The Fear of Finality, Part 1

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Two nights ago, and 584 days after its initial airing, I finally finished the series finale of Dexter. I take media more seriously than most, so series finales always hit me a little hard, because I’m trying to process the endings written for all the characters, whether I like where they ended up and regardless, I’m just trying to process the fact that I won’t be with them anymore, nor them with me. It can be difficult to let go of characters you’ve spent so much time with.

It’s even harder for authors. J.K. Rowling has been very open about the challenges of letting her characters go, killing them off, or just writing that last page. Vince Gilligan was actually offered 75 million dollars by Jeffrey Katzenberg for just three more episodes of the habit-forming Breaking Bad. And when I saw the ending of Dexter, regardless of what I felt about the way it ended, there was a small hole inside of me, something that said, “Stay.”

The Fear of Finality

When I’m reading a really good book at breakneck speed because the pace is gorgeous, the language lush, and the conclusion sure to be satisfying, I do the dishes. I read slower or I go and make some popcorn instead, anything to keep me stalling and a little further away from that final page. Because I know what happens next. I know that no matter how beautiful or eloquent, tragic, justified, or well-timed the ending is, the net result is the same.

I submit that one of the most powerful human emotions is the fear of being alone. This is the fear that’s activated at the end of every good TV series. It’s the idea that these characters – with whom you’ve spent so much time, whose foibles you’ve seen and judged, whose flaws you identify with, whose quirks you’ve fallen for – will now be gone. These feelings and lives and personalities that you’ve come to intimately understand mean nothing, because, after all, none of it was even real to begin with. It always starts with “This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to…etc” But you believe it anyway, and the closer you come to the ending it the closer you come to having to relinquish this fantasy.

Christianity: The Never-Ending Story

One of the biggest lines with Christianity is comfort. People will say that even if it’s not true, it gives people comfort, and that makes it ok. It’s nice to think of Grandma being up in heaven relaxing rather than being a maggot meal. And perhaps it is. Perhaps it’s more pleasant to think of a world where we never die, where our loved ones aren’t lost, where we aren’t left here – alone.

But like most things that you want and then think twice about, you don’t actually want this one. Because once you’re done weeping over the character deaths and the plots and you visit the five stages of grief to get you through the ending of Breaking Bad, you reach acceptance. You reach the beautiful (and mostly temporary) feeling of serenity when you realize that this is all there is, that it’s over, and that you’re ok with that, and you survived. And once you quell the enveloping fear of being alone after your friends, real or fictional, have begun, one by one, to make their exits, you can have peace in the finality while you’re still alive.

I did want Dexter to stay. But I’ll be forever glad he didn’t.

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One thought on “The Fear of Finality, Part 1”

  1. Ah man, good reading your posts!

    I feel you in regard to the books. Closing the cover over the last page is a crazy sensation. The epitome of bittersweetness. And you do gain a huge sense of peace.

    In fact, one thing I’ve disliked about a lot of the projects I’ve been involved in over the years is lack of a strong finish. So many things have felt left undone. That’s the great thing about being let into someone else’s already-finished project, like a book.

    In regard to Christianity, I agree that the story offers comfort.

    It does, also, offer endings to pretty much everything except life itself (for some). Especially in Adventism, apocalyptic is huge. When you look at a societal level, it in fact offers a closer end than most unbelievers probably imagine.
    And also within Adventism (of course you know this) there’s no grandma waiting up in heaven.

    But I’ll concede that it does keep the story, on a personal level, for believers, going a lot longer than the story would appear for someone that doesn’t believe. And it does bring some characters from the past back into the story eventually.

    Whether or not that’s a bad thing could be debatable. From your last full paragraph, it seems your highest value in this conversation is inner peace (temporary though it may be) in the face of death, acceptance of life’s fragility and your own mortality, in fact, acceptance of reality as you see it. If that’s an accurate understanding, then the thing wrong with Christianity is that, according to you, it’s inaccurate in regard to reality. If the main tenets of Christianity are accurate views of reality, though, coming to the sort of revelation you’ve come to in regard to mortality might not raise credible claims against Christian faith. If that makes sense.

    Man! I wasn’t planning to write much. I’m late for dinner.

    Peace!

    Like

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