(Warning: Lot’s of So’s in this piece, so turn off your inner editor!)
I have always believed in life after life; eternal life if you will, or an afterlife. Even before I was able to put it all together I believed there was something beyond our veiled vision, beyond this mortal struggle. ‘Course I wouldn’t have said it that way. I don’t remember when I came to the realization that is talked about in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God had set eternity in the hearts of men, but I do remember driving home late at night when I was sixteen. See, I often wondered, and still do, about how we process information and how we are sure of our reality and the environment and people around us. (I know there are a lot of three dollar words in philosophy for what I just said, but I was sixteen, and most folks don’t know those words so if your thinking this: get off yer high horse!) Okay, back to our blog. I have always believed in an afterlife because we don’t process anything in real time. Every thing is processed a nanosecond after it is experienced so it made sense to me then, and still does, that every thought and reaction we have to our environment is already a memory while we are experiencing them. So I’d be driving down the road, really sleepy, late at night, thinking, “I wonder if I am going to die in a car accident tonight.”
So your thinking WT-? (in deference to my easily language offended readers :)) Your thinking about death at sixteen? Yep. More on that later. Anyway it occurred to me that if I was dead I couldn’t remember thinking those thoughts because I would be dead, so as long as I was aware of what was happening and experiencing the drive, (the music, the wind, my powerful machine of a ’74 Beetle), I couldn’t have died in the next moment, or I wouldn’t remember what I was thinking/experiencing/remembering. Then I thought to myself, wait that can’t be right because eventually everyone dies, and that would mean that we, based on my thought process, would be incapable of experiencing/knowing/remembering anything. But we do! At least that’s what observation says, several post-modern philosophists notwithstanding. So I remember therefore I live. So one night I chewed on this thought for a while and I felt like I was standing on a precipice at the edge of everything, I seriously had an onset of emotional/spiritual vertigo, and I knew, we don’t die, not the part of us that is us, the soul or spirit or whatever word you like, it goes on forever, like the Tom Petty song, like a diamond….
So we live forever. But some of us don’t live now. So I should probably say we exist forever. We choose the circumstances of that existence. Don’t panic, my non-believing friends, I’m not going to preach that sermon right now. Suffice it to say that the truth of that choice is evident in every religion so I believe that proves the truth of it and that is a great reason for you to become a seeker of spiritual truth if you are not already. But we live in a constant struggle between the truth of our life and the the fact of our physical death.
What physics calls the second law of thermodynamics, Christians call The Curse. Basically, everything is descending into a state of non-existence because the system is broken. (does anyone dispute that brokenness?) Christians say we broke it. Ecologists say we broke it. Most philosophers now say, we broke it, or at the very least we are so much a part of the brokeness that the whole thing is meaningless anyway. Our bodies are dying. They long for death. Think about sleeping, if you can’t sleep you want to. We crave that timeless cessation of thought, feeling, and action. We crawl from our womb/shroud every morning reluctantly and painfully as we get older and long for the deep, dark comfort of sleep at the end of the day. Children, at heart or otherwise, fight sleep to the end of their limit, but the body wins and pulls them into the placid, deep places of slumber. But the struggle is, we know we are meant to be awake!
The life that burns within us despises that darkness, that’s why children fight sleep, they know, they will miss something important if they surrender. Now sleeping is just a metaphor, but you knew that. Those of us that are fortunate enough to live in the knowledge and new life that is offered to us, find ways to let that life shine out through the cracks of their dying husks, but still we struggle. Scripture says it this way: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” II Corinthians 4:7-12 (passage in context here).
So then, dear reader, here’s the thing. Life is hard. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes its worse than that and we just want to throw up our hands and surrender. But you are made of sterner stuff. The scientist and the preacher both believe we are made of stardust, but even that concept belittles the true nature of ourselves. We are incredibly and wonderfully alive on a spiritual level that defies explanation, and that fact lets us transcend our circumstances. We are over-comers. We are fearfully and wonderfully “made” no matter how you believe. But note this, I believe, and many like me do as well, that there is an eternal and all-powerful God, who loves us completely. Maybe you have trouble with that concept, that’s fine I’d love to have a dialogue with you about it, even if we disagree. But at the least know this, you can survive, you are. You are capable of so much, don’t give up. Cling to the light within you. As Dylan Thomas wrote, “Rage against the dying of the light!” And know, even in your rage, that the light never dies.