The Phantom Life

Since Hereafter, the latest movie by Clint Eastwood, prompted the media to go bonkers over the contemplation of an afterlife, non-believers should take a moment to reflect on this frightening reality. You don’t think it’s a little scary? That one day, each of us will die and we will cease to be? No? Well, it is one of the peskier concepts where even we non-religious types don’t have the answers. And we’re pretty sure the others don’t either, but they are willing to go out of their way to make money by duping people with the aftterlife nonsense and promises they peddle.

Ponder this for a moment. Ceasing to be. Can you do it?

In this case, there isn’t any question about whether to be or not. Because one day, you won’t…and that is one of the major moments we all wrestle with from time to time. This is where fear for believers takes hold and never offers relief from the relentless worry of what will happen after they die. So death is a major reason so many people we know, who were never given to spiritual concerns before, all of sudden start going to church and talking about what they expect to find on the other side.

The thought of not being is very daunting and certainly not pleasant, because humans are not easily able to think of  what “not” is. We know that the people in the family photographs lived before we were a twinkle in someone’s eye. We know that many beings and creatures came before us and that eons of time passed before now. And yet when you consider we were “not” then, dealing with “not” at some time in the future is a tad more difficult.

I had the chance to consider what that curious moment of unconsciousness must be like because of surgery this past summer. I use the phrase “must be like” because you don’t really appreciate consciousness until you are pulling out of the fog from a chemically induced coma-like stupor; there is this single moment when your brain is aware that you were not dreaming and not thinking just then. (Yes, the brain is aware that nothing is going on. Which is kind of cool.)

It is quiet, painless and still and I like to think that moment is what death is probably like, only soon after that very moment, we no longer realize that we were ever even alive. Which is a tremendous thought all on its own. Nor do we have any means to worry about what just happened, so we’re spared regrets and faulty reasoning. People who die in fiery crashes and from painful wounds should know some immediate relief and this is what I think it is. Likewise, dying peacefully in your sleep at a ripe old age should also be as relaxing and calm. Maybe more so!

For the other perspective, however I believe that what religious folks must handle is far worse. Because they do fret over the next life. Who will be there? Will they be forced to be with peoople they didn’t really like? Or maybe even hated? Which cannot be a fun worry to have! And what of the people who are sure they will end up in a hell, as they understand it? How awful to carry that fear with you your entire life only to die and realize something far worse. That’s why I call this blog “The Phantom Life” because believers must be burdened with existence that is possibly not pleasant or even tolerable by our standards. Not to mention the longing and the sadness brought on by the memories of the previous life

It’s this optional phantom existence that must torment most religious people because it is more than unknown, it is eternal speculation. And it is a waste of time. The most we can hope for is to do and feel as much as we can in the time we’ll be here. Because if I’m correct, we won’t be lingering. We simply won’t be…whcih is very much a strangling thought in its own right. But it might make us more passionate about the life we have now since it is all we’ll ever know.

And unfortunately, this gives new meaning to the old cliche “Life is hard and then you die.” Because it is, you know. It’s up to you to give your life meaning and let death take care of itself.