May. 13th, 2001

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It was a strange night, the night that I read The Sandman #75. Not that it was a complete surprise, but when I saw the coffin and the Wake, and I knew for certain that Morpheus (or, at least the manifestation with whom I was familiar) was dead... I started to cry.

And then, there was a power failure in my dorm. The lights went out, my computer died, and people started panicking just a little bit. Me, I cried a bit more. I was in a sort of altered consciousness, and the synchonicity seemed a bit too appropriate.

This comes back to me tonight, because I just read The Dreaming #60, after a many-month absence from my comic reading habits, to find that this was the last issue. The Dreaming was the comic DC Vertigo started to continue the universe of The Sandman, under the care of other writers while Mr. Gaiman moved on to other things. So there's another chapter in the Sandman world closed. Damn it.

I entered into Neil Gaiman's world with reluctance. When I first picked up the Death comics, and then issue #50 of The Sandman (that is, Ramadan), I was in the thick of structuring myself as a fully rational, atheist Objectivist. But Mr. Gaiman helped put an end to all that. He opened up vistas of the unconscious and mythology to me, shattered my self-satisfied rigid notions of my world.

Okay, well, he didn't quite do all that. But let's say that he knocked on my door, I opened it, and he kinda said... "Pardon me, but I believe that there's something out here you should see. Come with me... over here..."

I've spent years chasing down his references, finding his source material in mythology and comparative religions. His notions of Heaven and Hell, God and Lucifer, and the family of Endless, not to mention the host of other manifestations in his pages all drew me into a world of undeniable reality-- nevermind that it all took place in fiction.

Along the way, while exploring the broader context from which he'd drawn, I realized the world could not possibly be as simple or as easily knowable as I'd thought. Before Mr. Gaiman, I really had thought that I had all the answers, or at least, that I was on a path by which all answers could be found. I hate to over-glorify his influence on me, but Gaiman was really the first convincing voice in my ear to tell me that I was living in a world in which it was not possible to have all the answers-- and that it was okay. The other insight that hit me was this: Anyone who does claim to have all the answers has missed something, somewhere, including if that person is yourself or whomever you may have chosen as savior.

Ironically, there is wisdom in doubt.

Is there anyone else out there who knows what I'm talking about? Sometimes, along with that out-of-phase feeling I have, I feel like the only one who has read these comics. And even if I meet someone who has read them, I feel like they actually read a subtly different, less profound, work than I did... Sorry, I hope that didn't sound patronizing or arrogant... but do you know what I mean?

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lmorchard

May 2009

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