Alan Baker

from ‘The Book of Random Access


[It] was considered the end of the summer period, the date on which the herds were returned from pasture. It was also a time when the souls of those who had died were believed to return to visit their homes. It’s a strange feeling when one of your own children reminds you of a brother or sister you’ve fallen out with and haven’t seen for many years. That’s a sort of karma I guess. It’s a way of learning to be a better person, isn’t it? People set bonfires on hilltops for relighting their hearth fires for the winter and to frighten away evil spirits, and they sometimes wore masks and other disguises to avoid being recognized by the ghosts thought to be present. The period was also favourable for divination on matters such as marriage, health, and death. This latter is an interesting phenomenon: the total cessation of life processes that eventually occurs in all living organisms, its precise definition remains controversial. But what about Life? Despite the enormous fund of information that each of the biological specialties has provided us with, it is a remarkable fact that there is no generally accepted definition of life. Are life and death the same? Man tends to define in terms of the familiar. But the fundamental truths may not be familiar. My child reminds me of my brother who lives (?) I don’t know where. We don’t know what life is, we don’t know what death is. Something connects us to those we may never see again.