Death

I don’t like to admit this but I’m completely afraid of death.  On its simplest level, being afraid of death is a wholly irrational state of mind.  It is akin to sitting outside on a beautiful June evening and being afraid that one day it may be February.  Despair, resignation, anger….these are rational emotions to have when considering death.  But fear?  Why live in fear of falling prey to the same fate that has met every living organism in the history of the world?

Well…I suppose it is really fear of the unknown.  There are so many competing theories on the afterlife and I find all of them terrifying.  Total extinction, while one of the least desirable and most depressing, at least has the advantage of being the most settling.  It’s just over…no reason to worry. The belief in reincarnation is a bizarre one.  It brings many people comfort, but I fail to see how in the mind it is any different than extinction.  I don’t remember past lives, so it stands to reason in future lifetimes I won’t remember this one.  I am essentially a different person.  Then, of course, there is the classic Heaven vs. Hell thing.

I guess at the end of the day this is what I “believe” in.  I put it in quotes because I’m far from comfortable in this belief and there is really no logical argument I can make as to why I believe this beyond it just being the way I was brought up.  I don’t think I’m alone…I think this is how most people’s belief system is developed.  A lot of Christians seem absolutely certain they know exactly what will happen when they die…they will float up into the sky (or take a timeout in a box), meet Jesus and all their old friends, and exist forever in perfect harmony.  I personally don’t understand how someone can KNOW without a doubt that this is what awaits them but I don’t hold this against them…maybe I just haven’t gotten THERE yet.  What irritates me is that those who claim to be certain about their fate will acknowledge no fear of what this afterlife entails.

I find the concept of arriving in Heaven terrifying.  I believe that anyone who claims otherwise is either lying or they really haven’t thought about it as much as they say.  Think of how scary it is just to move to a city or start a new job.  These are major life changes but you still retain nearly every aspect of your life.  A transition from Earth to Heaven, no matter how much of an upgrade this may be, is certain to be a traumatic experience.  It’s gonna take some getting used to.  I mean, not to get overly theological, but just think about the adjustment it is going to require to get used to an environment devoid of “sin”.  I don’t mean that like, “Oh man….now we can’t watch porn anymore.”  I mean that everything EVERYTHING about our existence…our hobbies, leisure activities, occupations…is based on the concept of an imperfect world.  Nearly all movies and books are focused on a conflict between good and evil….or more simply, are at least built around elements of imperfection.  Nearly all art loses all meaning in a perfect world.  Even religion loses meaning.  In short, everything that brings us joy in this life would not exist in the Christian version of Heaven.  And this doesn’t mean that what waits for us in Heaven is not worth giving up all these things, but it means that any concept we think we have of what Heaven is going to look like is completely off base.  Heaven is the COMPLETE unknown…and even those who are not afraid of the unknown would be sure to tremble at this level of NEW.  And all that is to say nothing of that moment of coming face to face with your creator.  Humans like to play around with the theological meaning of “FEAR OF GOD” but the literal meaning is pretty obvious if you ask me.

Then there is Hell.  I don’t believe in Hell.  But since we are considering all options….this is the absolute worst case scenario.  If I wake up a moment after death and feel heat I’m gonna be all like FUCK ME I WAS WRONG.  Cause that would be terrible.  And that’s all I’m going to say about it because it is an unpleasant thought.

Another annoying thing Christians do is talk about hating Earth.  This often happens during prayer, usually near the end.  It goes sort of like this: “Lord we know you’re coming soon and we pray that you hasten your arrival.  We are so SO tired of inhabiting this miserable world and all the pain it brings and long for a new home beyond the stars.”  And I just don’t buy it….I know there is a lot of pain in the world but I have quite enjoyed my stay here so far.

And that’s where we come to the despair.  I have no idea what happens in the moments after death but I do know that I love life and don’t want it to ever end.  I love the colors and the seasons and the people and mountains and art and music and conflicts.  I don’t want all these things to continue on without me because I am TOTALLY selfish.  I’m a human.

I recently purchased “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” in hopes that I would find it comforting.  I haven’t gotten very far into it.  It is nice inspirational reading but it is very aimed at accepting our impermanence and I don’t really want to do that.  Part of me believes that if I don’t accept death I won’t die.  That’s sort of what I’m holding on to.  And if I do die I have to believe it will all turn out ok because everything else in life does….that change is just SOOO hard.

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6 Responses to Death

  1. lilslik says:

    I have a new outlook on death since our car accident. Not that I necessarily thought we were going to die, but I remember seeing the car coming and knowing we were about to get hit. Then we got hit, spun, and that was that. I feel like you will know you are about to die and then it happens so fast, you don’t have time to get scared, worry, wonder about what’s going to happen, etc. Even you said I very calmly told you there was a car coming. (And I am talking about the moment immediately before you die – not leading up to it – aging, dying of cancer or disease).

