Death wish

I want to go to Krakatoa,” said the sibling the other day. “You just want another excuse to go to Java Banana.”

Sibling doing her thing at the edge of Bromo, what remains of the still-active volcano (the top has blown off completely) within the larger Tengger caldera.

This is not entirely true. I have a mind to go to Krakatoa also, and, besides, there isn’t much point setting foot in the same place twice without firm purpose no matter how impressive the landscape or hotel facilities.

That said, we reached the Tengger caldera and the Sea of Sand (more like the Desolation of Smaug) after about a week running helter-skelter through the Java interior by rail, road, becak, foot, taxi, horse, getting on the wrong overnight train to Surabaya and somehow managing to stay on it, etc. And unlike the flat sprawl of urban Jakarta or the sunburnt northern coast near Cirebon, the south of the island is wet, green, and can be freezing cold especially when you haven’t yet learnt how to operate the hot-water machine.

The Indian Ocean, from Pantai Karang Bolong.

One evening we found ourselves on  an empty and very alien beach looking out to the Indian Ocean. These are places of a power more ancient than the coming of the major religions to the island, than imperialism and democracy, than physics and the laws of nature as we now understand them.

That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.

It is entirely up to you whether you want to see it as the domain of the Old Ones or as a remnant that somehow escaped the rationalisation of the Lebenswelt, or whatever suits your fancy. I should certainly employ my time more constructively by working for one of the Agencies or the ICRC, but that is not the point and it strikes me as foolish, self-serving and delusional to dress up my foolish self-serving delusions as anything other than what they are: all I know is that I am periodically seized by a fey attitude and will be compelled to go and stand at the edge for no damned reason.

Some years ago I flew down to Singapore for the afternoon to talk to Ian Rankin, the Scottish crime writer, who was on a tour to promote his latest book. We sat by the pool of the Goodwood Hotel and talked about evil (we also talked about Iain Banks’ then-current research into distilleries, but that is a story for another time). Rankin believed that there was no capital-E Evil so much as each of us possessed the potential for the small-e type—indeed we each often had the desire for it and it is only through our failure to act that we have so far preserved the Order.

And then last night I tried to persuade a good Catholic of the existence, omnipotence and all-encompassing amorality of the Demiurge whose claim to Singularity was disputed by his own mother: “Thou art mistaken, Samael”. This is an old story that few people remember and I have no idea why I brought it up and argued it so vehemently the way the liberals in my country rely on arguments for racial superiority when trying to promote equitable access. “The Magisterium has been peddling lies,” I remember saying, though I can’t quite remember precisely why or how this fit with my views.

“It is like the old days in Florence all over again,” I told the sibling. “That fellow Savonarola. There will always be crazy people in every generation.” They might be good or evil, but invariably they will set things on fire and be killed.

None of this makes much sense to me any more, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference to anything.

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