Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
I kinda shifted to reincarnation belief once I learned about it. It honestly made more sense to me, since as we learned in that dangerous science class energy can neither be created nor destroyed it can only be transferred.
If you imagine life as energy it makes sense. Kill a plant/animal, fuel your own life energy. Everything that exists draws energy from something. And when your vessel can’t keep up with the life energy inside it any longer it dies out (thus ensuring you stay in the cycle) and your energy goes back into play for something else to use.
I know some religions view this cycle as suffering. Maybe they are “body half dead” kinda people, or they have had a series of truly awful incarnations and maybe souls carry that trauma forward.
The idea of soul trauma isn’t new. We have myths of angry spirits/ghosts, and if you just imagine that plugged into a new body it kinda shakes out. However, and this is where my philosophy gets a bit twisted, I also don’t view any soul as a whole absolute.
I believe our souls are amalgams of the experiences of not only past humans but past animals, insects, and plant life too. After all, we absorbed their life force to feed our own - and as they say, you are what you eat. Moreover if you look at the proliferation of humanity and the rate at which we have destroyed life on our planet to make way for our own, honestly where are we getting all these new “human” souls from?
Imagine if you could do a 23 and Me check on your soul makeup. Maybe you are 10% old loyal farmdog, 15% peace loving 60′s hippie, 35% crazy viking warrior, 20% ant souls smashed all together when their hill fell, 12% jaded studio musician, and 5% majestic queen bee whose hive died out as the bees all disappeared due to global warming. All these past experiences contributed to the unique moment in the universe that is now you.
I believe some religions may teach this and I have much still to study on that front. But my own final take is this: try to reduce your soul trauma footprint. Not only for life in general - I mean, we can’t all eat farm-to-table so just do your best - but for ourselves and each other.
Make choices that reduce pain. Think of the future - don’t check out at death’s door because that revolving mechanism will only come back to kick you in the next life. Work for progress/change for everyone, if not out of the kindness of your heart than out of a sense of self preservation. Because next life you could be that homeless person with mental health issues. Or that mother crying over her dark skinned son on the news. Or a gender you really can’t identify as because your soul needs to express itself differently.
And never forget those are just the human lives. There are no guarantees you’ll luck out again in human form. You could end up a fat chicken on a factory farm. Or the dog euthanised at the shelter for being too violent. Or that cockroach killed by pesticide. Or the tree that was planted to replace the old ones, only to grow faster and be felled too.
Live your life as best you can. Because the sum of your experience - the good, the bad, the lessons learned, the battles hard fought, the miracles witnessed, the tragedies suffered, the beauty unearthed, and the breaths inhaled - all add up to this crazy world we live in.
And I will try to maintain a “body half lived” outlook on it all.
The Safe Bet
Humans are so damn obsessed with the afterlife.
And golly, there are so many options to choose from - heaven and hell, of course, with all its variations, then there’s reincarnation, and lastly, but certainly not the least likely: oblivion.
Let’s stop for a minute and entertain the infamous Pascal’s Wager on this particular matter:
If we believe in an afterlife, and it really does exist, and we live our lives with the main purpose of being accepted by that desired posthumous destination, then those efforts can yield infinite gain. If it is not real, but we live our lives like we believe in it anyway, well... we don’t really lose anything (or do we?).
On the other hand, if the afterlife exists and we happen to squander our ticket (by, say, being a thoughtless hedon), then we would have infinite loss. And by that I mean, spending the rest of eternity constantly being whipped by horned demons while simultaneously being on fire definitely sounds like the worst case scenario.
Alternatively, it’s probably not very much fun to reincarnate as an earthworm.
So if you were a betting man (or woman), how would you wager?
It sounds like it makes perfect sense to work for a ticket to the pearly gates just in case. Doesn’t it? Pascal even goes as far as to say: even if you can’t believe, just act like you do. It’s still the safer bet, apparently.
