Death

“Death is another part of life…”
-Immortal Technique, supremely talented MC/conspiracy theorist

Since Eric brought it up in his mind-blowing meaning of life comment I’d like to take a moment to share my thoughts on death. Hopefully it will serve as a catalyst for everyone to weigh in on/refute my ideas. Among the many aspects of American culture that I find baffling, backwards and completely fucking stupid (consumerism, fundamentalist Christianity, American Idol etc.), mainstream views on death are right up there. I’m not just talking about the Christian view that if you please god you will live an eternal life of pleasure and if you don’t you will be eternally damned, which is of course idiotic. I’m talking about the view of death that the majority of Americans hold as an overwhelmingly sorrowful event. Death, barring a major scientific breakthrough, is inevitable. So, if there is no way to halt the icy cold grip of death then isn’t it a pointless effort to dread the unavoidable? Why not embrace death? Why not expect the best from it? I’m far from an optimist but to go through life too afraid of the end to enjoy the present appears counterproductive and detrimental to a person’s mental health and happiness. This mindset is even more perplexing when taken with the fact that most of these people believe in the aforementioned heaven and hell scenario and since basically the only requirements for heaven are feeling sorry for your bad deeds and accepting Jesus into your heart, chances are pretty good that your loved one will make it through the pearly gates.

Why is it that we find death so unbearably sad? I admit that there is something inherently sad about someone you care for dying and the fact that you will never share time with them again. But our culture holds on to that sadness and never lets it go. We put our dead in the ground and build tiny monuments as reminders that they are indeed dead. The places in which they are buried become hallowed grounds permeated by an air of sorrow. To me, this is a selfish act because the reason you are upset is that you will never see these people again; you will no longer be able to enjoy their company. Either that, or you mourn the fact that someone died and will no longer be able to fulfill their true potential and live the rest of their years. We fail to consider the possibility that they went out on top. What if Chris Farley and Mitch Hedberg would have lived on only to become out of touch and unfunny, forced to live on the streets or make movies with Queen Latifah? I think I read somewhere that only the good die young, which I believe means that you should probably just go ahead and off yourself now in a blaze of glory.

From my years of high school Spanish I know that the Mexican tradition surrounding death is somewhat similar (in terms of burial and initial grief) but vastly different in attitude. To Mexico, a poverty-stricken nation surrounded by premature death, death is a clearly sad event but they choose the positive path to celebrate their dead rather than mourn them. Personally, I think we should take a page from the Vikings’ book and return to the art of funeral pyres. This would provide a sense of closure along with a pretty awesome spectacle/celebration.

In a slight shift of focus I’d like to discuss something a little more intriguing and likely to prompt conversation: the afterlife, so to speak. At the moment, my thoughts on what might actually occur once we shuffle off this mortal coil can be summed up best by fellow mescalin/e enthusiast Aldous Huxley:

Many schizophrenics have their times of heavenly happiness; but the fact that (unlike the mescalin taker) they do not know when, if ever, they will be permitted to return to the reassuring banality of everyday experience causes even heaven to seem appalling. But for those who, for whatever reason, are appalled, heaven turns into hell, bliss into horror, the Clear Light into the hateful glare of the land of lit-upness.
Something of the same kind may happen in the posthumous state. After having had a glimpse of the unbelievable splendor of ultimate Reality, and after having shuttled back and forth between heaven and hell, most souls find it possible to retreat into that more reassuring region of the mind, where they can use their own and other people’s wishes, memories and fancies to construct a world very like that in which they lived on earth.
Of those who die an infinitesimal minority are capable of immediate union with the divine Ground, a few are capable of supporting the visionary horrors of hell and are unable to escape; the great majority end up in the kind of world described by Swedenborg and the mediums. From this world it is doubtless possible to pass, when the necessary conditions have been fulfilled, to worlds of visionary bliss or the final enlightenment.
My own guess is that that modern spiritualism and ancient tradition are both correct. There is a posthumous state…but there is also a heaven of blissful visionary experience; there is also a hell of the same kind of appalling visionary experience as is suffered here by schizophrenics and some of those who take mescalin; and there is also an experience, beyond time, of union with the divine Ground.

