I’ve been thinking a lot about death recently. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dying or anything. And nobody I know is dying…at least as far as I know. It’s just that I suppose, with the arrival of Roz, and watching her grow, I have been forced to come face to face with my own mortality.
In the back of my mind, I know, as every person knows, that one day I’ll just be a pile of dry bones in a hole underground somewhere. This is not the part that upsets me. What upsets me is the fact that one day, I will not be here for Roz, I may not be here to see my grandkids if I have any, or my great grandkids. And there is a realisation that with each year that she grows older, I am growing older too. There’s nothing like watching a child grow that makes you aware that you are also growing older.
And its f-ing depressing at times.
I can totally see how religion makes this easier. It’s very lonely in some ways being an atheist because all you have is the fact that you will continue to take part only in the greater cycle of life once you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil (à la Shakespeare’s Hamlet) my body will be eaten by bacteria and worms and ants and god knows what else, while the essence that is me will be gone forever and I will only live on hopefully through the great memories that those who loved me will have, and of course, through my genes.
It’s a sobering thought.
When I was still very religious, I used to imagine what heaven would be like, and the infamous judgement day. Of course, heaven is beautiful and wonderful and all the people you love are there. God wipes your memory of all your loved ones who are toasting, gnashing their teeth and wailing in “the other place” (otherwise how could you be happy?)
Then when I became more spiritual, I began to feel that heaven could not be a place. It’s impossible. Would I be the same age as when I died? If I died at a hundred, I wouldn’t want to shuffling around the place all bent up and crooked with no teeth. And how would people who died before me recognise me? How would I find people? What if people I hated ended up there? Wouldn’t be much of a heaven for me then would it? Plus hell would be nonexistent as a loving god would have forgiven everyone, the big softy. So I decided perhaps heaven was a concept, just a continuation of being. I would still be here; I would be able to see everyone and continue to love. Because how can everything I am, all that I’ve been, my hopes and my dreams just cease to exist? Surely that’s just wrong. What kind of life can there be when death takes everything away from us? Krys and I used to have many discussions about this because this was the period of my life when I met him. He’s been atheist for a long time and the one question he asked me was,
“why do you want to believe so badly that there’s something on the other side?”
My answer now is the same as it was then. Because I want to believe that I continue somewhere. That I’ll be able to keep existing, and that anyplace beyond this life where the people I love no longer exist will be very sad.
I know better now. In therapy, you seek out a therapist as the-one-who-knows-everything. You go because you feel they are the ones who are going to help you sort out your life and get things in order and that since they have read these books and studied and met so many different people, they will know exactly how to help you. But a very good therapist, regardless of the brand of therapy they practiced, is supposed to bring you to a point where you realise that they don’t have all the answers. The answers to your life’s questions, issues or problems lies within you, and only you can help yourself. Sort of like a midwife…actually, almost exactly like a midwife. They are there to cheer you on, but at the end of the day, you’re the only one that’s going to pop that baby out.
The therapist is meant to move you to this position and then guide you through listening to your past and relating it to your present, that if there is an answer, you are the one who has it. That not all questions will have answers, that not everything has to mean something, but that you should reach a point where you are okay with this and can continue living in the present a little happier than before.
This is what I equate with religion and atheism and the question of death. Religion used to give me this assurance that as long as I’m good now and obey these set of rules, when I die, I’ll be happy. Happier than I’ve ever been while alive. In fact, so happy that happiness will be coming out of my nose! Yet this is just an escape. It means no matter how happy I am now, I can never be content because there is this wait on the other side and the anxiety of which of the people I love will make it…or will I even make it?
On the other hand, there is atheism where I know that this is it. This ain’t the dress rehearsal baby; we’ve been on stage for thirty something years and we better get with the program. If I am to be happy, this is my chance. If I want to make an imprint and live on, I better do it now. Love savagely, hate accordingly, do good deeds for the sake of them or for the sake of seeing the look of happiness on other people’s faces, and not because someone is keeping tabs somewhere, because no one is. And when I die, that will be it. There is no meaning, there is no bad or good, my body spirit, the essence that is me will be gone and the physical part will be absorbed by the earth and poof! No more Muuka.
You know what I imagine death to be like now? You know there are moments at night when you don’t remember falling asleep. You could be sitting in front of the telly, or reading a book in bed and next thing you simply wake up, and five hours or even a few minutes have passed, but you can’t remember falling asleep, you never dreamt. You were just not there. Or if anyone has ever lost consciousness, it’s that weird vertigo feeling where one minute you say,
“I don’t feel so good,”
and next you open your eyes and you’re on the floor with someone fanning your face and you have no idea how you got there.
Well, I think this is what death is like, if you are lucky.
Just a cessation of being, but without the waking up part.
Happy Sunday everyone!