“Missing” from Sum

Twitter Brainstormer: Ty Crawford

Composer/Publisher: Henry North

Researcher/Editor: Courey Snelling

In Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, David Eagleman steps out of his neuroscience comfort zone and crafts forty stories on what it will be like once you are dead and reawaken in the afterlife. While this is all just speculation of course, the stories do a good job of exploring the unknown depths of this topic and giving the reader some quality theories to pick apart and analyze. Taking a look at one story in particular, “Missing” gives us an idea that once we depart from this world and head to the next, we will be greeted by not one god, but two entities, one male and the other female. This concept deviates greatly from the common worldly understanding that there is only one god.

Twitter user, lydia_wieman, replied to a post on how “Missing” portrays God as a couple with how it is “strange to think that their narrativizing becomes the human narrative.” While this idea is indeed strange, the concept is one all too familiar to society. The gods were synonymous with a married couple going through a falling out in their relationship; when the couple breaks up or goes through a divorce, they are not the only ones affected. The children, or in the case of the gods, people as a whole, become torn up and distraught when they see their parents are no longer the happy couple they once were. They have to now be without one parent or the other and can’t live in a harmonious familial unit like they used to. Going through an event like that can be life altering in a negative manner for anyone involved, and most times are only fixed when parents come to an agreement and get together again for the sake of the children. In this sense, the creation narrative in “Missing” becomes the representation of human relationships and separation.

Interestingly, while we are being told the story of break ups through the guise of two gods, we are never given a reason for how it started or how it ended; both of these sort of just occurred and the entire event was but a passing moment. While this is just a fictional tale, this is reflective of historian Hayden White’s perspective on narrative in the real world that he expounds upon in “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality” in Critical Inquiry. Near the end of the article, White asks if “does [the world] present itself more in the forms that the annals and chronicle suggest, either as mere sequence without beginning or end or as sequences of beginnings that only terminate and never conclude?” Continuing on the analogy that “Missing” is a representation of divorce and other ways that real life relationships end, we never actually see these events happening until things begin to fall apart. Relationships come together and fall apart all of the time, but we never get a proper introduction to how they start, nor do we see the full ending. We know that these events occurred, and that they continue to occur. There is no concrete story to the concept of relationships; a couple can break up and make up as many times as they want to.  In theory, it is possible that “Missing” as well as the rest of Eagleman’s stories in Sum are all potentially analogous to real life situations. In this case, can you argue that the afterlife is just a carbon copy of the living world? That it is a realm of stories, each one as fleeting and inconclusive as the last?

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