First, a disclaimer (don’t you just love these?), the following segment is what some people refer to as “couch writing”, or to be more precise unsubstantiated, non-researched views and opinions. While I fully subscribe to my own take on life after death (what a strange thing to say), I also fully acknowledge that these views may evolve or altogether change. My conclusions are in no way facts, but merely a reflection of my understanding of the subject. And so my only request would be that you debate me – otherwise how will I know any betterJ
But, enough of this apologetic crap, I do sometimes get carried away. If by now you already feel that this is going to bore you to death, please at least have a look at the following link before closing this post:
This is one of my favorite debates on the matter, showing Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, David Wolpe and Bradly Artson at their finest; a truly civilized and insightful debate.
As for my own attempt at the question of the great beyond, I was only bothered by its existence for one very personal reason – I was terrified of dying. I am still young and maybe should not think of death so early on, but I found myself experiencing true anxiety at the thought of death. In a rare outburst of determination I set down to write and decided that I will let my mind “run with it”, hoping that whatever was left on the pages would also help clear my anxiety. Here are the results.
My recent thoughts on death led me to the conclusion that death leads nowhere. It is a void, a null-experience, one which could be compared to unconsciousness – lacking any of life’s “heaviness”. I’ve been told I could not possibly know what lies beyond this transition, however not knowing is the first step in any exploration and I only needed an explanation which would satisfy one person.
Energy does not perish – it changes form and state but is never truly gone. This is perhaps the strongest non-religious argument to afterlife. The body may disintegrate, but what of the energy contained within? Our body decomposes and is absorbed by the ground while the electrical pulses in our brain die out with only the unnoticed ripple effect to indicate they ever existed. It occurs to me that if we are to prove an afterlife in any substantial meaningful relationship with our current state of awareness, we must first define consciousness as well as determine that the chief criteria for its existence persist even after death. If we subscribe to the notion of “life after death” then it seems only reasonable for this new form of life to share the same fundamental qualities of how we experience life through our self-aware mind. This point may be countered by the suggestion that not all (or any) life must be limited to the same form or defining criteria, and I will address this point in the end. But for my first try at defining my afterlife, I would like to use an experience I feel (and hope) is the closest to what death feels like.
I have lost consciousness twice in my life. During both times I was devoid of all awareness, and in the most meaningful way stopped experiencing life as I had perceived it until that point in time. While my body continued to function, whichever part in my brain that was responsible for awareness and registering experiences had essentially shut down. For that short period of time I was no longer collecting new experiences or registering emotions and thoughts. My recollection or ability to describe this event is not self-evident, as it is only possible as a reflection on that time, through the contrast between unconsciousness and the moment of awakening. Only by being revived back to awareness, and only in that moment of waking, had the previous state of non-existence become evident. Is not death a more severe case of unconsciousness, on the same spectrum of life and awareness? It would seem that if we could agree that what we do not experience while we are unconscious, cannot be experienced in death as well – then death is the transition to a state of lack of experience. If even in cases where we know the individual is still alive, that person does not experience life (or experience itself), how can that person experience a life after confirmed dead? If the part of our mind which is responsible for the experience of life does nor remain after death, then even if something remains of the self it cannot be experienced by the self (much like the state of unconsciousness).
But what if it is the interaction between the physical body and non-physical awareness, which makes unconsciousness different from death? What if when the body dies, all physical constraints are removed to allow the awareness to continue experiencing at a different level and under different criteria? This seems to me the valid point in “you cannot possibly know what happens after death”, and indeed it’s a point I cannot prove nor refute. But I can try to explain why this type of existence might still not be considered “life after death”. If we are elevated in some way after death, and cannot perceive the world and ourselves using the same physical tools (the body and the brain), then we are truly transformed in the most acute sense of the word. This means we are no longer who we were. Imagine a person born and raised in a sensory deprivation tank. Through all his formative years he does not see, hear, smell touches or perceives anything of the wide verity of experiences our senses provide. It is beyond my skills of imagination to speculate what sort of identity such a person might develop – if at all – however whichever person he is due to these conditions is irrelevant. At the age of 65 he is released from this environment into the world. No waiting period, no gradual introduction. He is thrust upon the world and receives all the sensory data he was deprived of for 65 years. (The weakness of this thought experiment is that whichever senses were deprived and regardless of the environment, the tools of perception remain the same – which is arguably not the case when talking about death).
So our deprived person now sees, hears and perceives the world with tools he has never used, experiencing aspects of existence he could not have imagined. This man, regardless of whatever process of growing old or mature he may have gone through in the tank, is now an infant in this world. Much like the result of the birthing process, he is now something new. He is no longer what he was before (this is, at least, my view). This extreme change shifts whatever consciousness or awareness to a new state, rendering the previous state null and void (to understand this try to think of your experiences as an embryo, or even and infant. The experience is so unique and different that it is impossible to remember or reflect on – as if it never happened).
We do not attribute to our adult life a sense of life after birth, or life after non-existence. There is no reason to think we will do so in any possible existence after death. And this leads me to my point (a sigh of relief I’m sure), there is most certainly existence after death (even in the simplest form of the matter we leave behind, the atoms and effects on our surroundings). But as it is perceived (if at all), by different “eyes”, and interpreted by a different “brain” it cannot be considered in any way a continuation of this life and of our accumulated experiences. If it is not you who is experiencing what happens after you die (the part of your consciousness which recognizes the self), to argue for a life after death, especially from the religious stand point, is moot. And going back to the argument mentioned in the beginning, of life not being limited to any one form or set of criteria, this point I concede. However I would argue that our definition of self and our ability to perceive a different incarnation of our consciousness is limited to our form and the tools we use to perceive. While death may take us to another level of existence, it does not allow us to carry with us the same tools which allow us to perceive and recognize ourselves as having eternal life – or life after death.
And so I went to bed with a sense of calm, knowing that no regrets, pain or thoughts of any kind will follow me should I die in my sleep.
Spending all this time being on the sidelines, so to speak, I feel I have some pent-up energy which requires nothing more than a white sheet of paper (albeit an electronic one), and an audience...well, at least the appearance of one (no delusions of grandeur here).
Hopefully, this will be the first of many posts on various subjects on which I can proudly proclaim myself a layman (hence the title of the blog), however for which I can honestly say I have both the passion and the desire to further my own exploration.
While this may end up being nothing but an outlet for an unskilled writer (yours truly), I maintain the hope that it might spark a discussion, or perhaps just have an idea linger for an extra 30 seconds in anyone's mind.
My first substantial post will be my reflections on the concept of life after death. It should be up by the end of this week (fingers crossed). If you have any pre-comments or thoughts of your own on this topic - please make sure to make them heard!
Signing off for now, until next time:)
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