The price we pay for existence
Humans, unlike other inhabitants on this planet, at least as far as we are aware, have the innate knowledge that death is coming. A curse perhaps for our evolved ‘higher’ intelligence.
Over the millennia we have found ways to ‘cope’ with this knowledge, religion being the main way we’ve found to manage this. We then used this coping mechanism to create more death for those that chose not to use the same coping mechanism as ourselves. Most religions are more accepting these days, some individuals still use it as an excuse to maim and kill in their particular deity’s name.
In modern times in Great Britain we see religiosity at an all time low, while a belief in an afterlife is growing among the populous. I imagine this is due to the fear that death is coming for them, their loved ones and in today’s hyper consumerist material world we don’t much yearn for a better place without iPhones, decaf skinny mochas, Netflix and PornTube. Yet we also don’t quite like the idea that this is all there is, so there has to be more surely.
As an ardent atheist, although I would argue the default position of the human being has always been a non-belief in religion, I don’t hold any beliefs in an omnipotent god or an afterlife. This has caused me a lot of distress losing those close to me, my father suffered a stroke at 50 leaving him without speech and much movement for 13 years, he passed away at 64. Last month I lost my brother at 39. Easier for me to accept the death of a parent as final when they’ve lived at least a life and had children to pass their genes on to, harder to accept is the loss of a sibling at a young age who has left no legacy behind in which to remember him.
One could argue that even legacy is forgotten in a couple of generations, so what is the point in anything anyway. I would have to agree slightly with that train of thought. It is indeed difficult as a ‘non-believer’ to find a reason to get up in the morning when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. With each death comes the reminder that we are all heading in the same direction. I usually retreat in to the thought of the immortal universe, the oneness of it all, the circle of life and the awesomeness that chance has played in letting us be conscious beings, if only for a day. Whilst poetic, it is in the face of overwhelming emotional pain a difficult focus.
Death is final, of that I am sure. I mourn the loss of my belief in superstitions as much as the loved one. In my childs mind they were watching over me, and more importantly I was sure to see them again.
And so the only thing to do is to remember them. I have no answers, not for you but for myself. I tell my kids their grandad is a tree now. My brother is now in the same garden, so I guess he is also now part of the same tree. In some scientific sense it’s actually true given the law of the conservation of energy. But tying science to philosophy can get a little dangerous, its not too much of a jump to conscious energy and spiritualism. Of course I know that my brothers energy can never die, but purely in a scientific sense. It offers no comfort.
As I made the long car journey to arrange my brothers funeral, I switched from my usual music on to BBC Radio 2. ‘Our’ song came on within 5 minutes of switching over, the song I had chosen to be played as we carried him in to the chapel. The song is not one you would usually ever hear on Radio 2. Why did it decide to play on this day, at this time? I can tell you it was not a gift from heaven, nor was it a gift from the DJ. In that moment it was a gift from my brother in my memory, and that is what I choose to believe.