Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Words Fly Free

By Lisabet Sarai

"The paper burns, but the words fly free."

- Akiva ben Joseph (c.40-c.135) (at the stake, when the Torah was also burned)

We are all destined for dust. Not exactly a pleasant thought to be contemplating on this rainy Saturday afternoon, but mortality is a truth that no one can dispute. Sooner or later, we will vanish from the earth. Life will go on without us, presumably; we will, most likely, not be in a position to know.

Of course, death is fundamentally a mystery. Perhaps we simply cease to exist. Perhaps we are reincarnated as someone else - with or without memory of our former lives. Perhaps we're shuffled off to some eternally blissful paradise or agonizing realm of punishment (although I personally view these alternatives as unlikely). Maybe the material world is nothing but a dream that will dissolve when we cross the threshold of death. At that moment we'll understand that we are beings of pure spirit, joined into one Being.

Since the truth is unknowable, mostly when I think about dying I consider what I'll leave behind. No children. None of the great scientific discoveries I expected to produce when I was in my teens. Certainly no riches! No, all I can hope for is a small circle of friends and family who may mourn my passing and remember me fondly. And of course, my writing, which even in this ephemeral digital era may still survive.

I feel a bit sheepish, considering the sum of my oeuvre as some kind of legacy. A half dozen smutty novels, a hundred or so naughty stories, a couple of notebooks full of poems: is that really all I'll bequeath to the world at large? I don't harbor any illusions that I'm a Great Author, that my writing has some sort of serious significance or speaks to the Human Condition. At the same time, I do mention my writing in my will. When I die, it will all belong to my brother, who's also a creative type though in a different realm of the arts.

Regardless of its literary value, my writing has made a small difference in the world. Dozens, maybe even hundreds of people outside my personal sphere have read my work and been entertained, challenged, possibly moved. Even if I were to die tomorrow, my words would remain. My erotic visions would endure, living on to enrich the fantasy lives of those who happened to encounter them.

When I sat down to pen this post, of course I went to Google first. I found a page with hundreds of quotes ( clever, humorous, ironic, inspiring. The one above struck me as particularly relevant to anyone who is a writer.

Rabbi Akiva was a Jewish scholar and martyr, executed by the Romans for his faith (and according to some accounts, for supporting a Messianic rebellion). He was talking about the Torah and the Talmud, written works of great spiritual and historical meaning. I realized, though, that all words have a spiritual dimension. They are more than marks on paper (or bits on a hard drive). Words create realities. Even my sex-drenched novels have that power. Their ability to alter the world transcends their physical form.

Think about your favorite authors, the ones whose reading changed you forever. They may be long gone, crumbled to dust, but their words endure. I'd like to think that when I die, my words, too, will fly free, ready to alight on a reader's shoulder and spark her imagination.

I doubt that I'll manage to be as witty as many famous individuals at the moment of my death. However, I wouldn't mind borrowing my last words from Errol Flynn (1909-1959):

"I've had a hell of a lot of fun and I've enjoyed every minute of it."

When I'm gone, I hope that my readers continue to have fun. I could hardly ask for more.


  1. I have to say that mine isn't from anyone. It's just a reaction to something my dad said to me once.

    I keep getting ill a lot and spend a lot of time at the Doctors so my father called me a hypochondriac.

    I feel like having "See I told you I was ill." carved on my tombstone.

    In a more serious vain, again in my own words, I would like to leave the following as a reminder of me.

    "If I have made at least one person smile, made one person happy, changed one person's life and left at least one person who will remember me when I'm gone, then I will have made something of my life."

  2. There was a time in my life when I thought I had lots of friends. Over the years, it seems my only real bonds are the ones I've created on the Internet...faceless people who have supported, cheered and inspired me. My father told me before he passed..."As the end of your life approaches and you can appoint a name to the fingers on one hand, of people who have stuck by you, you are indeed a lucky person." Sadly, as sure as I was when he shared this with me, I cannot name one flesh and blood person I can still count on outside my family. Friendships are like vapor. They eventually disappear into the air, leaving you with nothing but memories. My only hope is that when my time comes, those Web friends I've come to love and cherish will mourn my passing and not let me be forgotten.

  3. Hi Lisabet!

    We've discussed these things off-list with each other so much, we have influenced each other's views I think. I know you have influenced mine about the nature of consciousness. Privately I think of this as the "Lisabet's spaghetti strainer" theory of consciousness, though I don;t remember if you used that analogy or not. Its the way I imagine God.

    The closer I get to the grave, like every second, the more I'm sure it must be something like you describe, joining into the great consciousness underlying existence. There is in each person i think a great longing for union. A longing not to be alone in the universe. I think this longing for union with another person in the most intense intimacy possible is at the heart of good erotica, which certainly includes yours. Because of this belief alone I think someday our work will find a more honorable place in the scheme of modern literature. I believe that.


  4. I have to say that mine would be one that a good friend has modified, but it fits...

    It would either be

    'shoulda woulda coulda...but didn't'


    'you try you fail, you try you fail, the important thing is you try'

  5. Wonderful post Lisabet :-)

    I think I'm having one of those "It's a Wonderful Life" moments where I wonder if life would be better for some if I'd never been born...well, not quite...but it would be so cool to be remembered for some very meaningful quote..or deed.

    I like to think that will be the case too. At the end of the day I guess we all do the best we can do, and if we achieve that, then that's a good life well lived :-)


  6. I'm one of those who firmly believes that we are all one...a higher consciousness connects us.

    Like Ginger, many of my best friends are now on-line connections.

    What lines would I want to be remember by...hmmm, my grandchildren would say: "Hmmm, curious."

    I am a naturally curious being, and it makes sense that we all are to an extent, it's what gives us wisdom...right?

  7. Thanks for all the wonderful comments!

    flubberkool (now there's a handle to remember!) - I agree 100% with your latter sentiment. Our value is directly proportional to the joy we've given to others.

  8. Ginger, darlin',

    Just 'cause we're on the Internet, that doesn't mean we're not flesh and blood! Maybe we'll even get to meet some some day (the world gets smaller all the time)!

    As the Beatles said: "And in the end/the love you take/is equal to the love you make."


  9. Garce,

    I'll admit that you were in my thoughts when I was composing this post. For one thing, I get the feeling that you, even more than I, would feel your writing was your legacy.

    Eventually we'll know what death is all about... anyway, I'm in no rush!

  10. AJ - It's never to late to ditch your regrets...

    Hoping you'll start to see your persistence as the success it is...


  11. Hi, Maggie,

    I've come to believe that fame means nothing. It's only the people we touch in a positive way that makes a difference.

    I do also believe that each of us has a purpose in life. There's no such thing as an individual who would have been better off unborn.

  12. Hi, Kay Dee,

    Maybe you should borrow Alice's line:

    "Curiouser and curiouser!"

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  13. Really a beautiful post, Lisabet. I can't add anything that hasn't already been said. Thanks for sharing!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.