It began with the question, “Is there a belief that you have that if you found out it was untrue would have a devastating effect on your life?” We quickly covered the usual platitudes, about Santa Claus and the Tooth fairy, but death was the common core idea of the seventeen people present, and we happily worried that grim topic for two hours. Several people expressed heartfelt beliefs that the soul was eternal and they were only inhabiting their body as a training episode for their personal eternally conscious spirit. Their purpose in life was to learn to be more competent spirits. Without declaring that to be utter nonsense some others expressed a total immersion in their physical body as the only body, or consciousness, they would ever have and therefore it was to be prized and used to maximize the joy of every moment that came to them. That idea didn’t require any belief beyond the living moment, and they expressed suspicion of projections of life beyond death, and even a discounting of life into the future, beyond the conscious moment. The polar opposites seemed to agree that when you know something you can’t unknow it; thus every moment is to be lived and valued.
There was an annoying thought for the life-after-death believers, and that was the possibility that at the moment of death you were locked into the learning of your life up to that moment, and that left one’s spirit stuck in the circumstances of the moment of death. At one point I remember rattling off the mantra: Be here; Pay attention; Give it your best; Let it go! An important part in the death conversation context was the ability to let it go, because after the moment of death there was no longer the option of modifying the behavior of anything.
The problem arose with the issue of change, and the realization that people fear change that isn’t under their personal control. After the moment of death all change forevermore proceeds without any further personal input. Things you have done may well continue to affect things, but only in the sense that you already have set into the coming situation some preordained causes and effects, but if things change, those pre-sets won’t work anymore. These types of fixed pre-sets would not be adaptive to whatever came later, and might be clearly counterproductive. If that is true, would our personal departure – death – make the world a worse place instead of a better one? In the long run would my personal departure make more people happier or more miserable?
Most of the people present were older, and I am now eighty, which means I am twenty years past my expiration date of fifty-nine years, when born in 1935, and a few were older than I. We old folks are not yet feeble or we wouldn’t be downtown in a coffee shop, nor chatting pleasantly about death and eternity. It was a cheery thought that now is always our access to eternity, and thus now is always the living edge of eternity, and my human body is indispensable for my human consciousness and this is where I am, so I choose to be here now and live!
If you’re not dead right now, then make the most of your life.