The third moment which shaped Before the Cult was pretty serious. I feel like shit today, but I won’t let it stop me. I think this moment is the most important and defining of the others. Warning, this post might ruin the intended experience of the book if you haven’t read it, it is not filled with spoilers (I’m not going tell you exactly what happens) Well, here we go.
The year was 2013, this was after the mental health hospital ordeal. So I came out with a less morbid and suicidal self than before. Things where great until July came, which is winter here in South Africa. I have always loved winter, it was very cold and I loved the cold. Then I suddenly fell ill, very ill. I don’t want to get into the details here. I was close to death, I knew I was going to die with striking certainty, I can’t really put it into words. This is when I had that near death experience that I mentioned in my interview. This experience itself is not that important. The point is that I almost died.
I went on to be sick until the end of the year, I naturally thought I didn’t have much time because although a lot of tests were ran the doctors couldn’t exactly pin point what was wrong with me until later towards 2014. During this time I was confronted by my mortality. I had never contemplated the meaning of life, what makes life valuable, what means it means to exist or the nature death that long and hard in my life. During that time I was also working on Before the Cult, I wanted to finish it before I died.
Although it wasn’t intentional writing and rewriting the book in that frame of mind influenced the end product to greater degree than anything that had come before. Before the Cult is filled with thoughts on death, the afterlife and the nature existence. I was very pessimistic during that time and that is the strongest reason I can give to why the book ended the way it did. The conclusion, of the novel, is very counter-intuitive but it is what the character Sandy, being a delusional depressive, would have deduced from his experiences. He came to the conclusion that we are nothing but matter, we are things trying to pass on as something other than what it is fundamentally. Life is a rejection of our most basic nature, a state of temporary denial from what we truly are, nothing. That is what we are. We are pure nothing trying to mean or be something. Death, the destruction of life, reduces us to our basic form and nature. There isn’t an afterlife, you just turn into atoms that will be recycled by nature into something else. That is what you are, without any more value above that. Your consciousness and self-awareness a temporary spasm or a blink of lightning in the vast universe.
If this sounds morbid and disturbing to you remember that was the whole point of the story, to provide you with that glimpse into a messed up mind like Sandy’s. Although some might feel this portrayal of depression is exaggerated I would like to remind you we experience the illness differently. I would say it is unique, not exaggerated, because there is a lot that I can surely understand and identify with in Sandy, and there is a lot that is common with other depressives in there. My aim wasn’t to tell you that life is meaningless, personally I don’t think it is, it is just that all of that time I spent thinking about death I realized in the end we are all hopeless against it. That is perhaps why I permitted the ending we had. To someone in a situation like Sandy’s that is reality. It also makes understanding being suicidal a little better : life = pain, death = non-existence, non-existence = no life. Therefore, the solution to life = pain is death, anything else is illogical. What about death being painful? As long as you feel pain, you aren’t dead yet. Dying is painful (perhaps), but death isn’t anything.
Maybe some of you readers are going, “Isn’t that what Sandy thought from the begging of the book?”
Here is your answer.
Sandy thought this at the beginning:
Life = pain, death = mode of transport to an afterlife of sorts (the crop/fields).
In this way there is still in element of hope, however twisted, for a better mode of existence. He is not entirely hopeless, although being suicidal might send that message.
Here is what Sandy thinks at the end:
Life = pain , he then realizes that the afterlife = life(therefore pain). Those are the same thefore death is not a mode of transportation but the end. The only escape becomes annihilation. So death = non-existence.
This change in thought also illustrates a complete loss of hope.
In the upcoming posts you can expect a more in depth and elaborate discussion about these points I just made. Those were the three moments that influenced how Before the Cult would turn out. In the next post I will be discussing the naming of the main characters, I might also shed some light on why the main character has the same name as I do (believe me it is not what you think).
Enjoy your weekend!