the narrative. With maturity over time, an understanding comes forward. The story is imposed on the day.

James Joyce's writing was much like this. In which, numerous conflicting voices come together, impartially, incomplete, and formulated within an environment of The Real - the truly incomplete and partial. I take a cue in writing from him - take a different point of view, at one level, but, at a meta-conceptual level, take multiple points of view at the same time. 

An interesting meta-consistency comes out of such a structure, comes out in such writing. The application of different narrative voices brings about a sense of the bland. The voices smudge, unless examined closer, there is an interesting effect within the writing.

I find the commute home by a cemetery helpful for writing. I peer over the gravestones and consider the numerous lives and the number of thoughts that must have crossed through each person that is no more. 

In this sense, there is a consideration of the dead as the living, while the lives lived no longer take part in the play of this dramatic, small town in which I inhabit, find myself, have been home to, but do not consider home - as nowhere is home to me except in my own mind. 

A place of refuge, of peace, and the central source of responsibility in the control of the sense of equanimity and thought. Working at a pub seems much different than the world of journalism or writing. It’s rough-and-tumble play, but in an adult or more mature context – or, maybe, not more mature.

So much happening at once, and a context in which individuals drink, get rowdy, come for the company, meet from the local university for an informal meeting, go out with friends to catch up, sit with their wife for some beef dip and a pint of beer, get out with the girlfriends to reconnect and share stories about parents and relationships, and so on, all this going on; so much so, it can be a bit bewildering at times to behold.

But, regardless, there is a general sense in which the numerous narratives, to each individual observer, is part of a larger meaningless whole, while the individual meanings to each part feel quite real, so, for all intents and purpose, is real enough.

The dead giving this living series of thought – through the cemetery or the mass of ceremonialized and memorialized corpses – is, in a deep way, a commune. I have seen this, often, from motorcyclists – real  “bikers” – and the weepy old and young alike from mainstream Canada.

It is a space of the ever-still, once-existent, who provide a sense in which life continues onward, while the past never left entirely. It is a way of saying, “Others were here. You will be here, or somewhere like it, in some unknown near-future.”

Cemeteries, to me, remain places of the Still. A community of the dead. A gathering of the memorialized. A bounded collection of remains. The past stuck as the extant present, 6-feet-under.

So, the markings of the partially forgotten, but never entirely so – for a time. The dead become monuments of fractured tapestries through time inscribed with a name, a start date, and an end date, and, perhaps, a short encapsulating message, ‘They were here a second ago.’

A series of narrative timelines partially overlap one with another. This is to say, cemeteries aren’t for the dead; they are for the living. And the dead through the living garner some semblance of life once more.

The dead never died. Nothing ever ceases to be entirely, precisely. Cemeteries are a rare space for reflection and represent a Still Commune to me. A place for a repeated coming to terms with the reality of death, and find a sense of the bedrock eternal in a normal experience of transience and change.

This bedrock can be seen in the True Self or the core sense of identity. Marcus Aurelius was not a great philosopher, nor was he an ideal human being. He was an individual who through the individual struggle with his own self and the pains and pressures of the outside world produced deep wisdom, intuition about the world, human affairs, and himself.

Within this intuition and wisdom, he became a great person, unusually virtuous, restrained, and showing a representation of this bedrock of the unchanging in the ‘power over one’s mind’ – True Will.

This sensibility of cemeteries as a place for reflection, for regaining the “peace, calm, self-respect, and sense of internal dignity” desired by most, makes them a perennial place for all. To honour the dead with the presence of the living, yourself, you gift yourself in the process, in a realization of death, of the numerous voices speaking from the beyond, and the partial, incomplete, and inconsistent nature of our individual natures and narratives in this larger world.

A sense of resolution settles over the landscape, of the mind.

Founder of In-Sight Publishing and Editor-in-Chief of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. He is an Independent Journalist and Researcher. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and the advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere. 

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