We are not big TV watchers in this house. The drawback to this, is that it’s very difficult to find out about cool shows that we would enjoy. Our usual pattern is to discover a show after it’s been canceled. Sometimes years after. Firefly was one of those.
Sometimes we’ll discover a show when it’s on its last legs, just before the network cancels it. That’s the case with Eureka. I first heard about it about a year ago or so, when I started reading Will Wheaton’s blog. He was writing about filming the last few episodes.
THAT’S when we started watching it. Thank goodness for Netflix.
Of course, we’re almost caught up now. I say “almost” because when you don’t watch TV on a regular basis, it’s hard to keep track of the schedules. Networks jerk us around a lot more than they used to, scheduling a few shows in a row, then skipping a month or six, then running a few more shows… we lose track very easily.
So we didn’t know that the fifth season of Eureka had started again. We just ran across it, realized there were about five shows we’d missed, so this time, we thanked the gods of DVR, and sat down to watch a show or two.
We just watched the episode where Fargo meets with Holly in the computer. **SPOILER** If you don’t want to know, I plan on talking about it.
This storyline brought up a fascinating discussion in our house, about long-distance relationships, virtual vs. reality, and death.
Bear with me.
The first thing I was wondering about, was would Fargo try to keep meeting Holly in the computer? It would be similar to a long-distance relationship. I mean, if Holly lived in Paris, and Fargo lived in Eureka, they would only meet under special conditions and much planning. No different from Fargo putting a chip in his ear and climbing into the virtual reality pod, or whatever that thing is.
Except that generally, in a long-distance relationship, the couple expects the separation to be temporary. Sooner or later, they’ll both be living in the same place, and they can look forward to a more normal life. But if Holly is dead, and can only live in the computer, there’s no future for them where they can be together.
It would work for a while. I figured someone could create another virtual world for Holly to live in. It would be populated with people and all the usual activity of life, so that when Fargo is not there, she has her own life to live, with a job and friends and everything.
That would be doable, right? As long as no one in the real world pulls the plug.
See, this storyline made me cry. I felt so darn bad for them, I was determined to fix things. Rick was quite obliging, willing to explore all the ramifications as we talked about it over our before-dinner martinis.
He wasn’t sure it was necessary to build a virtual world for Holly. He thought it wasn’t clear if she experienced the passage of time like we do in the real world. To me, it seemed that she was aware of time passing, and that she was “hanging around” all of the time. Like when Fargo returned and she was making daisy chains. So in my mind, Holly was alive and aware all of the time. She needed a life to live, and other people to live it with. I mean, daisy chains are fun once in a while, but you don’t want to make them for twelve hours a day.
This brought us, somehow, to wondering how it was that Holly’s mind continued to live in the virtual world. Aside from the stroke of a scriptwriter’s pen, that is. Inevitably (for us), this brought us to what happens to the mind as it is dying.
Hence, to Connie Willis’ book, Passages.
If you haven’t read Passages, go do it now. You can come back to this post when you’re done. Passages is arguably one of the best books ever written. In that book, **SPOILER ALERT*** the main character is shot. In the real world, she apparently dies fairly quickly. It is the experience of her mind that is fascinating.
It takes her mind an eternity to die. I liken it to falling into the event horizon of a wormhole, where a single unit of time stretches forever. Now, it’s been years since I read the book, so I may get some details wrong. I think her mind remembers being shot. She’s a medical doctor, so her mind probably understands that she is dying. But there’s no hurry. For part of this eternity, she is on the Titanic (go figure), but there are not any other people around. Somehow, she ends up in a lifeboat with a little girl, and they are just drifting.
It never really ends. Even though in the rest of the book, real life continues for the other characters, our doctor’s mind is still drifting. Oh, she’s dead all right. Buried, cremated, whatever. She’s gone. But the mind…
Do our minds continue on in some in-between state after death? Or is just that the moments before death seem to last forever to us?
Do we try to compensate, by building a world that makes sense to the dying mind? Connie Willis’ character used the Titanic, a common theme for death. In Eureka, Holly continues to live in the virtual world, wondering where everyone went.
This is a very freaky thought. It might be the basis for eternal life, that our minds live forever in the second before death. Are we suffering death pains during that eternity? Is that where the idea of hell comes from – all those poor people burned alive at the stake or whatever other pain that accompanies their death is built into a virtual and eternal world created by the mind.
I don’t like that idea at all, especially for innocent children and other good people who die violently. They don’t deserve to suffer for an eternity. Perhaps the innocent and good mind is able to build a painless world, like the doctor in Passages. That could be where we get the idea of heaven.
This all gives me lots to think about. I love the idea of living forever, but not in the religious harp or fire type of thing. I’ve always been a Highlander fan. The “there can be only one” part never did anything for me (I’m not real competitive), but the idea of living young and healthy for centuries has a lot of appeal.
This “last moment of death” scenario might be a way for it to happen. Sure, it’s all in the mind. It’s really less than a second, just a neuron flash. But it’s all perspective. If to me, that neuron flash seems to last forever, and I can live all kinds of lives and see all kinds of wonders – what do I care that in reality, it’s over immediately?
Hey, what if we can fly? It’s my eternity and I’ll fly if I want to. I’ll be able to survive in vacuum, so I can travel to other stars and planets. I can attend school and earn as many degrees as I want. Try my hand at thousands of jobs. Do kick-ass martial arts or dance ballet. Be with with all my favorite people.
Of course, I’m assuming we can control the world our mind creates in its last seconds. If it’s anything like dreaming, there’s not much chance of that. So it could end up being weird or painful, or terrifying. What about the insane mind? Can it build a comfortable world as it dies? What about babies? Do they spend an eternity floating in the bliss of being held and nursed? The infant mind never had time to learn anything else, what can it create?
So strange, but so many possibilities. And all because I wanted Holly and Fargo to make a go of it.