Just as surely as life is occurring to that intelligible bit within you which some call a mind, and others a soul, you can be sure that one day this will cease to be. Death is what we call it. Some fear it, but all must face it. Upon this, I do believe that one oughtn’t fear it. To do so is as foolish as fearing life itself. If some bit of nonexistence were given the ability to contemplate, for just a moment, the tribulations of life as we know it, the restriction of being tied to a physical body in time, and the potential pain, along with the fleeting hope for respite from said pain… it would first not understand such things, secondly it may not believe, and thirdly it would have no reason to wish for that state over its present state. Of course, the present state from which it would be doing this temporary consideration would be an artificial one, and perhaps then that whole thought experiment is bunk. Still, this is the position we find ourselves in today, when thinking of the death which will come at some point after the last discernible moment of our lives.
What then is death?
To consider what occurs after life, perhaps we can find a piece of this when thinking of that which came before life. I do not have a memory of before I was born, nor could I describe any sense of discomfort of such a state. I believe this is so, not simply because I did not have the developed mind with which to encode said information, but because the way in which I exist today was not so then. It is not simply that my body did not exist, but that which I refer to when I point to my chest and say “I”, did not exist either. In potentiality, perhaps, but not in reality as I know it today.
From this I feel that I must postulate, for the sake of my mind (that which some may consider to be my soul), that upon death there can be nothing to fear, for there would be no body to sense a lack of any such being.
It is either that 1) my essence will return from whence it came and the memories and experiences which I have encoded in my brain will be separated from my essence, 2) that my developed essence (that which my body recorded within my brain to create my mind) will enter into another perceptive reality, or 3) that, like a dreamless night which I have yet to awake from, there will be a ‘nothing’ no different to my mind’s pre-existence.
Yes, it may be as simple as to say that there can be no suffering in what could be perceived as the most likely conclusion of my life, namely the state of nothing and perceiving nothing. Of course, if that is the baseline event, I should look further and see if there are other ways in which I can postulate what exists on the other side of this irrevocably opaque boundary.
What is existence?
What is my existence? My existence is the continuity from one perceptible moment to the other. What connects one instant with the other? Perhaps there are stops between moments and the totality of my being views this after the fact and adds all of my recorded history to the current moment, and from this I perceive myself to be a unified entity moving through time. Think of a film. A film is a series of frames, but they are perceived in such a way that I perceive continuous motion, and the meaning which was put together by the first frames are added to the current frame, with an expectation, a postulation, of the frames to come. This seems very likely to be the way in which we exist.
What occurs when I sleep? Moreover, what, if any, connection exists between laying down to sleep with an expectation to wake the next day, and laying down to die to… Perhaps the only difference is that we do one existentially-alien act daily/nightly, and the other we have yet to do. When we die, our bodies remain for a while. When we sleep our bodies remain, as well. But when we sleep our minds do something similar to when we die; our consciousness is switched off. When we sleep and our active consciousness is switched off, we fall within our minds and sometimes we remember this experience. I have always wondered about the moments before my brain is expected to be completely electrically drained, and what that experience might be like. Perhaps I will have fallen into my mind, just as I do when I sleep. Perhaps these last moments will feel as they sometimes do, when we dose off for what feels like hours, when only seconds have passed. Here there could be, with our expectations of life after death, life after death in accordance with these expectations. This is one reason why I believe theism would be useful, because our bodies may be wired to enter into these fantasies as a matter of fact in these last moments of our conscious twilight.
There are other possibilities. Perhaps all intelligible creatures draw from a shared intelligence. This we may call God, perhaps. Perhaps our combined expectations of these deities can actually make manifest such things. I cannot rationally explain why that would be the case, because there can be no rationality posited from this life that could suggest a scientific basis for this, save an ethereal field which connects all minds. This could represent the dimension upon which all thoughts coalesce in the end. This would explain peculiarities like pre-cognition (which I have experience at length in my own life) and the like.
Maybe we do move through different planes of existence, and the event of death is the death of this body, and maybe we have already experienced it a thousand, thousand, thousand times, just as we did the moment before we came into this world. Perhaps we are a shared mind which is fragmented, and upon death we return to it. Perhaps, like a blinking bulb, we face death a thousand times a millisecond, and the power of existence is so powerful that we do not perceive it. Perhaps in the face of the infinite nature of time, and the potentially infinite nature of space, that we may die and a trillion, trillion, trillion millennia pass before the exact same formation of atoms which we currently reside in comes to form again… purely by the limited combinations of matter in space.
In any case life seems common, sentience seems complicated and death inevitable. Whatever is on the other side of death is not for us to worry, not look forward to, nor to expect, for it will come. All that is charged for us to do is to enjoy life as we presently know it, and to enjoy the connections with others, as seems to be the purpose of all of this. To live. To love. To truly be for all there is, and to enjoy it as best we can.
For the record I was loosely raised a Christian, and today I am an agnostic atheist.