The biggest pitfall of Pascal’s wager of course, is that it assumes there are only two choices. Afterlife or no afterlife. God or no God. It kind of skips the vital question of: but wait, which God? Which afterlife? Depending on which one you decide, the process of acquiring your eternal ticket can be very different. Because what if you buy the wrong ticket?
In ancient Egypt, for example, you better have a really nice tomb.
I’m being facetious. Nobody really has a definitive answer, do they? Or if they do, it’s more likely they just decided to double down on their wager. Like a gambler who went full tilt.
I do find it very interesting, though, that from essentially the beginning of time the vast majority of humans pretty much decided: “yeah, there’s gotta be something after all this, right? It can’t just be nothing... can it?”
It’s almost as if to long for the hereafter is in our genes or something. Though, to be fair, oblivion after death - after life - does sound pretty anticlimactic.
I will do my best to cut to the chase. I can write a million words for this topic but this should be something you might actually read.
Some people have a great fear of death, why? Some people have a great fear of living. It's unpredictable and it's unclear.
Some people do not fear death but, pain, why? Death is one thing but pain is another.
If you believe in a heaven of such a place, why? Because I want to be where God is.
what makes you so sure your view is the correct one?
These questions have no answers. Believing in Heaven is believing in God. Why?
Because If I choose to follow God, and He isn't real, I have lived my life as a lie and felt loved by something that didn't exist, but if choose to decline that love, and Jesus Christ did die on the cross for my sins, then I not only took the death of God's son for granted but lost everything in the process and will forever sit in the guilt of betraying Him. The question is what is the bigger risk. If I choose God and he isn't real, I lost nothing, but If I refuse Him, and he is real, I lose everything.
That's why I choose God. Because I am afraid of death and death isn't your body dying off, it's the guilt of betraying God's love.
That's my answer.
As someone who has contemplated suicide, you'd think that I would have a solid idea of what comes next. Maybe you think I've seen into veil. Maybe you assume that I laugh in the face of death. But none of these are true. I don't know what comes next.
But personally, I think death is the end. I think people have created stories to explain the unknown.
I think most people are just gone. But we are left to deal with their loss. And the way we cope is by imagining that they're in a better place. Or maybe, by imagining that they're in a worse place, as a sort of atonement for the wrongdoings they did to you.
However, I do believe in ghosts. But that seems to contradict the idea of no afterlife. So maybe there is some hellish purgatory: no Heaven, no Hell, just lost souls floating aimlessly, slowly being driven insane by their intangible immortality. But in reality, I think that there's no "correct" idea of what happens after death. Based on my experiences, I do not think there is an afterlife. However, I know there are some people who are firmly convinced that there is an afterlife. And so, when I do die, when I finally bite that poisoned apple, I will be open to whatever comes next, be it Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Elysium, the Fields of Asphodel, or the Fields of Punishment, or Shangri La, or Valhalla.
I think the worlds after death that we come up with are not words of a prophet, but words of a person coping with loss. And, in my opinion, it's a perfectly reasonable way to cope with that loss.
between here and the hereafter.
As a person who’s never been too far removed from death, this question fascinates me. By that I mean I’ve lost many acquaintances, family members, friends. The first part of my life I believed in the hereafter because I was told. Then I had a crisis of faith, I guess you could call it, did some soul searching for the better part of a year, and landed right back at the beginning, choosing to keep my initial beliefs.
I was pretty young when my 17-year-old cousin hanged himself. I vaguely recall a family member of his having their picture taken at his gravesite, and in review a hand was placed to their shoulder. No one could figure out who it belonged to. I’m pretty sure no one had placed a hand to their shoulder at the time the picture was taken. Was it my cousin, allowed back to comfort the bereaved? Was it an angel? This question was never answered, but I believe it was a sign. A sign of something beyond the corporeal realm.
