Saint Sebastian's Death

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short piece of creative writing inspired by the death of the Christian martyr Saint Sebastian. The religion however isn't Christianity in this piece - I'm not really attacking any religion. It's more or less set in a world with a divine dictatorship.

Submitted: August 10, 2016

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Submitted: August 10, 2016

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Sebastian, according to a divine decree, was required to sacrifice his own life. He died tied to a tree, arrows protruding from his pale skin. I have a picture of it here. An arrow pierces right through his neck, from one side to the other; the blood thinly trickles from the wounds.

It’s the face that unsettles me the most: the delicacy of his gaze, the way it’s directed upwards, as if begging his gods to save him. Of course he isn’t saved. That’s not the idea. Sebastian was a puppet; the gods were the marionettes, and he was forever their martyr. I really don’t think he had a choice. The gods aren’t interested in that.

Although I do wonder about the effectiveness of sacrifice. Sebastian’s death had no real function, as far as I can see. He believed, he had firm conviction in his cause, and so he was ordered to get himself killed. I don’t understand it. And if you look at him in the painting… His figure is markedly romanticised. The glowing purity of his skin, the stark blood and the effete vulnerability. All these features seem calculated to present his death as something beautiful. But what is beautiful about it? Death is the end of beauty, never the beginning. I see meaninglessness, a pillar of absence in the sprawl of life – a testament to the obsession our gods have with death.

Why does no one else see it? They get satisfaction from watching us run towards the void – maybe only because of how absurd it is. ‘These little creatures love death!’, I can imagine they say that. Oh, but then I’m being unrealistic; I’m sure they’ve got particularly adept at self-deception, in order to escape the residual malevolence of what they make us do. Think about it. You’re an omnipotent being, but not an omnibenevolent being. You still discern morality as humanity does. We all have an innate moral law, something we can intuit and learn to understand with great nuance. So what do you do?

The moral law exists. You can’t change that. Your power is within the logically possible. When you get the desire to crush, to kill, to perversely torture, you are acting against the moral law of the universe. At this point, being a divine hedonist still reeks of immorality – you’ll get pleasure, but not without the self-disgust too. But isn’t it obvious? Create your own moral law, make it as arbitrary as you please! You know humankind cannot elude the omnipotence of gods; they’ll eventually assimilate your morality too. Eventually you have a self-contained system operating under your codes. Most curiously, though, is that the mass belief – which you have the power to engineer – gives legitimacy to your warped moral standard. More accurately, the verisimilitude is so fine-tuned, that to question it would seem absurd.

Sebastian was betrayed by his gods. His life became nothing more than an instrument. I often think of the pain he must’ve felt in his final moments… Did he question them, the gods, before he drew his final breath? I tend to imagine he did – I see his face contort in rage, his rebellion visceral and complete. He dies, but unshackles himself in the process, thereby testifying to the human ability to intuit rightness. I don’t deceive myself though. I’m thinking fantastically. The truth is likely otherwise. Ultimately Sebastian suffered greatly – but he didn’t question his gods. Sebastian had acquiesced body and soul. The mind-forged manacles secured him happiness in his final moments. Dying for a great and worthy cause, the promise of eternal bliss – lies that became truth.

Suffering can never be justified.


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