For millennia, people have been talking about what happens after death. Lots of ideas have been proposed, and I’ve sometimes wondered if a desire to find meaning in death is one of the reasons religion has been so popular over time and across cultures.
It seems like, to make a very broad generalization, people are uncomfortable with the idea of human life being temporary, and there is a common desire for death to mean something other than the end of life.
Religions offer potential answers, whether that’s heaven, reincarnation, a spirit world, or something else (Wikipedia has an article on the afterlife that covers the ideas of various religions). Some people go to mediums to try to connect with people who are no longer alive. Some people go to mediums and also believe in a religion that tells them such a thing doesn’t exist. But humans aren’t the only lives we don’t want death to end; there’s also the rainbow bridge where we can supposedly meet our pets again. Regardless of the belief system, that desire for there to be something more than just this life seems extremely common.
I was raised in an atheist home where death was treated as the end of life, with no afterlife involved. I can see how there would be some level of comfort in believing in life after death, but it’s not an idea that I personally ever had much of a yearning for. I’m okay with death being the end of life, and I don’t feel a need for it to have some greater meaning beyond that. I know there’s bits that science hasn’t hammered down, like when exactly consciousness ends (or even what consciousness is, for that matter). I think those things are probably knowable at some point, but I’m okay with them being unknown for now. I’m also okay with my death being no different from the death of a guinea pig or any other animal.
Death doesn’t scare me. I don’t want a painful death, but I’m okay with the idea that my life will end at some point. I would prefer that to be sooner rather than later, really; there’s longevity in my genes that I have no interest in. I’m not worried about what will happen, because I have no reason to expect that anything will happen at all. I have no interest in eternal life; I’ve always found the idea of life having a beginning and an end to be more appealing. Impermanence is good; eternity sounds tedious.
I don’t seek greater meaning to other people’s deaths, either. I don’t think in terms of whether or not it was someone’s time, because that concept has never really made sense to me. Sometimes shit just happens, and while I can see that there might sometimes be an appeal to believing that things happen for a reason, that also creates a lot of murky territory.
I’ve always tended to be pretty “out of sight, out of mind” in my thinking. Aside from the permanence aspect, someone being dead and not-here isn’t all that different for me than being alive and not-here. This is probably pretty weird for someone in their 40s, but I’ve never been to a funeral before. Funerals weren’t a big thing in my family. Some people didn’t want a funeral at all. With others, my parents were very practical, as in why should I miss school or travel to go to a funeral? The person’s dead already, so it’s not doing them any good.
I find it interesting how many different conceptions of an afterlife that there are. Regardless of what really happens after death, if anything, there are a whole lot of people who are wrong, because not all of these ideas are mutually compatible.
Since I originally wrote this post, I watched a documentary about Evangelical Christians being pro-Israel because they think that once the Jewish people have full control of Israel, Armageddon will happen, which they want. I hadn’t heard that before. Out of curiosity, I decided to read the Book of Revelation. That’s one idea for what will happen. I suspect that if John of Patmos, or whoever it was that wrote it, had those visions in this day and age, he would be considered quite psychotic, regardless of what the source of the visions might or might not be.
So, those are some of my thoughts on death and what it does or doesn’t mean. What does death mean to you?