Another cousin of mine died of cancer in his twenties. My uncle mourned him for several years, before himself dying to a medical mistake, when his diabetes medicine damaged his liver. At the funeral one of my aunts told of a call his family had gotten, from D’s (name withheld for privacy) cellphone. D was the son he’d lost all those years before. I assumed his cellphone had surely been deactivated by then. What explanation could there be, then? Some solicitor hijacked the number? What were the odds it would be that exact one? My aunt said the person who’d received the call answered, only to hear dead silence on the other end. They interpreted it thusly: my uncle was with D, and the call was our assurance.
I believe in Heaven. Hell. The latter scares me more than nothingness ever could, at this juncture. I come from a very spiritual family. There have been a couple accounts of family members having dreams and visions of dead family members shortly before their own deaths. It’s come to be a sort of harbinger. Perhaps it’s to ease the fear of the process. I’ve heard someone say: “It’s not the dying; it’s the getting there.”
(Also these are old accounts and my memory isn’t the greatest so take everything I say with a grain of salt, and allow for a margin of error.)
Another topic that sort of ties in:
Do I believe in ghosts? I’ve actually considered posting about this before. My interpretation of ghosts is that they’re actually evil spirits impersonating the dead. I believe the dead move on once the soul and spirit part from the body. “Absent from the body, present with the LORD.” That kind of cements it for me. And think of it like this: I’ve heard of a ghost encounter where a little girl died in this house and close to a century later “she” was tormenting the new family who’d moved in. What motive would a little girl have to do that, unless it was something evil impersonating her? Another reason to dislike the dark side—they deface the memories of innocent people by impersonating them. But again, that’s just my hypothesis.
I could probably go way deeper with this, but I’m gonna’ stop there...
A post with no easy answers..
We've had many challenges here on prose, that ask the question 'what is life like in heaven? '
it is fun to make stories about a world of endless dimensions, where you do everything you want, meet everyone you miss, and come to know everything you wonder about all your life. there are tortilla butterflies that fly around, and they are always the right flavor, and the benches come with a built-in salsa bowl. . you meet Lincoln and Beethoven, and all the people you lost. it is a beautiful thing, this paradise.
then there are the hellish challanges: people that go to hell, and suffer for all of eternity. maybe they are turned into a low-end soft drinks. the fizzy, dark drinks handed out on budget flights.
reincarnation is another; what would you be turned to? another person? an animal?
how about a tapeworm? how about a fungi?
maybe a ghost?
maybe an eternal return? reliving your life again and again , like a Tralfamadorian would.
or perhaps we move on to concepts that don't pop up often in challenges, do we reach over to an unexplainable plain of existance, beyond anything we could understand, uniting with the great entity and yet separate all at the same time? would that be fun to write about?
without the benefit of a high speed DSL, books, algebra, statistical methodology, or any other means of investigation, our ancient ancestors came up with many poignant insights into reality. they used intuition and their imagination to draw up conclusions about the world. it is surprising how many things they hit spot on; the existance of a creator, the moral imperative, the way of moderation, and the very real understanding that there is an intellectual limit to what we could understand about this world.
all these discoveries, this intuitive leaps were made not out of a pressing need, like toolmaking, but from a slow accumulation of life experiances.
when confronted with the question of the 'everafter' , most pre-agricultural cultures were mostly disinterested. life was what it was, and the next step was not very relevant. a person died, and his spirit lingers, watching us. but this was a short-term explanation. can we expect these ghosts to keep at it for all of time to come?
of course that was the point. time had limited scope. measured in seasons and generations. not millenia, and epochs.
with sedantry life, humanity started doing math, and we started struggling with the real scope of eternity. then we started organizing our afterlife to cope with this change; life is a part of an eternal progress. we must not be allowed to fade or metaphysically degrade. this calls for sacrifices, chronicles, mausoleums.
the simplicity of life and death was turned into this traumatic rat-race. even here opinions varied. Judeism for example, is very clear about the absence of a real concious existance after our death. we must wait for judgment day to be stirred up back to life.