In less intelligent terms, I believe at the time of death those who have transcended mortal life will join god/universal energy/everything, consumed yet still aware (kind of like that movie The Fountain). I see this as something like a profoundly strong psychedelic trip complete with struggles of insanity but eventually ending in pure joy and understanding (except of course in the tragic case of Reknap). Those who remain attached to terrestrial life, however, will revert back to that form of life with a hint of madness, being that the mind is everything and capable of creating this reality/inferno for them. I haven’t fully decided if this is the hell described by religion or some sort of purgatorial spiritual training ground for eventual transcendence, or even if I really believe any of this at all, but it seems to describe my current thoughts as closely as possible.

Regardless of my debatable thoughts on death and the afterlife, I do know that at the moment of death a healthy amount of DMT is secreted from the pineal gland. And isn’t a free drug handout something we should look forward to rather than fear?

Side note: This was a lot more focused and directed in my head, hopefully it sparks good conversation or at least buffers a small portion of Kevin’s homophobic rage. Also, Corey, if you’re wondering the answer is yes, my thoughts on the devil are forthcoming.

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3 Responses to “Death”

  1. Really Enjoyable Post

    My thoughts on Death: For most of my adolescent years I was so intensely afraid of death that even the mere thought of it would create an intense sense of panic for days. The fear for me was the thought of just being done. The concept of nonexistence was overwhelming to me. The possibility that that night I might just stop breathing for some reason and cease to exist made for a lot of sleepless nights in my youth. The only relief I found was actively avoiding thinking about dying at all costs and brief attempts to try to somehow convince myself into buying into the concept of a Heaven. Neither proved effective for me.

    As I have grown in years and hopefully wisdom I have finally been able to come to a peace of sorts with Death. Nothing has changed about what I think happens when you die, I still have absolutely no concept of what goes on when the body stops working. Where my view has changed is in my perception of the concept of self. As a kid I was very attached to the concept of “me” (“Me” being this body and more importantly this mind.) The death of the body is not the thing that makes dying so scary. To most people the body is merely a vehicle for your mind (probably better define as consciousness). It seems to me where the aversion to dying really comes in is the prospect of the death of your mind. For most people your mind really is you, that is what you are. The thoughts you think and the way you think them is what makes you you. I really had no reason to question that belief until I had been meditation for about 6 months.

    Meditation to me is probably the most important step I have taken to actually understand myself. At some point on here I’m sure I will do a post about it, but for now I just want to say that it is not some abstract concept or weird trance. To me all meditation is is setting aside time to calmly sit and actually listen in a non-judgmental way all the things that go on inside your head. It is following your impulses, prejudges, and views of the world back to their roots in your mind and figuring out why you think what you think and do what you do.

    That being said the way meditation changed my views of the concept of self was that after sitting and listening to my mind and my thoughts day after day I started to realized that honestly I really don’t have any control over what my mind does. As time went on I started to relate and define myself less and less by my thoughts and feelings. I started to feel that there was something beyond this human shell we are in that might actually be your essential self. (I just realized how much this is getting way off point I need to rein it in and finish her up.) When I started to define myself by something other than my body and mind the concept of death didn’t seem like something so horrible. I really don’t know how to end this, but since this is just a comment and not a post I guess it doesn’t matter. I think that once you get the concept of self out of the equation and start to look at the world for what it is death really is just another inevitable and exciting step in the process. Also when you are able to fully release the concept of self you can start to appreciate that no matter what happens every single atom in your body will exist forever and that there is a certain beauty and timelessness in that. I like the mental concept of this body being a cage for our true energy/self and that death is the release of it. Well I think I will just throw a few more bullet points on the end of this and call it good.

