August 7, 1999 [The Sixth Sense]
We went to the movies for Pete’s birthday: The Sixth Sense, which imagines a hold on life so strong that it kills death. The little boy knows, long before the tenacious doctor, that to see dead people is to see the living more clearly. My only worry about Heaven (not including whether it’s there at all, the end of a branch I won’t notice is long gone before I fall, a cartoon pursuit leading to open air) is that Hell is not the only place described as “other people.” Will I be able to stand half the numbskulls I meet there in the Communion of Souls--or face the ones I’ve wronged, the ones whose memories even now I smudge and smear with resentments that go and come, and come again whether I ask or not? And I aren’t I one of those numbskulls as well? Who will bear me, or bear me up? Lisa says all I’ll see is the Face of God--but I’m still not sure of the look on His face as He gives one Thought to everything that I am right now, and everything I’ve been and will be until I find out the truth.
The little boy in the movie is like that--and the dead are lucky to have him, as petrified as he is--and doesn’t it roll off the screen in waves, the dread of those needy ghosts wanting everything to work out? The boy learns to look at them with pity--and again, what more could we want, today and After? And when Bruce Willis sees himself clearly at the end, isn’t he afraid too, doesn’t he see dead people? And shouldn’t we all look up there ahead, the traffic piling because somebody’s up and died, left in this wide world to weep and to mourn along with us? We are all survivors, the movie tells me, and survivors feel guilt--and that guilt can be a knife that wounds or cuts the knot, sending all of us to our knees, and some to rise up again.