A vast majority of this blog has been devoted to the idea that there is an afterlife, that there is a soul that outlives the corporeal structure in which it is housed. I have written from this perspective because I hope that it is true. Furthermore, I think I actually believe that it is true. Finally, the concept of an afterlife is more beautiful and poetically compelling for me to explore.
But this is only an article of faith. In fact, death belongs to all of us and all of us belong to death. None of us know for sure. After all, that would take all the fun out of it!
There are some of us that believe that nothing comes after death. When you die, you just stop. You stop being you and you stop being anything. You are as much alive as you were before you were born, which is not at all. You’re simple turned off like a switch. You are not.
This perspective is held by some very good and honest and intelligent folk. Many of these people are generous of spirit and have splendid senses of humor and are a treasure to those they have known. They are not Nihilists, they don’t believe in nothing. They just happen to think that when you smash a stereo on the sidewalk, it stops being a stereo. All of its parts are there but it doesn’t work anymore. It’s not that strange to believe that no more music will come from a smashed stereo.
This perspective is not insane. It is also not without its merits. If you think that death is the end and there is nothing after, it heightens the drama and appreciation for this moment of existence. When someone is killed, it isn’t a muted half-tragedy, it isn’t a pseudo-loss… it is a total and irreversible and unanswerable loss. It is a deep loss! So laugh for real! Weep! For tomorrow you will have nothing. Tomorrow you will be nothing.
[Funny note: I write this with a Scooby-Doo Band-Aid on my thumb!]
As humans, we hope that some ethereal aspect of ourselves will live forever. Our instinct to survive is so biased toward this perspective. We are so biased toward surviving that we want to believe that we will survive our deaths! But just because we want to believe a thing doesn’t make it true.
And so it has been, with an equal sense of curiosity and horror and humor, that I have been taking a class at Yale. No, not a real class but close enough. They put their “open” lectures online! You can get a Yale education without paying $65,000 a year! You won’t get a degree, of course, or even a job of any sort, but, like me, you can enjoy “The Philosophy of Death!”
The dude who… oh, sorry… the Professor who teaches this course seems like a fine fellow to have a beer with. Oh sorry… with whom to have a beer. He sits cross-legged in his Chuck Martins on his desk and slowly dismantles your concept of an afterlife. It’s amazing! If you believe in a soul and a life after death, that your personhood continues on for enternity, just consider this course as though you’re playing a chess game against the computer on the hardest setting. Theoretically, someone could beat the chess program at the hardest setting but, alas, that person is probably not you.
If you believe in an afterlife, don’t despair about the fact that your logic is about to get straight up worked! Instead, let it force you to deeply consider why you believe what you believe. And then, laugh about it, go out dancing, and remind yourself that nobody, and I mean NOBODY, can prove what happens one way or another after you die.
If you’re bold of heart and feel secure enough in your belief that something about you will remain when your body is gone, take this Yale philosophy class with me and talk to me about it! Get your mind blown! Huzzah!