I’m guessing that as we get older, we think more about our mortality.
OK, to put it more bluntly: we think more about death, our death, at least, the death of our mortal cloaks.
Or maybe it’s just me (or maybe not, eh?).
I thought a lot about “the mystery of death,” as the Bible puts it, throughout my 20s. I looked to classical spiritual literature, such as the Bible and the Bhagavad’Gita, for answers. The latter teaches that we are immortal beings in mortal bodies, passing from one to another, while the Bible talks about the spirit going to heaven in the twinkling of an eye after the death of said mortal coil — and particularly encouraging, the Bible says the mystery of death will be explained in the end times.
Never the spirit was born, the spirit shall cease to be never. Never was time it was not, end and beginning are dreams. — Bhagavad’Gita
I felt, back in my 20s, that science may have been on the brink of solving the mystery with its studies of near-death experiences (NDEs), especially with people who died and were resuscitated. So many of them recounted similar experiences, i.e. floating above their bodies, moving down/up a tunnel to a white light, seeing their lives unfold — or unravel — before them and understanding the effects of their actions and thoughts on the world, and so much more. All of their experiences jibe with those related in the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
And I explored occult teachings on the subject. I found my anchor in Theosophy, which believes in the immortality of the spirit and reincarnation. It seemed to answer so many of my questions, and it has been a guiding light in my life, to a point.
I knew then and now it was all theory, of course. We can’t prove anything. Even NDEs have been explained away by science as some chemical reaction or something — though, I am not convinced.
I didn’t dwell much on the thought of my eventual death during my 30s, 40s and 50s. Not that I never thought about it. I think we all do at times — and that may be one of the curses of mankind eating the fruit of the mythical tree of knowledge. Or not. If we can ever prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are immortal beings who transcend our mortal bodies and carry on somehow, it will have a profound effect on mankind’s future, I think.
On the other hand, if we ever prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we live once only and there is nothing more, mankind could descend into a chaotic state in which morality is irrelevant.
I think it is the hope, and perhaps fear, of spiritual accountability and karma that keeps so many of us afloat in this often turbulent sea of humanity.
I’m guessing many of the survivors of the sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and petchouli oil g-g-g-generation are thinking about — and planning for — their passing these days and nights. And pondering the nature of their existence.
Or maybe it’s just me.
Sometimes when I step back and consider the state of the world and just how far from Eden we have wandered, I can understand how some older people look forward to getting away from it all, with no desire to go through life’s journeys again.
While on a journey, Chuang Tzu found a skull, dry and parched. With sorrow he questioned and lamented the end to all things. When he finished speaking, he dragged the skull over, and using it as a pillow, lay down to sleep. In the night, the skull came to his dreams and said, “You are a fool to rejoice in the entanglements of life.” Chuang Tzu couldn’t believe this and asked “If I could return you to your life, you would want that, wouldn’t you?” Stunned by Chuang Tzu’s foolishness the skull replied, “How do you know that it is bad to be dead?” — Zhuangzi
Indeed, to digress for a moment: desire is what is said to be what leads us to incarnate time and again, and when we eventually no longer desire anything on Planet Earth, we don’t come back anymore. That’s the theory, anyway.
Meanwhile, I feel as young as I did when I was 20something. And I know I am not alone with that. We all feel that something inside of us never ages — and that may be as close to proving the spirit and its immortality as we’ll get while we inhabit these “tenements of clay,” as W.Q. Judge once put it.
That which men call death is but a change of location for the Ego, a mere transformation, a forsaking for a time of the mortal frame, a short period of rest before one reassumes another human frame in the world of mortals. The Lord of this body is nameless; dwelling in numerous tenements of clay, it appears to come and go; but neither death nor time can claim it, for it is deathless, unchangeable, and pure, beyond Time itself, and not to be measured. – W. Q. Judge
Regardless, I trust in the nature of things. As above, so below. We are microcosmic images of the Universal Source itself, and everything within it has its nights and days. We sleep, we rise, over and over and over again.
I somehow doubt that we ever get to a state of eternal sleep, even if we do get to experience nirvana for a while.
But I could be wrong. Eternal sleep might await me and you and every living being on this planet. And considering the state of affairs here, eternal sleep might not be such a bad option after all.
I wouldn’t count on it, though. I mean, it is a freakin’ miracle that we are here in the first place, and able to understand as much as we do. And as Voltaire wrote, “it is no more surprising to live twice than it is to live once.” I strongly suspect that he was right.
What do you think?
Photo: “All is Vanity” by C. Allan Gilbert. Life, death, and meaning of existence are intertwined. (Woman gazing into boudoir mirror forms shape of skull.) Source: Wikipedia