christianity and islam, hinduism and budhism, take a much more structured approach. with rings of hell and rings of heaven, a beurocracy to oparate it, rules and regulations.
and here we are, struggling to put into words what we think the world is like past our own deaths as it is a product of our civilization.
death is not easy to accept. every one lives his life and devotes a large part of that life to keep the show going, or to ensure the survival of others. it stands to reason that when we come across a person that stops living, we are filled with dread. what is going to happen to him now? who is going to brush away the flies, and give him shelter?
we solve this question by coming up intuitively with, 'oh yeah, this guy isn't dead. he's just metamorphosed into a different state of being. no worries then, and let's get something to eat'. but mourning has an unrelenting nature, and we need to complicate and exxagarate things, just for ourselves. just so we don't have to let go.
so seeing the progression of thought regarding death, i can't help but feel skeptical. our needs to deal with death change over time,and so our perception changes over time. if this was a unshakeable truth, would it be so changeable?
our conciousness derives from complex interactions of neural networks in the brain. some networks do math, others identify sounds and patterns, others light up emotional reactions (or overreactions), spaceial reasoning, etc.
our 'soul' therefore is a synnergetic aggregate of these networks. when one of these functions become imapred, there would be some noticable difference in behavior or capabilities.
death is the end of all these capabilities, behavior and sensation, as the system just stops working.
i believe that as sad or scary it is to admit, the Innumerable elements , that makes us alive, our memories, ways of behavior, are all limited by time. the massive complexity is so tenuous, so fragile, so fleeting, that they will never be reformed and reconstructructed, simulated or recreated in any way, shape or form.
i would argue also, speaking as a man of some religious belief, that the main component in this world is change. the world is never fully created but under constant change and evolution.
we face many changes in our lives as well. we encounter joy and sorry, triumph and loss. our continued existance under these fantastic changes is brought into being, but also dissolved in time. to deny the end of existance is to deny the change in the world.
what could remain? some idealized person that we were? our consciousness at the very last moment? or maybe it is a different moment, selected for us as if our lives were a saved up video game.
the question now, is how to overcome the fear of death, and not its finality.
here i find myself as stupified as anyone else. death, being the final dissolation of the self is a terrifying prospect.
i could quote comforting cliché, offer to appreciate life, or to live life to the most, but in the end, they are but a superficial treatment to an unease that is too deep.
what is the point of life? i often think that the answer is at once way over my head and too simple to be satisfying. death is even a greater problem, 'cause it has much less of a of a possible positive spin than life.
there are no 'the thing to remember..' that will really make that feel better. unless you already succeeded in looking away from the problem.
but maybe the expectation of success of conforting death is just as wildly fanatical as the implied structure of a beurocratic afterlife.
the importance to life is subjective. it come to us BY us. meaning in death is just as subjective. objectively, our death contributes very little, but as we look at the death of others, we learn the grief and suffer the anguish of loss. the person that died, is not able to appreciate this feeling, but the fact that he caused us to mourn so bitterly gives evidence of this person's very objective importance.
the thing is that like those neural networks, so do people also exist as part of a greater network of interaction, of memories and wisdome. humanity versus humans. our lives receive an added dimension of meaning as part of this meta-organism. the effect we had, to contribution we offered, the destruction we imparted. perhaps in that, our death also can be to some extent mitigated. after we die we shall be forgotten eventually as individuals. even the tombstone will be worn away, like the eroding pyramids, but perhaps, something we did, even if it has little importance originality or a recorded history, will continue on as some faint echo of what we were.
i think that in that , we can find comfort, and a hope that our actions would bear some remembrance down the ages.
A fear of death can be a good thing, a very powerfully thing if utilized, but still, I think of death far more than what is healthy. I am not a religious person, and so I often treat the after as a canvas for fantasy worlds, and maybe that's a sin, to like religion for the story and never quite believe the tales, but I find myself unable to commit, because I don't think humans are capable of knowing a god the way most religions claim to, how could us mere mortals be able to comprehend or even know our creator when we can't even fully comprehend ourselves. If a god were to exist, then I don't think we will ever really know.
