Death: Not so terminal

First off, sorry about not posting last week.  I was dealing with a cold, I so hate getting ill, fortunately it doesn’t happen often.

I had this great idea for something to write about and I completely forgot what it is, I really need to get back in the habit of writing myself notes.  For those of you who do not know, before it went grey, I was a blonde so I have the perfect built in excuse for being a bit ditzy at times (at least I have an excuse…  so there thbthbthb).

Last Saturday the subject of death came up, we have all our ways of dealing with it, I find mine to be unique as to how most in Western Civilization address or avoid it.

Deepak Chopra once tweeted that Life was “a sexually transmitted incurable condition” to the question of “What is Life?”

A group I am involved with, Let’s Kick ASS – Portland, is about long-term HIV/AIDS survivors and if you were gay or gay-friendly in most major metropolitan areas in the 80’s you had a large dose of death served up to you on a regular basis.  I had periods where I went to as many as three funerals/memorials a week.

I spent a lot of time reading Elisabeth Kübler-Ross to help those dying and their families.  I have never really had a fear of death, my personal philosophy sort of precludes it, but people tend to get annoyed when I celebrate the passing of their loved one.  Elisabeth gave me a more “common perspective” and a vocabulary to use with people regarding death.

My friend Jim used to say that funerals are for the living, the dead likely come to see the silliness of it all, assuming they can be bothered, I tend to agree.

I understand the whole, I loved the person, I will miss them, but I have always had a hard time of balancing that with the whole “going to their glory” and “sitting in the presence of God” whatever form they believed in.

Ideas of Death & the Afterlife

I have heard some suggest that the heaven you go to is based on what you believed in, Christian heaven would be a bunch of clouds, harps and Hosannas.  Ancient Egyptian heaven, the Ṭuat, would be much like the living life but in the presence of Osiris.  Some believe in seven heavens and lets not get into the heavens that come from many cultures.

I have noticed two interesting characteristics of the afterlife in every culture and religion I have looked at:

  • Heavens tend to be slightly exaggerated versions of what was considered to be the most glorious in the cultural and physical existence of the people.  How would the King or the wealthy live, polish it up and add a touch more and you have Heaven.
  • Hells seem to have flames, burning and the like in common.  I suspect that is due to the fact that the most universal torment and painful experience of the corporeal body is fir it to burn.

Where I get the whole heaven and hell idea, and I accept “heavenly” and “hellish” planes of experience in comparison to this particular one, the original Catholic idea without the embellishments would easily encompass my perspective.  Heaven would be the return of Spirit to Source, God, Is, with Hell being “a state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed.”  Hell would be the delusional state of Spirit to not know itself and that from whence it came.

Death: a Transition

Dan Millman in his “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” book and the film really define death beautifully.

Death isn’t sad. The sad thing is: most people don’t live at all.

For now, just think of death as a transformation—a bit more radical than puberty, but nothing to get particularly upset about.  It’s just one of the body’s changes.

SocratesIn Eastern philosophy and those traditions that accept reincarnation, death is viewed as the Spirit changing clothes, do you weep because you changed pants last night?  Of course not, though it is possible that the other pants in your closet wept because those pants ended up in the hamper.

Death: two competing fears

As I see it, there are really two major competitors for one’s fear of death, fear of the unknown, the transition itself, and fear of judgement.

We as humans tend to fear that which is different, probably an evolutionary holdover that has other characteristic aspects of behavior as well (another subject for another day).  For the majority anything outside the mundane physical existence is a complete unknown so they are fearing the unknown.  This does not have to be the case, but sadly, particularly in the Western world, we put all things Spirit into the realm of faith and pooh-pooh the exploration of our Spirits; this brings us to the second, fear of Judgement…

Sadly, most of us claim faith and belief in some form of religion or philosophy that usually tells us how wonderful “we” are and how lost “they” are.  As much as our egos take solace in our special dispensations, I find that most do not actually apply these collections of belief to life, little less death.

There has been a bit of a culture of death that we have seen in the world, the hope that the next life will be better than the harshness of this one and their are some unscrupulous individuals that have played upon this to get others to perform atrocious acts in their search for salvation and solace.

Most of us will tell ourselves that we are “Saved”, to use the Christian expression, but if we truly believed it, why would we fear death?  If you truly believe that what is waiting for you is so much better than what you have and where you are, why are you not offing yourself at this very moment?

First off, this is a rhetorical question, I am not suggesting a mass suicide to prove ones belief of salvation in whatever form you believe; though I am curious as to the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s afterlife might be like, eternal pasta with unlimited sauces and no weight gain?  Hmm…

The point is that if we truly believed what we claim, imagine how it would influence the world around us.  Having a reverence for this gift we call life can be maintained while allowing people to address the their Life Lessons without working from a place of fear.  It’s hard to picture because we spend so much time unconsciously living from this innate fear.

So to paraphrase Socrates, do not waste life by not living, live and experience.

Written by R. A. Burgener

After finishing the 850 mile trek of self-rediscovery on California's El Camino Real from San Diego to Sonoma, California, Robert continued, via Greyhound, to Portland, Oregon, where he is becoming familiar with the concepts of weather and seasons after 30 years in Los Angeles.

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