Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Daytripper, Death And The Choices We Make

Having recently acquired an iPad, I realized quickly the value of the device as a means of reading digital comic books, and seeing as I do enjoy them and have been hankering for a way to read them more efficiently (and with enhanced mobility), it turned out to be a lifesaver. I dove right in, picking up necessary reads such as Fables and Neil Gaiman's stellar Sandman. A close friend of mine, Marwan (a multi-talented artist, musician and comedian whom you should follow right now), told me to drop everything I was reading and pick up Daytripper instead.

I listened to him, and I'm very glad I did.

(Note: This might include spoilers for the comic.)

Daytripper Vol. 1

I really had no idea what to expect when I started reading it. The cover seemed imaginative and interesting, and the artwork and writing were stellar, to say the least. The main character, Bras, is introduced as an aspiring writer who's stuck writing obituaries for a newspaper. You learn a bit about him, his close friend, his wife, and his father...

...and then Bras dies.

Okay, so maybe now we're going to look back at his life or something. See how he got there. Right?

Those were my thoughts when I started the second volume, which I consumed dutifully, and again, Bras died. This time at a younger age.

What's going on here, exactly?

You see, Daytripper is a very interesting comic series; Bras's death comes at the end of every issue, at a different age, and by a different method. Each issue is usually concluded by a small obituary, a gentle send-off. But then, if you take a moment to think about it, you realize that you're looking at various snapshots of Bras's life, snapshots that shaped him into the person he became in the end; family visits, traveling around the world with his closest friend, recovering from a break-up, working on his book, his wife giving birth, and so on.

And, as you go through the books, you become infinitely curious; what's going to happen to him this time? So, if he hadn't done X, where would his life be right now? How is he going to die THIS time? They're all very legitimate questions, but in the end, you realize that you're looking at the choices he made through his life, and how each choice lead somewhere different and new, even if that different thing is a new death.

So, is life a game of possibilities? Are we just going through discrete points in time, where a simple action (or inaction) might lead to wildly varying outcomes? It's somewhat terrifying to think about; to see where your life was and where it is now, and to think that it could've been an entirely different thing. You could've become a lawyer! Or a dentist! Or you could've even died young! Maybe you could've married that nice girl across the street whom you never got the nerve to talk to! Or maybe you could've been run down by a car while you crossed that same exact street!

The possibilities are endless and dizzying, to say the least. But, then, you get to the 9th issue, and you come to a realization.

When you read these words, you're then left to ponder what you've been reading so far. Every issue cast a spotlight on a certain part of Bras's life, but it is the death in the end that makes it poignant, like dying right before confessing his love to a girl, or dying after having found the friend he'd been looking for for years. It is the biting edge of loss that makes you look back at what he's done, and wonder, and think.

This is then cemented in the very last chapter, in which - for a change - Bras knows that he's going to die. Bras refuses to seek to prolong his life, since he knows that he's lived a good life, and that he's enjoyed every little bit of it, and he's more than ready to go now. 

It is simple; the realization that sooner or later, life ends. You don't know how or when it will happen, so seek to live in whichever way you find favorable. So that at no point in time would you regret seeing it go. 

A good lesson. Thank you, Daytripper. Thanks, Marwan.

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