“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.