Unspooling This Mortal Coil

There is nothing significant about the timing of this entry.  Only that it seems to be time for me to sort out my thoughts on this topic.  So what, then, to say about the edge of everything.  Maybe begin with the truth which is that I know nothing.  I don't know what happens when life as we understand it ceases.  I have no insight into what lies beyond... no maps... no train schedules...  no dining recommendations. And, to be honest, I find people who claim to know those things to be just a wee bit insufferable.

Charon ferrying the River Styx

Cards on the Table

After trying on various religious and spiritual garbs over the course of my life (but not magic underwear, never delved into the LDS Church), I eventually settled upon the notion that I fit more or less into the definition of an agnostic theist.  That means, loosely, that while I accept the idea that there may be a higher being (first cause, god, cosmic muffin, what-have-you), I believe that the nature of such an entity is fundamentally unknowable because we lack the cognitive tools to fully comprehend it.  And so we as a species flail about with our religions and our philosophies and our spiritual beliefs generally making a big mess of things - the proverbial blind men with the elephant.

Given that as a starting point... and going with the hypothetical that there is, in fact, some sort of existence after death... I seriously doubt that any of us would truly understand the nature of that even if god zirself showed up and broke out a Power Point presentation.  Heaven and Hell?  Methinks those concepts say a lot more about the human condition than they do about any potential afterlife.  I'm already faced with the reality of Disney World and Las Vegas in this existence.  Imagining them for eternity is more than I can bear.  Plus, we could delve into when those concepts (and the concept of an afterlife for that matter) starting appearing in the Abrahamic faiths (hint:  they were feature upgrades added long after v1.0 was released).  Reincarnation?  Possible, I guess... but the idea of these self-contained meta-beings with all their past experiences recycling through time and space and popping up here and there as humans or meerkats or kudzu or duvet covers based on their karmic balance sheet seems a bit contrived.  Nothing?  Complete oblivion?  That one disturbs me the least...  mainly because there won't be anything left of me to be disturbed.  No you? No FOMO.

Disagree with me?  That's fine.  As stated above, I claim to know nothing... which makes me more truthful than some.

Leaning Over the Abyss

And all those ruminations get swept to the side once you're standing at the edge with someone.  Been on that ride... got the t-shirt and tattoos... was party to a family decision to withdraw life support from my father.

I may not know what happens after death, but I know what human suffering looks like.  I could never be in the presence of someone who has just lost a spouse or a parent or a child and take umbrage at their claim that the deceased was now whole and in Heaven.  Grief gives them that right.

Conversely, please check in with yourself before offering comfort and support to someone in grief.  Are you sharing your beliefs about an afterlife in order to make them feel better or to quell your own fears?  Oh, and if you happen to impose that on me?  You may find yourself in a WWE cage match where I zestfully deconstruct your religious beliefs because that was just the distraction I was looking for.

He Who Must Not Be Named

We do ourselves a grave (pun intended) disservice by not talking openly about these matters.  Fear and anxiety take root once we bury (ouch) this subject and refuse to face the truth of our existence... namely:  that it is finite.  There are some hopeful signs that this may be changing.  Doulas or midwives for the dying are becoming more common.  Death cafes -  social events hosted to offer a safe informal environment to talk about death - are spreading from Europe to America.  Bringing this topic more into the light allows us all to live what life we have with less fear and anxiety.

I'm paraphrasing this and I don't have an attribution, but the gist of it goes:  I don't know why everyone is so worked up over dying.  Can't be that hard.  No one has managed to screw it up yet.  Now, I type that not facing (at least, no knowingly facing) my own imminent demise.  I'm pretty sure I'll be experiencing different emotions when that time comes.  But perhaps an awareness that our time is short should be a welcomed reminder not to waste it.

I'll close with a live performance of This Mortal Coil's stunning cover of Tim Buckley's Song to the Siren.

(And I will note, with immense joy, that Elizabeth Fraser will be touring and performing in America for the first time in decades early next year supporting Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall aka Massive Attack. #mezzanine)


  1. In Dudeism, I think Brandt expresses it best: "Well, dude, we just don't know."


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