Tuesday, 14 July 2009

What happens to us when we die?

What happens to us when we die? It has to be (apart from why some people still think Cheryl Fernandez-Versini can sing) the greatest unanswered question in life. Do we go to a ‘better place’ free of pain and suffering to be reunited with our love ones, or are we banished to somewhere rather unpleasant to spend eternity in purgatory paying our dues for a life of wrongdoings. Whatever the outcome when we finally shuffle off this mortal coil, I for one will be pretty pissed off (if I’m cognizant of who I am of course) if there is nothing. And that’s something which I find hard to comprehend - nothingness; an all consuming black void.

Some might ponder, should there be nothing at the end, then what would have been the point, after all, don't most of us spend our lives struggling with the ups and downs of just existing. It would be like winning the most important race of our lives, a race we had trained for for years, only to receive no trophy, no acknowledgement and no recognition. But then there are some who would argue that it’s the taking part, not the winning that counts. I have never understood that expression, in my opinion, it is the attitude of a defeatists to expect to lose before undertaking a task. But should we expect anything after death. The teachings of many religions would seem to indicate so. Do we have such a high opinion of ourselves to expect that we the dominate species will transcend to a new plain of existence where rewards will be bountiful. What gives us the right to place ourselves above any other creature on the planet. I would have thought a species as inherently aggressive as ours would have been firmly placed below many a beast. Let’s take the dolphin for example. Should the day come that we can communicate intelligently with these beautiful creatures, they may introduce us to the concept of survival without aggression, and the true joy of living, which at present eludes us. In that circumstance, what they have to teach us would be infinitely more valuable than anything we could offer them in exchange. So do dolphins enjoy an afterlife; if not why not?

I do not consider myself a particularly religious person, I do not attend church and I do not pray; well not often. So I guess, if some religions are to be believed, the likelihood of me making the ‘pearly gates’ is pretty slim - Tish! The bible tells us that after death our souls return to God, providing of course, that you have followed a righteous path during your lifetime. Those who have not, can look forward to a one way ticket to Hades.

The bible gives very few insights into what heaven is like, I suppose God is playing it close to His chest just in case He might blow our minds should He reveal the real truth. When Lazarus rose from the dead he was reluctant to offer any information regarding the afterlife. Maybe he too was sworn to secrecy by 'The Man‘.

Spiritualists are of the belief that when a loved one dies they are forever close to us, watching over us and that death is not the end but another plain of existence. Are we then to assume that even in death, we will be aware of who we were and of the life we left behind. Furthermore, does this awareness mean we are going to have to spend eternity silently observing those we have left behind, surely that would be an obscenely insensitive sentence to inflict on any poor soul. Can you imagine the torment having to watch our children grow but have no input in their lives anymore. To watch our spouses or partners eventually meet someone new and share the same intimacies that we once shared. See the friends we once laughed with now laughing once again in our absence. Is this really what we are to expect after death, if so I would sooner slip into the cold endless sleep cradled in the arms of morphia never to wake again. Or maybe we have a choice, to go into the light or stick around. Maybe that’s it, those who choose to stick around are the ghosts we are so eager to find. Those who are content to stay earthbound scaring the living daylights out of the rest of us.

When my parents died, I was continually hoping I would sense them nearby, I almost expected it rather naively. I used to lie awake at night and talk to them in the hope that I may get a sign that they were close. It’s nuts when I think back and recall many nights crying myself to sleep having failed miserably willing them to move an object or make a sound, and being terribly disappointed when it never happened. Strangely, I have never dreamt of either of them even to this day and they have been dead many years. I have never understood why this should be.

There are people who claim to have spoken with the spirits of their deceased relatives. Just who or what these people believe they are communing with is a question open for debate. If we are to believe they are making contact with a genuine spirit, then surely the question as to the existence of life after death has ultimately been solved. I think it more likely that what is happening here is simply a state of the mind. Grief is a very powerful emotion which can in turn trigger psychological trauma which can cause delusions, which in this case equates to talking to the dead.

Some people are so desperate to make contact with those that have passed on, they seek solace in the company of mediums, hoping for confirmation that their loved ones are okay in the next life. Sadly the skills deployed by some unscrupulous mediums to tease the answers they are looking for from an attentive, sensitive and suggestible audience is often scandalous. The use of carefully crafted questions designed to manipulated the answers from an audience to the medium’s advantage is unquestionably skilful but dishonest. I am not suggesting all mediums are charlatans but sadly there are too many making a lot of money off the backs of the emotionally charged. The thing I find excruciatingly frustrating about mediums, is their reluctance to enquire of the dear departed just what the afterlife is like - how convenient.

Whatever awaits us when we die, if indeed anything, I hope it will be something that no religion has ever considered or imagined. The established belief in an old man in a white robe, sporting a matching beard you could loose a badger in, will hopefully be so far from the truth as to make it uproariously amusing. I hope that whatever awaits us when it is time to shake hands with 'The Reaper', will be something so profoundly wonderful, that as mortals we could not possibly comprehend - here’s hoping

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