After all the extensive barroom discussions about Heli0pTx cards, after all the lively, learned, and drunken debate, the archeologists and engineers still had to make a decision. They had to take action. They needed to decide exactly where to begin digging.
The answer was there, right in front of them. It was there, and it wasn’t there, for the key to the answer was the Priestess of the Perfect Zero card, and it did not exist. The answer had infiltrated all of human understanding, belief and knowledge through the High Arcana of the Void, the Priestess who was everywhere, and nowhere. As below, so above, and there was nothing obvious above and obviously nothing below. It was a message from something that wasn’t there, a vast necropolis hidden in the cards, the dead as an inseparable part of the living.
Life and health are in the cards, but so is death and absence, all entwined.
Absence draws attention to whatever is missing. Death, it is said, is a good career move for any artist. I’m not here anymore. The self has been consumed by the act of creation.
Something is there, then it is gone. And by something, I mean something that could be anything: a lover, a book, a child, a painting, an enemy, a bank balance, a handle on a cup, a battery, a pet, a memory, a name, a narrator, a self. When you want it and it isn’t there, the absence commands all of your attention in a way impossible to avoid. That’s why the ending of a story is the most important part. When the story is over, there nothing left of it.
In the same way, every death brings the life that preceded it into sharp focus—all of the associated emotions, all the good, all the bad, all the sorrows, all the joys, even all the things that didn’t matter suddenly matter, and that instant of sharp focus, that condensation of a lifetime, happens whether the ending was expected or prolonged, or sudden and shocking, whether it was a loved one or an enemy. The absence reveals the person, and that revelation shines through every remnant, every memento, every fragment, every souvenir. That which remains draws attention to everything that’s missing. The same is true of a vanished city, or a civilization, or even this artist, this author.
At the height of my creative experiences, when I’m drawing or painting at my best, when everything is going the right way, I lose all sense of myself. There is only the work; that is all that matters, and I might as well have ceased to exist.
But this letter doesn’t really have a conclusion, just as there is no end to the number of Heli0pTx cards. They go on forever. The letter is like the bits and pieces of Egyptian myth I’ve scattered throughout. They would seem chaotic and fragmentary, even if I were to give you all of the stories, and all the versions, full of contradictions, and without meaning. But the contradictions and the chaos are essential to understanding where I’m going with this. The fragments betray the absent portions.
It isn’t paradox, or PARAd0*, or whatever you want to call it. It is a single, vital important truth. It is very all very simple, in the end. It might seem to be about pyramids and tombs and warring gods, but it is really about eternity, and how to survive it, what to make of what remains when you’ve reached The End.
Very truly yours,