    – My favorite thing anyone every said about death actually came from Spencer. When we were driving on our roadtrip Spencer brought up that he was actually excited about death. Always being on suicide watch with Spence I at first took this to be a desperate cry for help, but after he explained it it made a lot of sense. I don’t remember the exact conversation but the idea was that this life on earth is pretty predictable and sort of boring to be honest. Death is really the unexplored frontier. Instead of fearing the unknown you should embrace it. It really could be that amazing experience we are desperately searching for with our time on earth. I think he said some other smart stuff, I remember feeling very comforted about the concept of Death and Spencer’s outlook on life after the conversation.

    – Based on Spencer’s post and what I have gathered from a few brief conversations with Rekrap about his psychedelic journey there is a good chance he might have been dead for about 5 hrs last Friday.

    – If you haven’t read anything by Aldous Huxley you really need to. You don’t have to be a washed up drug abuser to get a lot out of his writings (though it does help). Both “Doors of Perception” and “Heaven and Hell” are really amazing.

  2. I don’t think I have put as much thought into death as I have with life. It is an unfathomable and amazing mystery that waits for us all. I will be just as amazed if after death nothing happens at all as I will be if I land in the middle of a 40 virgin orgy (all of them being clones of Melissa, obviously anything else would gross me out).

    I am much less afraid of my own death than I am of other people’s. I am very comfortable with the fact that I will not be here forever, but a world without my parents scares the shit out of me. I can try to apply my own feel good attitude about my own death to theirs, but it is fake, and I will be quite sad when that day comes. I agree with Spencer that is purely a selfish sadness, and that my parents will be just fine, but my personal belief structure sees selfishness as a virtue. That is a different post for a different day though.

    A couple other thoughts:

    I am not entirely convinced that any of you actually exist. Sometimes I am pretty sure that I am the only true living person, and the rest of you are just robots/in my mind/something else crazy. This would explain why I think about 100% of people I see look familiar… not creative enough to build unique robots or new figments of my imagination. So really, if this thought turns out to be true, I think when I die that means all you assholes are screwed as well.

    Also – I don’t really believe in the concept of time, only change. I really am jumping onto my idea from the “meaning of life” post that whatever the source of energy was that created the big bang and started this whole world is actually god, and therefore we are all a part of God, changing and growing into some ultimate goal that I do not understand. Therefore, I am just a piece of that process, and have been a piece of it since the big bang, and will continue to be a piece of it for the foreseeable future. This specific stream of consciousness that we call our lives is just one phase of that entire process, so I don’t really see why death is a big deal.

    I am also very comfortable with the death of all those disgusting faggots.

  3. I agree with Corey that I used to worry about when I would die a lot. I think its because people talk about life after death so much. More specifically living a bad life after death, ie hell. Well lucky for me, no one was beating this idea in my head when growing up. My grandma took me to church a little bit and that scared me some, but not enought to do any permanent damage. The only reason I can see to take any leap of faith about an afterlife is to use the delision to numb yourself from what you consider to be too harsh a reality.

    My point is, I think it is a blessing. I am very glad that we will all die some day. If not, I wouldn’t value the time I have here. But the end will come. Innevitably I will have a few regrets in the seconds my life flashes before my eyes (I bet I could have made the jump from the fraternity roof into the pool, why did I think playing the lottery was so stupid – if you dont play you cant win, etc) but I try to take that idea in to account with how I live. It will bother me that I have died just about as much as I was bothered by the fact that I had not been born yet. Richard Dawkins said that last point and I agree. My motto is that any moment spent worrying about it is a moment spent wasting your life.

    Rekrap’s information about the subject is mostly unintelligible when using language as the medium for dissemination.

    Spencer – to add on to your point it especially confuses me why so many religious people are sad when people die. Isnt the afterlife a happy place? Why are they always so sad? Unless of course they do doubt the afterlife their religious leaders have promised them, but if they think that then they are probably going to hell… tough life they lead.

    Kevin- if I say something and you arent there to hear it, do I really make any noise? I could probably be convinced that I am a figment of your Reality.

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