Dagdha's Blog

Random Ruminations #2

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on June 4, 2012

I think about death a lot. I have no longing for death nor a morbid curiosity about the deceased, but I’ve always liked the optimistic fatalism expressed by Peter Pan in his proclamation that “To die will be an awfully big adventure.” Like an impending vacation or first day at a new school, I can’t help but wonder what’s to come. I’m perfectly willing to accept that death is nothing more than a deep slumber from which one never wakes, but that’s not much fun to think about. Moreover, my own experiences and countless third party accounts suggest that this isn’t the case, so it seems as interesting a topic as any to indulge my imagination.

Eight years ago, following the death of my paternal grandmother, I wrote a short piece about the idea of Heaven, in which I proposed the idea that the afterlife is an individualized reflection of what a person believes it should be (to which I will amend that this notion includes the erudite judgment of our own worthiness of such an idealization). For example, in Mormonism, Heaven is divided into three kingdoms, each with varying degrees of glory (which might seem strange, but this is perhaps an oversimplification of the doctrine and not as foreign as the concept might sound when compared to most religions of the world outside of Christianity). So, if you live the best life you can, full of good works and deeds, and die justly proud of your accomplishments, according to the dictates of your beliefs and proclaimed moral code, which in this example would be the Latter-Day Saint gospel, then you would go to the highest kingdom, or whatever your ideal version of Heaven might be. I can proudly say that I came up with this idea all on my own, although I have discovered it is by no means a unique concept. The hip hop artist Greydon Square wrote a song called “Ascension” that beautifully articulates this idea – an idea that does not require a bureaucratic or hierarchical dogma to find peace.

Taking this one step further, I recently started thinking about the transition between life and the possible afterlife, what Buddhists call the bardo. For some death seems peaceful and fits the comparison of going to sleep. For others death is violent and terrifying, like the story I recently heard about Kevin Smith’s father who died screaming. Obviously pain and circumstance of death play a big role in a person’s transition, but I wonder if the experience is also mediated by his or her set, a term commonly used to describe a person’s psychological state including overall mood, sense of fulfillment, state of relationships, etc. If psychedelic and near-death experiences are indeed as similar to death as has been proposed, then this seems quite plausible.

I have been fortunate in my twenty-six years not to have witnessed a death first-hand, excluding of course the part I’ve played in countless indiscriminate deaths of all hexapods and octapods, but I see these merciless battles more akin to the emtionless slaughter of an alien species bent on world destruction in a movie directed by Ridley Scott, rather than the noble and personal death of a Roman general from one of his other movies. Most accounts that I have heard or read, however, whether (psuedo)autobiographical, like those of Steve Jobs or Aldous Huxley, or the portrayal of death in literary and artistic representations, support this idea.

I would not call myself a philosopher. My limited exposure to Classical and modern (Western) philosophy has left me wanting. I find the field a bit too vague and convoluted, albeit that may be just another testament to my ignorance. Nevertheless, I try tirelessly to understand the mind and its relationship to spirit, and more importantly how these relate to human behavior in an age of lost spirituality.

I’ve always been shy, ever since I grew up changing schools and moving at least once a year. Because we moved so often, I always faced the challenge of making new friends, and I was never sure quite how to act in these new and strange environments, so I would study the behavior of other kids before attempting to engage anyone in conversation. I was terrified of being teased and didn’t want to face potential ridicule because I didn’t understand how I was supposed to act.  By the time university rolled around I was more confident and a bit more optimistic, despite my ideological struggle with breaking from religion. I naturally became more outgoing and excited about life, but those years have passed, quickly fading behind a fog of failure and disappointment, which has transformed me back to the high school freshman who ate lunch by himself for the first two weeks of school. I suppose I’m an idealist, which has naturally turned me into a cynical pessimist. We live in a hateful world, full of gruesome violence and abuse of the innocent by rich and fat gluttons and their odious ideologies. And yet I remain an idealist, clinging to hope that people might one day achieve the clarity of ego-loss, in a world of unity, equality, and empathy. In a world like that, there would be no knowable difference between life and the afterlife, which is itself a kind of immortality. Of course everyone’s afterlife might differ slightly depending on the little quirks and nuances that makes us all unique little snowflakes. I don’t know if I could ever visit a teen’s version of Heaven. It would probably be my personal version of Hell, like a never-ending loop of MTV reality television with a few video game commercials thrown in for good measure, in case this tangent wasn’t long enough.

Ultimately I am no Plato, Krishnamurti, or McKenna, and I never expect to come infinitesimally close to understanding or predicting the afterlife, but at least it’s something to pass the time, like a daydream in a late-afternoon business meeting.

Next time on Random Ruminations: What came first, language or mathematics? Or maybe I’ll just write about cheese.

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