R.I.P. Cormac McCarthy. News of your parting reminded me of this passage. I wonder, did you write these words with this occasion in mind?
I always thought you would drown yourself. You didnt.
I had this recurring dream of you. One of two. Alone on the ocean floor in your indiarubber unionsuit. Fleeing some yawning subduction. You struggled in those hadal deeps like a man wading through mucilege while the pugs of your leaden shoes closed slowly in the loam behind you. The plates creaking. The clouds of silt rolling slowly up to engulf you. Your lamp had eked out and you were left to make your way in the eerie light of the ancient fumaroles smoking in the distance like standing candles. There was something more than poetic in your flight before those hellish sealamps out of whose sulphurous womb it well may be that life itself was brokered in the long ago.
You told me.
Did I? I forget. In their recollections dream and life acquire an oddly merging egality. And I’ve come to suspect that the ground we walk is less of our choosing than we imagine. And all the while a past we hardly even knew is rolled over into our lives like a dubious investment. The history of these times will be long in the sorting, Squire. But if there is a common keel to our understanding it is that we are flawed. At our core that is what we know.
You think that we loathe ourselves.
I do. Insufficient to our deserts, of course. But yes.
So how bad is the world?
How bad. The world’s truth constitutes a vision so terrifying as to beggar the prophecies of the bleakest seer who ever walked it. Once you accept that then the idea that all of this will one day be ground to powder and blown into the void becomes not a prophecy but a promise. So allow me in turn to ask you this question: When we and all our works are gone together with every memory of them and every machine in which such memory could be encoded and stored and the earth is not even a cinder, for whom then will this be a tragedy? Where would such a being be found? And by whom?
I don’t know, John.
The bore of one’s life close down like a collet. A final pin of light and then nothing. We should have talked more.
We talked a lot.
We might have come to synchronize our dreams. Like the periods of sorority sisters. In spite of the occasional causticities I’m compelled to say that I’ve always grudgingly admired the way in which you carried bereavement to such high station. The elevation of grief to a station transcending that which it sorrows. No, Squire. Hear me out. It’s the idea of loss. It subsumes the class of all possible lost things. It’s our primal fear, and you get to assign to it what you will. It doesnt invade your life. It was always there. Awaiting your indulgence. Awaiting your concession. And still I feel I sold you short. How to sort your tale from the commons. It must surely be true that there is no such collective domain of joy as there is of sorrow. You cant be sure that another man’s happiness resembles your own. But where the collective of pain is concerned there can be little doubt at all. If we are not after the essence, Squire, then what are we after? And I’ll defer to your view that we cannot uncover such a thing without putting our stamp upon it. And I’ll even grant you that you may have drawn the darker cards. But listen to me, Squire. Where the substance of a thing is an uncertain business the form can hardly command more ground. All reality is loss and all loss is eternal. There is no other kind. And that reality into which we inquire must first contain ourselves. And what are we? Ten percent biology and ninety percent nightrumor.
What was the other dream?
The other dream was this. There was a riderless horse standing at a gate at dawn. Some other country, some other time. The news that the horse brings is a day’s ride old, no more. The horse’s dreams were once of mares and grass and water. The sun. But those dreams are no more. His is a world of blood and slaughter and the screams of men and animals all of which he has little understanding of. The horse stands at the gate with his head bowed while the day breaks. He wears a cloak of knitted steel dark with blood and he stands with one forefoot tilted upon the stones. No one comes. The news does not arrive. This scene may be a painting. I dont know. I dont know what it means. Perhaps I saw it in a book. As a child. But this is what I dreamed. I wish I had other words for you, Squire. To prepare for any struggle is largely a work of unburdening oneself. If you carry your past into battle you are riding to your death. Austerity lifts the heart and focuses the vision. Travel light. A few ideas are enough. Every remedy for loneliness only postpones it. And that day is coming in which there will be no remedy at all. I wish you calm waters, Squire. I always did.
Thank you, John.
I have to go. We shant see each other again.
Source: Quoted from The Passenger, a novel by Cormac McCarthy, who recently passed away at the age of 89.