Life and Death

The Last Mastodon

Delaware Indian Myth

Why the Great Spirit spat his fire on all of my kind, but one, I don’t know. And the pain, in this dim cave, is so long-lived and constant I rarely think of it as pain. I think it is the same as me. A blessing, I suppose—or some kind of transcendence? If so, not a complete transcendence. I can still perceive me. I believe the word for the transcendence I seek is death—but it is only a word I remember. I don’t know what it is, only that it is the ultimate liberation. Another word I remember is enlightenment. I think it is similar to salvation. Perhaps they name the same thing as death. Perhaps they all name the same thing as me. I don’t know. They are only fossils from the long memories of my kind, which live on in me.

I have been given the words. The meanings are for me to determine.

I can remember the Before, with the herd. It is an indelible, but static, memory—reduced to just three or four images, always from the same vantage point, locked in forever. Them, only imagination can see. Spread around, and in, the pool in the stream which was there sometimes, sometimes not. But when it was, there was joy. Yes, I remember joy—or rather, that there was such a thing—though living only in the mind like everything else, how can I know?

Can it be true that anything from the Great Spirit is right? Is good? Eternal isolation, eternal pain? An annihilated community, an annihilated world? How? I try to imagine them, felled where they were struck, in the water, scattered over the landscape. I can’t picture it. Can’t imagine it. For that I would need to go out and see, and perhaps, the Great Spirit willing, join them. But I cannot get up. The pain of my wound is too great. What is the difference between my wound and me?

Naturally my thoughts have gravitated far beyond this situation. Another word came to me—redemption. I don’t know what it means but like the other words it is old, and has survived, so they all must mean something. If I live in time, as this pain says I do, it is inevitable that I think in terms of beginning and end. Of course it is the end that occupies me. A long long time away, but not forever. That, and that alone is the bedrock of my faith, and I know what that word means: it is what led me to my conception of era.

I think, maybe one of everything is selected to bear witness to existence. Maybe this is how the Great Spirit thinks, the scale of the Great Spirit’s mind: the much longer life of what preceded and follows that which once flashed in time. All things that are become were—slowly dissolve, covered first by one layer of mud and dust, then another, buried in the settling of rock, swallowed by a sea, which after an inconceivable time recedes, revealing its infinitude of stories that may or may not ever be known.

It is only in fulfillment that anything can earn the right to not exist.