Passage (Was: Re: Best of 2001)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at
Sun Jan 20 17:18:50 EST 2002

>  > >OK, here's the question I want to ask you. Important spoilers coming.
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>>  I guess I think the line: "just because you want something to be true
>>  doesn't mean it isn't" is really important, though that's not much of
>>  an answer.
>Yes. What I like is that "Just because you want something to be true doesn't
>mean it is" and "Just because you want something to be true doesn't mean it
>isn't" are both true statements and balance each other. I *think* she
>mentions both these statements, though I could be wrong. Even if the first
>statement doesn't appear in the book there, it would seem to be implied by
>the second one.

No, you're not wrong about the first one being there.  It's there.

>They seem to me to represent the stereotypical "scientific"
>and "religious" approaches respectively, and again I see Willis trying to
>find a position that eschews both (in their stereotypical forms).

I'm not so sure I agree on this, but I'll address it later on.

>>  >The other thing we were confused by is the fact that Willis has that
>>  >wonderful, poignant, heartbreaking description of Joanna's memories
>>  >disappearing one by one, but the next thing you know, she still has those
>>  >memories! What did you make of that?
>>  That one doesn't bother me, because I see the memories disappearing
>>  as the death of her physical self, her brain.  (And it is incredibly
>>  moving, isn't it?)  But I felt the last page showed her spirit, soul,
>>  call it what you will, now freed from her physical body.
>>  Which I guess goes back to part of your first question in a way.  The
>>  time does seem to move at completely different rates, so Joanna's
>>  death, which probably takes 5 minutes in real time, is spread out and
>>  interspersed among events of a few weeks (more?  I'm fuzzy on that
>>  now) in the living world.
>Yes, that was the source of the confusion I was trying to describe.
>>But *after* all the things which she'd
>>  expected to happen in death have gone, Joanna's consciousness is
>>  shown continuing.  I found the last page amazing, and personally,
>>  loved the way standard Christian symbols became an organic part of
>>  symbols which had become meaningful for Joanna in the book.
>Do you mean "passage" and "message" as symbols? I've probably not realised
>which other symbols might also be standard Christian symbols.

Well, that kind of shows what I was hoping. :)  I didn't mean passage 
or message, there are far more specific symbols.  On the last page, 
when the Yorktown comes steaming towards them, Joanna sees the 
antennas, "shaped like crosses", and says that the ship was raised in 
three days.  What I really liked was the way that a non-Christian 
reading it would find the Yorktown meaningful as a symbol which has 
been developed through the course of the book, while I as a 
Christian, also found the cross and raising in three days added to 
the Yorktown's meaning.  (I don't think at all that it makes this any 
less wonderful, that the sweet old guy telling the stories about the 
Yorktown turned out to have been inventing his part in them.)

I actually have a bit I'd like to raise about this point which is 
on-topic,amazingly, but I'll put in it the Hexwood discussion or 
somewhere else, as probably the majority of listees aren't reading 

>The way I personally would word what I loved about the ending is that Willis
>seems to transcend the limits of both science and conventional religious
>beliefs to say something that shows the presence of real mystery and
>transcendence. That is, you can reject the conventional religious platitudes
>about death and life after death and still have a vision of something
>genuinely transcendent and spiritual.
>But you may disagree with my wording....:-)

No, not that, but I am in a bit of a bind here.  I know exactly what 
you mean, and yet, by most people's understanding of the terms, I 
have those "conventional religious beliefs".  I'm an Anglican, 
regularly attending a Church of Ireland parish.  But, I would 
honestly say that I don't think my Rector would find anything even 
particularly unorthodox in the views described in _Passage_.  By the 
end.  I mean, he actually said exactly  "just because you want to 
believe something..."  - both parts - in a sermon!  (Not saying that 
I think he'd agree with her *portrayal* of everything, necessarily, 
but rather with the  overall belief suggested.)  (I actually don't 
agree with everything either, fwiw.  Still one of my favourite books.)

This isn't coming out at all as clearly as I wish, but I guess the 
bottom line is that in _Passage_, I think CW is writing *against* 
some mind-sets which she sees as prevalent in society (purely my way 
of thinking about this).  And she certainly slams fundamentalist 
religious attitudes through Joanna's sister, and she definitely slams 
the authors like Mandrake of books which dishonestly try to cash in 
on people's fears.   But neither of those has much to do with all 
conventional religious beliefs, at least, not using what I'd consider 
a base for them.  Which is a pretty pointless, I guess, as I can do 
no more than offer you what I've experienced and learned myself.  Oh 

Oh, I've read the article on NDEs btw, but I'll write about that 
off-list, Ros.   After some sleep, when I may be a bit more coherent 
again.  :)


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