Monday, October 22, 2012


I come to this from various positions, which have changed over my lifetime. I began at a very young age believing in a Christian God, inculcated as I was in Catholicism. I progressed to being agnostic, then to atheism and now to, what I would simply call a realistic, almost scientific approach to life and death.  There are gaps in my thinking and there is thinking in between the fissures that break out here and there every time I contemplate this subject. Even so, I call this Heretic and place it alongside a photograph I took of these artificial humanoid entities that we inject with spirit through self projection.
No matter how much we attempt to envisage our own demise as an event that we will experience, we are able only to imagine the void (if it be that) from the point of view of our own selves as a conscious entity, whilst thinking about a death state in which we essentially have no consciousness. And, we imagine that at the point of our death - between that last flicker or spark of life and that other terrible, unimaginable state, that we will somehow know in that instant that death is imminent and that we will be simultaneously saddened by the fact that we will be losing consciousness as we know it and flung headlong into this otherness, which really is unnamable, in which we just simply do not know and cannot know, and this is what we find disconcerting because we will not know that we are dead, we will not know in that death that we had ever lived. Perhaps this might be considered (to some) as consolation, for some (or many) there will be peace beyond anything that we can imagine (and some may call this heaven or nirvana), for this state of non-being must remain a secret, a mystery, and yet here, the secret is revealed as a state that may be speculated upon, for nothing that I say here will amount to any conclusions about death, for as I previously said, I (we) can only imagine (and probably not very well) what it might be to have no consciousness, since consciousness of self and other is all that I (we) have known and all that I can remember. Even though I have considered that I was not concerned ever that there was a great deal of time - think of the history of the world and all the events in the world prior to my birth – my first breath and consciousness that followed, whenever that was, and there is no memory of sadness that my awareness was not in that space. Might death, as prior birth, be a matter of forgetting? Surely not. However, and this is not an argument for previous lives, but what if we had lived before, had experienced another conscious state and we just didn’t, could never remember because when we die those perceptions leave us and of it we have no remembrance. If death is the other that lives within us as a constant reminder of all the time of the universe that is really our state of being (un-being), then this state of knowledge – our life and our awareness of it, is an aberration. This world that I spoke of, a world that existed prior to my perception of it, constructed because human kind has had knowledge of its surroundings and wished to mold it, will be, in death, no more accessible by me. The portal (strange unseen door that it is) to this world of conscious being will be forever closed and this is what we lament, or do we? Would we really want to witness the impact of our death on our friends and loved ones (assuming that at least one person is affected by our departure from this worldly plane), would we wish to know who did or didn’t really care, would the pain be unbearable? Some who have had near death experiences say that they float above the scene of their own death and see the events unfolding below, but since they did not die, but only had what is called a near death experience they cannot be said to have experienced death and total disconnection of their conscious self from a mindful world. What is it then that we lament in regards to losing life and consciousness of life? Is it that we will have no pleasure? But we would also have no pain. Is it that we will have no volition, that we can no longer affect the world, that we will no longer make a difference? Spent forever - life, like so much else that has been exhausted. Those who have experienced a good life want it to continue because they experience pleasurable things. Those who have not experienced those good things also want life to continue because they hope to finally receive their share of all things considered desirable. Some want life because they feel that they must experience all that their life has to offer. The night is also the sun, pain also a joy. Such a waste (you hear them say) that we live our whole lives and in death our accumulated experiences disappear; as though our life was lived purely so that it could be shared with others, rather than just being for us and us alone. In death, apparently, self and other is robbed; death that steals this life and all that it has lived and been conscious of. But we can’t ever substitute the word unconscious with death because even though we can be unconscious without being dead, there is no way of re-entering a conscious state once we are dead. Entering consciousness is only possible through a body already imbued with a spark of life. OK, so after writing nearly one thousand words, I really don’t know where I am with this except to say that I wonder what people think heaven is like. Even when I was a child, I imagined heaven in a similar way, described by David Byrne (from Talking Heads), as a place where nothing really happens. Rather boring I would think and so I am left here with the question: Is it heaven that believers desire after death or is it just that they wish to avoid hell at all cost? I do wonder as I read over what I have written whether it is my lack of imagination that brings me to this conclusion about life and death, perhaps, after all the portal between life and death and what follows is something other than what I have said and that in death there are potentials or possibilities worth considering.


  1. Near the end of the film Prometheus one of its characters, dying, exclaims "There is nothing". "I know", replies the android David. "Have a good journey Mr. Weyland. " The line reprises dialogue from David Lean's Lawrence Of Arabia, "In the desert there is nothing. No man needs nothing". Perhaps it isn't the destination which is important, but the journey to it :)

  2. Oh, I totally agree with you Steve, the journey is important. My son, concerned after reading this post suggested that engaging in a dialogue with death was a very Buddhist thing to do - I like that. I have to admit that I did write the piece after nearly being hit by a car and this did prompt me to think about my lucky state of being.