    I’m really confident about what happens when you die because it only makes sense. You fall asleep and poof you are dead. Sure, other things could happen, but this makes more sense then every other theory combined.

    To summarize.. death doesn’t scare me. experiences leading up to death do.

    I’m usually intimidated by your smart posts like this, but once I read your take on heaven, I knew we were on the same page. The other day my boss said, It will be great to get to heaven.” I said, “yeah.” Then I thought about it more and was like, we need to talk about this. I know you can’t bring anything with you to heaven, but I seriously love my new boots. Plus, this white robe stuff sounds like something that will not look good on me. My boss and I talked for 40 minutes about heaven.

    I heard a sermon by DKN once that we would get less settled here on earth if we were thinking of heaven more. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I also half heartedly agree that we shouldn’t get too involved in things on earth, because like you said, our entertainment is a result of sin mixing in the world. It’s not all sinful, but it’s not heaven-pure either. And the more we appreciate “sin tainted” entertainment, the less heaven will be for us. This thought depresses me. I think it’s because when I picture heaven, I picture a heaven that is a combination of several paintings from the 40’s. Basically, a giant park. Oh, and we’ll all be wearing nasty white robes. But don’t worry – we will have so much to do. For example, we can slide down a giraffe’s neck. What?? I’m going to slide down a giraffe’s neck for how long? And what’s exactly on this banqueting table? I envision Olgas on it, but I really think I’m wrong. I’m not trying to sound like a skeptic or a bitchy critic, but come on.

    In the end, this is what I decided, with the help of my boss. When we get to heaven, our experience on earth will be how we remember one bad day in kindergarten. My bad day in kindergarten was when I really had to go potty and the teacher didn’t see my hand, so I just went potty in my seat. I had to sit in a wet seat the rest of the day (which was probably a half hour, at least). Then it was time to go home and my Oma said, what happened to your pants? Did you sit on a wet swing? I said yes. This day was so awful and traumatizing, and now I look at it like, boy, that could have really easily been fixed.

    Also, in the same way, our entertainment on earth will be comparable to our entertainment in kindergarten. I look back at my most favorite activity in kindergarten and think, MAN I WAS EASILY AMUSED. We had these things called “Math Games” and they were each in a rubber bin. I remember them being so great but here’s what they actually were: there was the eraser math game: a bunch of erasers that you count; there was the button math game: a bunch of buttons you count; there was the airplane math game: a bunch of toy airplanes that you count. This was my absolute most favorite thing to do in kindergarten. I think as long as we keep our “entertainment” in check – basically that it’s not going to keep us from being close to God, we will laugh at it how we thought we’d miss it in heaven, and thoroughly enjoy heaven once we get there with our perfect minds and what not.

    This is why I think we can’t even comprehend what heaven will be like until our bodies and minds are restored to perfection. Then we will look back at what was important to us on earth and laugh at ourselves.

    This makes “dreaming” of heaven really hard to do. I guess the idea is to imagine something so great that you can’t even comprehend it yet, and hope/trust you wont’ be disappointed. Or, like you said, wake up and feel heat.

  2. Carin says:

    ok my reply isn’t going to be as long as erica’s. but i agree with you on a lot of points, mainly this one: i haven’t had such a bad time on earth. maybe that’s inviting bad karma, but for as much as i can complain, i have a pretty good life. it makes me feel like i’m a bad christian to want to live a full and happy life on earth and then get to the something better when jesus comes back.

    i agree with erica on the point that i don’t think we will really have to adjust to heaven. i think that when that time comes, we will be restored to a mindset where heaven will be the norm and that’s just how life is. earth will seem strange.

  3. chareelouise says:

    When I was 5 years old I asked my mom what death was and she sat me down and explained death. I started crying and screaming things like “why” “I don’t want to die” “why am I here” “what’s the point.” (This is one of my most vivid memories from childhood) I guess I still have the same questions…my views are similar to yours in many ways. I never want to die, I am completely afraid of death, I don’t believe in hell. Why were we made so different if in the end we’re all meant to be the same once we get to heaven? I just don’t understand and have to many unanswered/unanswerable questions. There are so many possibilities and to pick just one seems impossible. How can anyone firmly say they know for sure you say? In my mind they just can’t, or at least I can’t.

  4. chareelouise says:

    and by to I meant too!

  5. kerouaccat says:

    Erica…I have lots of things to say about your comment but I still haven’t gotten around to it. Maybe I will talk about it this weekend just to irritate you.

    Charee…when I was five I thought about death ALL THE TIME. Now that I’m older I still think about death quite a bit, but luckily I discovered alcohol somewhere along the line.

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