As to what I do believe the after is, well I know of this only as much as I know of life before my birth, nothing. I can only imagine that it would be nothing, I could fool myself into believing in an afterlife. But would that belief ever be geniune? I can never be certain, but right now, my belief is that the after is the same nothing as before birth, a belief that is no more solid than it's alternatives, but it's the only one that makes sense to me.
However, just because it makes the most sense to me, don't mean I like it. I would rejoyce if you came to me, a folder of solid evidence in your hands and told me 'Look, an afterlife does exist, or even reincarnation'. I cannot fully speak for why others may fear death, but for me, I fear death because I don't like the idea of nothing, yes, I won't feel or know anything. Nothing means nothing... But, I want to continue existing, I know it's irrational, I won't want for anything once I am nothing.
Still, I want to feel emotions, I want to feel the world around me and I want that for others as well. I don't like goodbyes, even saying it to a long time acquaintance is uncomfortable, so how could I ever begin to say it to myself.
To become nothing in death, would be to say goodbye to yourself.
Eternally Bound to Earth
My father died when I was fourteen. He was sick for most of my childhood and somehow I had always known he would die young. He didn’t tell me bedtime stories about princesses or evil wizards. Instead, I would ask him about his childhood with the intention that I would one day tell his stories to others. I never liked to speak of death, especially not to him, but the topic did come up one night. We spoke of life after death. He had said that he would like to believe in a heaven, as most do, but also questioned the idea of death being eternal resting.
The idea of nothing is impossible. While asleep, one dreams or simply wakes up the next morning as if no time had passed at all. If there were no next morning, there would be no time, no presence. Heaven, however, is a beautiful word as well as a beautiful idea. The idea of one day seeing all of your loved ones again having their spirit beside you is comforting. I sometimes speak to my father as if he is there, watching over my mother, sister and I. I wonder if he is.
I am not a religious person. I am neither an atheist or a theist. I am agnostic as I am simply unsure. The same idea of uncertainty goes for my belief on the afterlife. I believe life is a special and unique experience. Maybe life doesn’t leave Earth and one’s soul will find a new body, a new mind and a new heart to experience life again with. The idea of reincarnation brings comfort to me as it would mean my father lives on and he will one day experience all that he couldn’t when his life was cut short. It would mean there is a chance for everyone to find beauty in life.
I choose to believe in reincarnation. I choose to believe that there is a future after death and that souls are eternal.
Until I was 29 years old, I didn't put a whole lot of thought into whether the afterlife existed or not. When my grandparents passed away, I assumed they were in heaven, safe and happy, but that was the extent of my thoughts. I focused more on how much I missed them and the time we had together when they were here. It wasn't until one of my best friends passed away suddenly at 27. I don't think I'll ever forget the day and how surreal it seemed. My whole world shattered and fell apart that day and I've been trying to pick up the pieces ever since. Of course, it was terribly sad when my grandparents passed away, but being in their late 80's, it was somewhat expected. A friend passing away suddenly before they turned 30 is a whole different story. His name was Ben. He was the smartest, jolliest, funniest, wittiest, friendliest person I had ever met. He was brilliant in math and helped me through Calculus in college. He was musically inclined; he knew how to play several percussion instruments and sing! He had the best sense of humor and made everyone laugh because his jokes were intellectual and extremely creative. He lit up every room he walked into and was so well loved. When Ben passed away, the world grew darker because he was such a brilliant, shining light. Trying to grapple with his loss has been emotionally intense. It was hard for me to accept that he was gone. I couldn't understand how someone could be here one minute and gone the next. The only way I began to cope with his death was to believe that I would see him again. I couldn't understand how one could become bonded to someone through their souls only for it to disappear. Why would we be able to experience such a deep connection if it dies here with us? Why do I still feel extremely connected to Ben even though he has passed away? It's because of love. Love is transcendant. Because of this, I began to truly believe that there must be something after our lives here on Earth. There is no way that someone as brilliantly bright as him just disappears. He must still be somewhere; whether his energy was dispersed back into the universe or there is a place called Heaven, I'm not sure, but I believe he is not truly gone. There is nothing that can break the soul-bond of love that we had. My heart must believe that we will see each other again because otherwise, what would be the point of love? What would be the point of that bond in the first place? I'm a big believer in science and it will always explain the how, but it can never explain the why. That's because love is something that is too magical and ethereal for us to comprehend and I believe it is what carries with us to whatever lies await after this material world.
