Monday, October 4, 2010

The Last Great Human Mystery

In these times of the human genome being mapped, perhaps for the first time in history we seem to know more than we don’t. Sure, we don’t know what causes autism and people are still dying of heart disease, cancer, botched plastic surgeries… but just go with it, this is the premise of the blog post.

The biggest remaining mystery has to be: what happens after we die?

This is a classic bullshit exercise, because we’re all acting from a position of ignorance. Let’s face it, no one has any inside knowledge on this, since we’re all alive.

“But what about people who have near-death experiences?”

Near-death experience? Would you count it if you “near-lost” your virginity? Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, my friend. Oh, and near-misses, I guess those are bona fide misses (I suppose they’re really “near-hits”). I don’t want to know what happens when doctors revive you. If I wanted to know about near-death experiences, I would ask an expert, like Courtney Love.

“She’s still alive?”

Yeah, I’m as shocked as you. You know what they say: the good die young.

So anyhoo… what happens when you die is tough, but so is, “What happens in people with dementia or in deep comas?” I mean, I took anatomy, so I have a cursory understanding of what is physically happening, but people want to know: is that it?

I would say yeah, unless you can somehow repair the physical damage. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that there is some ephemeral storage method for maintaining our memories that is apart from our physical being. Our lives and experiences are fleeting stories written in sand just above the water line at low-tide.

So then perhaps another way of looking at the mystery is to ask: What is the experience of dying like?

I’m sure if you’re bleeding on a sidewalk and slowly dying, it’s not too pleasant until shock kicks in. Once one loses consciousness, it’s anyone’s guess. If you’re in a hospital, I imagine the cocktail of drugs you’re on makes feeling anything difficult. If you pass in your sleep… it’s peaceful, but I wouldn’t want to leave like that. It’s like breaking up with existence via text message.

Cicero wrote, “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living,” and I agree. Our best hope for existing eternally as fragile mortals is to be remembered. I really believe that having your ideas recalled by others is not only close to immortality, it is literally deification.

What are we but ideas? Are we the sinewy meat that plods through life? We are the heart that beats tirelessly without a thought on your part? Are we the scars we have accumulated, or are we the lessons learned acquiring them?

Cicero also said, “Even if you have nothing to write, write and say so.”

Perhaps it was impossible in the past, but these days nearly anyone can become a published writer. If you have access to a public library, you have all the resources you need. I’m glad to live in a time when it is so easy to share ideas.

Though it is depressing if you look at it too literally… then you see all of these blogs as nothing but pre-emptive, digital tombstones. Total downer.


  1. I say live as if no one will remember you. What benefit is it that we know of a man named George Washington to that man? Once he died he had no ability to care. And even though I learned about Washington in school, it in no way means I know him. Just some trivial facts that would essentially mean nothing compared to spending just 5 minutes with him when he was alive. Only a few people really know me and they will not live substantially longer than me. So I live and enjoy the moments of my life and embrace them. That is all I truly have.

    A second topic "We seem to know more than we don't". I like C. Hitchens statement that "We know more and more about less and less" although I cannot get my brain wrapped around it my gut knows what he is saying.


    And finally, the *only* man in Minnesota who says there is no God has suddenly become an arbiter on mental health...

  3. Blogger instituted new spam policies and tools for preventing it, so I think he lost steam.

    Mmm, delicious, delicious regulation.


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