Last night I dreamt that my mother and I were about to die.
We were standing on the deck of a ship berth. It was night, it was dark. There were a few people about and we were all watching the approaching tsunami. Around the city, air raid sirens were softly calling out (when I later awoke, I realized that Husband’s snoring had provided the sound effect for that), but everybody had realized that it was too late to go anywhere. So my mum and I stood there, and I hugged her and said thank you for giving me this wonderful life. And we held each other…and then I woke up.
It’s not hard to figure where I got the tsunami imagery from. Last Christmas a massive earthquake sent a tsunami towards SouthEast Asia, killing almost 200,000 people. I’d never seen a tsunami before, but thanks to modern technology several tourists had caught the incoming wave on video, the tapes of which played on the news for weeks afterwards. I’d always imagined it would be a massively tall wave, standing 20 storeys high above the water, like the surfing waves one sees on sports TV, only taller. But as it turns out, that isn’t the shape they take. Instead, an immense, roiling wavefront appears on the horizon. At first, the people on the affected beaches did not recognize what they saw. And the wavefront was black – the subterranean disturbance that triggered it brought all sorts of dirt and debris up from the bottom of the ocean. And when it hit, it wasn’t one large sheet crashing down, but rather it was a seemingly endless rush of water, a surge like a dam bursting. The wavefront was broad, not tall, but travelling so fast it destroyed everything in its wake. There was definitely enough news coverage of that disaster to fuel my dream images with semi-accurate depictions of such a disaster.
When I awoke, I was disturbed. I was also interested to note that, in my dreams, it was just me and Mum. There was no mental reference to my family or to the kids. Which is good because I think that would have made the dream much worse. Instead there was just this sense of “wow, so that’s it huh. it’s over now.”.
I think these thoughts stem from my recent musings about death. Seems as I’m reaching my middle-age now, I am thinking about death in a more concrete way than ever before. I mean, from childhood we all know we will die some day. But most of us assume it will be in old age, and that time is so far away it might as well not exist. Certainly, it is hard to assign any real thought to the matter when one is young.
I think another issue is just the reality of aging, and how different it is from what I thought it would be. I remember being about 8 years old and calculating how old I’d be in the year 2000. While I held the standard assumptions that we’d be driving flying cars by then, I also thought that, at the age of 32, I would be unrecognizable to my current self. That somehow I’d be a different person with different desires, etc. But as I’ve aged I’ve noticed what others have often said – I don’t *feel* old. I don’t *feel* any different than I was before. It’s like aging happens to our bodies but not our minds. Sure, we gain wisdom and maturity, but this really doesn’t change who we are. Or if it does, perhaps we’re simply unaware of it, as the steps to such change are so small. But I just don’t feel like I’m a different person, and I’m no more accepting of being older as I was when I was a child.
The result of this is that I lay in bed one night and wondered how I would end up dying. Because it occurred to me that when the time came, I would not be this different person, but I would be just who I am now, and I would think and feel just the way I do now. And it was very strange, because I think for the first death, my own death became real to me.
And it is a bit frightening. I’m not afraid of being dead. But I’m afraid of how it will happen. I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want a slow lingering death, or a scary violent death. I’m not sure I want to know before it happens – no disease or “six months left to live” prognoses, please. The grief of leaving my family would be too much. And of course, I want to die old. I want to see my children grow up (one of my biggest fears now that I’m a mother is dying when my children are young and still need me so much). Still, I wonder what death will be like, and of course I wonder, as all mankind has from time immemorial, what happens next.
There are a lot of theories out there about Life After Death. Far as I can tell, nobody has come up with anything even remotely approaching solid evidence to boost their claims on the Truth. In fact, I am completely turned off by anybody (or any group of people) who claim to know the Truth, because if there is one thing I do know about existence after death – if there is one, it is unknowable to us. I don’t think anybody here on earth has it right, and I think that if there is anything else after death, the answers will be revealed when we die. The rest of the living are left to ponder it further.
I see absolutely no reason why we should exist after death. I see nothing about man in the great scheme of the universe that makes him special and deserving of more than any other creature in existence. I am acutely aware that our perception of the Universe is filtered through a processing device known as the brain, and that it’s limits are that of biology. People who talk about how they will feel after death seem to think that emotions exist outside of our own physiology. Those who claim to speak to the dead seem to impart their still-human characteristics as a way, perhaps, of convincing their audience that they really are talking to Aunt Martha. But I can’t see why we would possess human characteristics (of which emotions and personalities are part) if we cease to be this being and, instead, exist as some other being. Why should that being have the same mental processes as we do?
Actually, I’m quite convinced that we all are our physiology, which leaves nothing left to exist outside our body. I’m dubious of the existence of a “soul”, although I do acknowledge that Energy exists in many forms in our Universe, and we have certainly not become aware of all those forms, yet. We have as much left to discover as we have already learned, probably way more. So if there is some sort of “soul” or some existence after Death, I believe it will be consistent with the Universe and it’s workings, not some “paranormal” state.
I did come up with the sudden thought once recently that, perhaps it’s not so much that our physiology defines us, but that we define our physiology. Perhaps we exists as extra-corporeal beings and, upon the moment of becoming corporeal (the time of which is a debate I’ll leave to the anti-abortionists), the nature of our being shapes our development and our physiology evolves around that being. I think it’s an interesting theory – Damir says it’s an old one, and I’m quite certain I’m not the first person to ever consider it. But it was an original thought for me.
But, as I said above, I’m not afraid of being dead. I figure it is either really the end, in which case I won’t care that “this is it”. Or, it will be the beginning of a new existence and a whole new Life. An adventure. I only hope that I can be with my loved ones here, but also recognize that such feelings and relationships may have no meaning in a next existence. It’s hard to fathom, given the depths of my feeling for my children, but I also recognize that those feelings are very earthly in their nature – the consequences of being a mammal, evolved to care for our young for some time and develop an emotional bond with them in order to do so most effectively. Still, it’s a little side benefit that it brings me such joy, too. 🙂
The only sad thing about the theory that there is no existence after death, is thinking about all the people for whom their existence here on earth was full of misery. It’s easy for someone in my position – born where I was, when I was – to talk about how beautiful Life is, and to be grateful for Life. But what of those born into poverty, war, famine. What sort of view of life does a young mother have when soldiers ravage her village, her body, and murder her children in front of her? I am acutely aware that (so far) I have been dealt a very lucky hand, given the possibilities of my fate – what time I would exist in, and in what country. I don’t think I did anything to deserve it. I just think I’m extraordinarily fortunate. This troubles me sometimes. I don’t believe in Good vs Evil; I don’t believe people deserve their rotten lots in life. And it all just makes me wonder about…well, about it All.
Which, I suppose, it what human beings have been doing all along.