When we consider the possibility of life after death, we are usually drawn to religious teachings. But is eternal life, or continued existence, purely a domain for religion?
Sure, it seems religion holds the most vocal advocates of an afterlife. There isn’t a belief system that I know of that doesn’t offer the promise of some kind of existence beyond this earthly plane. Admittedly, my musings are based only of nearly five decades of being on the planet – I haven’t conducted any in-depth research into the matter.
But why should only the devout be allowed the privilege to believe (hope?) in a continuing experience after this mortal coil has been shuffled off?
Please bear with me as I get scientific. In physics, we learn that energy can be neither destroyed nor created, it can only be transferred into another form of energy. Hold a ball out at arm’s length. The ball, unmoving, is filled with potential energy. Release the ball and watch if drop. As the ball falls, some of the potential energy is turning into kinetic energy. When the ball hits the floor, small amounts of heat and sound are released. (It’s been years since I was in the classroom so I can only guess these are thermal and sonic energies. I’m sure you can check Google to correct me.) Now the ball, once again motionless, contains only potential energy, though a lesser amount than at the beginning of this experiment. (And who said science couldn’t be fun?)
I’ll spare you maths (or math, if you’re reading this outside the UK) involved because a) I don’t want to bore you too much, b) I can’t remember off the top of my head and c) it’s not required for the remainder of my rambling.
So if something as mundane as a ball, or a pencil, or the anvil over Wile Coyote’s head, has the ability to change its energy, what about us? Yes, our bodies will undergo the same energy transformations if we were to be dropped from arm’s length, but what about our souls or our minds? (Note: for this argument, I am using ‘mind’ to describe the intangible space in which our conscious thoughts play out, not the grey pulp that rests within our skulls.)
Surely our souls or our ethereal minds have some form of energy which current science has not yet been able to identify and label. They are part of what makes us unique. At the point that our earthly bodies give up the ghost (terrible pun, I know, but I couldn’t help myself) and our souls/minds are no longer tethered to our physical beings, what happens to the energy they are comprised of?
I posit that this spiritual energy is transferred into some other form of energy, thus suggesting the possibility of life, of some sort, after death. While this thought subscribes to no specific religion, it nonetheless provides me with comfort.
The scariest thing I have ever heard was this simple counter argument to my above rationale.
I discussed it with an atheist work colleague and she said, ‘At death our bodies’ energy convert into chemical energy.’ In essence, we become worm food.
I could not deny the scientific basis of her comment and I was shook to the core for days. Had my years of believing in an afterlife been foolish and in vain? After all, I cannot prove I have a soul or a mind. Am I destined, once the final breath leaves my body, to just cease existing?
On the one hand, that is nothing to worry about because when it happens I will not have the ability to care, or even be aware, that I no longer exist. On the other hand, it makes for long, hard days before that time. What is the point of my existence? What use am I? Why should I even get out of bed on a morning?
So I decided that I choose to believe in my soul and my mind. Yes, my body will nourish the earth when I am gone, but my thoughts and my love will move on to another realm. I opted for this train of thought even though I have no evidence to back up this argument – which is when I truly understood what faith is.