TURN OF PHRASE: A SKEPTIC’S THOUGHTS ON DEATH

If you’ve already made your mind up about what happens after you die, then this article is not for you.

But….

If you’re like me and still exploring all the metaphysical options out there, then just maybe we can have a little discussion.

Being a forever-student I’m always reading -absorbing various philosophies on what makes us ‘us’.  Admittedly, it is my skeptical lean that allows me to throw out the hoodoo voodoo theories that just don’t quite resonate. Believe me, there’s a lot of rainbow unicorn ancient aliens junk out there that doesn’t make the cut. I’d like to think I’m able to explore the unknown without donning a tinfoil hat. Not yet, anyway.

A while back, I was reading through Gordon White’s Pieces of Eight: Chaos Magic Essays and Enchantments. Rarely do I come across an individual that puts thoughts down on paper that I feel have rolled right out of my own brain. White is one of those authors. Mind you, he does it far more clearly and beautifully than I ever could.

 A theme throughout White’s Pieces of Eight that resonated with me was the idea that modern science has become a religion in itself, ripe with ‘magical’ tones.  Recent developments in such fields as physics, engineering, cosmology, etc. havebe come more abstract in nature. This leaves scientists ‘preaching’ the new tune of ‘we can’t actually prove our hypothesis, so you’re just going to have to believe us.’

These are exciting times. Many concepts once thought of as science fiction or magical are being proven in the research lab.

Magic is just science that hasn’t been figured out yet.

In White’s universe, there is room for all things fantastical and mysterious to exist in what we call reality.

I can buy most of that.
Faeries and dragons aside, perhaps we can apply some of this theory to the final question. What happens to us after we die?

Let’s dig in.

Here comes the neat little illustration I’ve created to explain my acceptance that death is somewhat more ‘elastic’ than once thought.

It starts with a simple phrase – any phrase.

Just think of something – anything – and say it out loud.

I’ll wait.

To simplify things, I’ve broken down the spoken word into three easy components.

  1. The abstract thought or concept (the soul).
  2. The actual physical act of creating a phrase (the body).
  3. The reception of said words to a second party (the legacy).

We can argue all night about just how a thought comes to be. Again, I’ll ‘dumb it down’ because that’s the only way I can understand it. Let’s just say something in the subconscious triggers a cloud of invisible thought. In this illustration we’ll say ‘I love you.’

Next, we have the actual physical process of creating the phrase ‘I love you.’ This includes the electricity of the firing neurons, the air pushed out from the lungs, and the work done by the voice box to manipulate the sound.

Finally, we have the second party’s reception to the words ‘I love you.’ This relies solely on one person’s relationship to the other. Is the other person your spouse or partner? Are they your parent? Child? Perhaps they are an old flame that burned out decades ago. Maybe you’re just yelling at random strangers on the street. The effect will differ greatly in each scenario.

Hopefully, I’ve clearly illustrated how one phrase ‘I love you’ is made up of several different parts – soul, body, and legacy. So, is it safe to say that one single entity can exist in several different forms? Much like water can be frozen solid, a running liquid, or evaporated into the air – are we any different?

Bend your brain just a little bit and think of the universe and all that resides within it under the same light. It can be grasped as merely a collection of energies in all sorts of fun shapes and sizes – forms, if you will.

Apply the example of ‘I love you’ to your own body. It is true that one day the body will die. As far as I know there’s no way around that. But what about the soul? The legacy?

Of course, I’m using the term ‘soul’ only because it tends to be easily absorbed by western culture. The Wah – The Mojo – The Spirit – The ooey gooey star-Nutella that gives us meaning – call it whatever you want. It’s the thing that Christians try so hard to save and the philosopher tries so hard to understand. It’s the electricity to the meat. Sure, we could argue that it’s nothing more than the after-effect of a billion chemical reactions. But that wouldn’t be any fun, now would it.

That brings us back to the million-dollar question:

What happens to us after we die?

I have no clue.

Nobody knows for sure, and if somebody claims to have the answer then they’re probably trying to sell you something.

I’d like to think that death is nothing more than a ‘changing’ of energy – a separation of the different energies that make us. Our body is gone. We no longer have the ability to speak. Yet the ‘thought’ continues – the electricity flows on throughout this weird universe. Does it morph into spirits? Is it caught on the voice recorder of some ‘Ghost Hunting Jackass’? Is it trapped on Earth, doomed to forever walk the halls of a place it once called home?  I’m afraid we’ll just have to wait and find out.

That leaves us with ‘legacy’. That, I can state for a fact, lives on long after we’re gone. Our impact on others is the only way to ensure that we’re remembered. In that sense, we can remain eternal. So, don’t be an asshole.

I find some comfort in this theory. It’s a far cry from the heaven/hell mythology created by ancient white men or the karma-heavy wheel of reincarnation. Yet, it’s not as cold as the ‘lights out’ argument. Until more proof comes my way, I’ll be living in ever-expanding gray area in between.

It helps me sleep at night.

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