Benjamin Franklin once wrote that “[…] in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Considering the taxes I’ve paid since making my transition into the adult world, quite a number of years ago, I can attest that taxes are not something one can avoid. At least not legally, but that’s another post for another day. The focus of today’s post is death. Most people are leery of death and the concepts behind it. One of the things that allows us as people to make our way through life and work towards goals and find some semblance of happiness is the fact that we seem to be programmed to live without constantly being aware that there’s a finish line and there’s nothing to do to avoid it.
If one were to wake up every morning acknowledging that they’re going to die, can you imagine the kind of chaos that would ensure in the world? People would stop trying. Goals and achievements would come to a screeching halt, crime rates would increase dramatically and the ones who don’t necessarily covet their existence quite as dearly as others would take foolish chances and perhaps bring upon their end sooner than would have otherwise taken place. Problematically, there are some who DO live this way. The results are never good, per se, and there is always the question of what happens after we die. The big problem is that we are programmed to survive, often whether we want to or not. And as I once read in a book by one of my favourite authors, survival is a motherfucker!
We are also biologically programmed to ignore death, preserve ourselves and push forward, which is why for most people, their first thought in the morning isn’t “wow, I’m going to die someday.” The concept of death frightens most people, whether because of their inherent, biological will to survive or because of the unknown. For many, knowing what happens to our existence after death could potentially bring peace. Especially if it could ever be proven that there is some level of existence beyond this mortal flesh. on the flip side, much of what I described in the previous paragraph would come to pass on a high and more extreme level, if humanity ever managed to confirm life after death.
It’s a topic rife with contradictions, since most people avoid the topic and become uncomfortable talking about it. But it’s ever-present nonetheless and I recently had the opportunity to deal with a matter that brought some of these thoughts and concept to the forefront of my mind. When I was young, despite having Type-1 Diabetes, the concept of death was always a bit of a mystery to me. It wasn’t until my own doctors suggested that I would die in a short number of years due to my condition that I awoke to the question of what happens beyond the grave. Given that I was raised by a devout French-Catholic mother, there were plenty of religious concepts thrown into the mix, which were nothing more than extremely confusing for a young child.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later, when my brother passed away from all his illnesses, that it really brought it home for me. It was my first time genuinely dealing with the concept of death and seeing it in its horrible reality. In some ways, many ways, I was fortunate as my brother spent the majority of his life suffering and death brought an end to that. It was one of the driving factors that motivated me to take my life and health into my own hands and ensure I would continue on and live a full life. Three and a half decades later, I’m still alive and very-much kicking, karate pun FULLY intended.
My recent experiences have once again raised the question of what takes place after death and ultimately, does any of it matter? As a people, different cultures have different beliefs and customs behind what happens to our remains after we die. Generally-speaking and only from my own experience, folks here in the western world generally bury or cremate their dead, include religious ceremonies of whatever faith they follow and believe. The ceremonies are given almost as much status and importance as the death itself but the painful reality is that such ceremonies are usually only of import to those who remain; the dead don’t care about such things.
I once read an article written about the concept of life after death where the writer stated that at this point, given the number of people who have claimed to have experienced something beyond consciousness, near-death experiences and such, we should start to consider WHAT happens after death as opposed to IF something happens, since it appears evident that is some activity that takes place. Modern medicine and science have provided plenty of information about everything the brain does to try and keep the body going when it knows it’s dying, which causes the whole “bright light ahead” thing, as well as other aspects that people have attributed to dying. People have reported being “outside” of their bodies, watching as doctors work and were able to hear everything. Since science has somehow confirmed that our sense of hearing is one of the last to cancel out after death, perhaps that could be easily explained, as well.
It’s a fascinating topic, if one doesn’t mind the morbidity of it all. And I don’t pretend to know what happens after death but I will admit that like most, I’ve often been curious. I often turn back to what I once told my dearly-departed aunt, when I visited her for one of the last times as she was dying of cancer. I explained that no matter how one viewed life, there was the possibility of something beyond death. If your life was rooted in religion and your faith was grounded, your beliefs would explain everything you needed. You could find comfort in those concepts. If you have no religion or happen to be an atheist, one still needs to acknowledge the scientific aspect, which is that our bodies are proven to be driven by a measurable form of energy. This energy is seen in the current that controls our heart, maintains our brain activity and I think, contributes to making us who we are as a person. And as we all would have been taught through basic high school science classes (at least the ones we didn’t sleep through), energy never ceases to exist nor can it be destroyed; only moved or transformed.
So not matter what manner of life you live, one could argue that there is an explanation of the afterlife, whether your life is rooted in the theological or the scientific. The question simply remains of what, exactly, will that look like. The bad news is that no one knows for sure. The good news is that since there’s no avoiding it, we will all, eventually, have our answer. The takeaway here is to continue to live one’s life to the fullest and recognize that although sad and includes a deep sense of loss when someone we love passes on, it is part of the natural cycle of life that all living things must observe. Birth, life and eventually death is a something we all will experience. But there’s nothing saying that death deserves our time or attention until our time comes, of which we are usually blissfully unaware. Morbid food for thought on a Sunday morning… ☯️