Friday, July 13, 2012

Questions About Death

What happens when we die? It's a question that's probably as old as death itself, and I find myself wondering all the time, imagining the possibilities. What's most interesting is that it will happen to everyone, yet no one really knows what "it" is. We don't have a clue; every theory is as good as the next, and there's no way of knowing until we're called. Ask anyone, even people of the same religion, and you'll get a different answer.

Is death bliss? Is it torment? Is it an endless void? Are we reunited with family and friends and ancestors alike? Are our questions answered or do we keep coming back unfulfilled until we live the right way, a way according to a higher power? Do we play with scores of virgins? Do we fight in Valhalla? Do we run around like madmen eating dirt? Have we died already; is this the afterlife?

There's a hole in every theory...or is there a sliver of truth in every theory? You could make a case for any idea. You could make a case that when we die we all get super powers and ride translucent, flying turtles. Who can prove you wrong? Other than near-death experiences, which some scientists can strongly argue are nothing more than a physical reaction to trauma, there are no witnesses to inform us. There's no proof, one way or another, of life after death. There is only belief.

Without contact with the dead, how are we to know the merit of one text over another without depending on faith, a deep spiritual assurance? Even if ghosts were real, are they actually spirits? Could they not just as easily be ripples in time/space or hallucinations?

What kind of a world would we live in if there was a definitive answer to what happens when we die? Let's say God is truly keeping a tally and weighing our choices. If we knew this as a universal fact, I think people would be much more behaved, less likely to mock, steal, rape, or murder. We would be careful and thoughtful of every action, fearful of our eternal fate. Conversely, if we knew there was nothing and this is all we get, there's a good chance people would do bad, bad things.

In the end, the only certainty I have about death is that I don't know. I'm open to each and every idea.