Beyond death

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life wondering about death, its meaning and what could hide beyond it. I remember the first time I thought about death, when I was six years old, and would lie in bed during a sleepless night trying to force my mind to understand what would it be like to cease existing. Since that first night, death has been one of my favorite philosophycal and artistic themes.

Most of my life I’ve believed that there was something more after death, like the typical light at the end of the tunnel and a peaceful place to live forever with the people you loved on Earth, or even God waiting for us. But, although this should be a hopeful and positive view of death, it didn’t calm me, and I feared death more than anything else. During this year, different things that have changed in my life and new views I’ve encountered have made me considered new ideas about how to approach the mistery of death and, eventually, my thoughts on the matter have drifted a lot from what I thought most of my life. These are the main two things that have made me reflect:

  • My research on the field of neuroscience: this year I’m taking a master degree on computational neuroscience at university and I hope I could work for the research teams in the future. Studying neuroscience have helped me to understand a lot better how information is stored and processed in the brain and what could be the phenomena that leads to the raise of concioussness.
  • I have come clean about my atheism: my family and some of my closest friends were religious so I didn’t feel comfortable with the fact that I’ve been an atheist all my life and didn’t want to admit it. I tried going to church and forced in me religious thoughts and feelings. Luckily, this year my mother had a faith crisis and has turned away from church, so that help me to finally accept the fact that I’m an atheist without any regret or doubt. Well, I’m not an atheist completely because I believe in Spinoza’s God, but at the bottom, is basically the same for me.

So, finally, here is what I think of death now:

Sometimes we lose our minds trying to find complicated answers for simple questions when the solution to them is in front of our eyes. And death is one of these simple questions. What is it like to be death? We all know the answer to this, because each one of us have already been dead. Where were be before we appeared in this life? Where were be all the time before we were born? We didn’t exist. And so its logical to think that once we’ve stopped existing in our body, we come back to that primal state of non existence, same as before being born. Even we go back to a state almost equal to that every night when we go to sleep and our conscience is turned off and every connection to our body cut off while we wander in a fantasy away from the world around us. So, for me, there’s nothing at all after death, only the absolute emptiness of non-existence.

But then, doesn’t soul exist? What happens with all our memories, our personality, the essence of who we are? Maybe here I am a bit dazzled by the novice enthusiasm I feel about the way neuroscience explains our mind and I’m being reductionist, but as far as I know, our memories, manners, personality, etc., etc. are just information stored in the synaptic connections and neural networks in our brain. If the brain stops working and is destroyed, all that information about who we are gets lost with it forever and we’re gone. So nothing of what make us who we are will transcend.

Having said this, I actually think there might be something that do transcend us: our conscience. By conscience here, I mean the part of our mind that is aware and operates as an observer of the world around us and processes that information, without it being attached to memories or anything that has something to do with who make us what we are. I think that’s the only part of us that keeps on living after death, so that the only thing that we’ll remain of us when we leave this world is our conscience and the state in which it is. And, after we die, that conscience will live again as a different human being or animal, or whatever is alive. But it won’t be us anymore. So for our individual experience, this doesn’t matter that much, since our life still concludes with death and non existence and the info of who we were stays in our brain forever.

I know some of you may be thinking that this is all terrible and hopeless. But it’s been the contrary for me: since I’ve accepted that there may not be anything else after death, I feel calmer than ever about it and I don’t fear death that much anymore. This new view of death have made me realize how beautiful and valuable is our time in this world since every moment is unrrepeatable, the improbable of having had the opportunity to be born as we are and experience the world and feel all a human being can feel and, in brief, I’ve learned to value life and the people I love so much that when the time comes and I face my death, I’ll be only thankful and happy for having lived, not scared. On the other hand, it’s true that thinking we’ll never see again the people we loved and lost or that who we are we’ll be forever lost along with our memories and everything we experienced is sad and nostalgic, it makes more important and valuable the time we have here and we spend with other people.

Also, if everything we are is just information stored in our brains, a new range of possibilities appears and who knows if some day with the help of technology we could erase death and keep our memories, personality and conscience attached to a computer or a simulation, etc. and build our own afterlife on Earth.

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Berlin!

I’ve wanted to visit this city since I was twelve and watched a documentary about it at my grandmom’s home. Finally, I’ve been there this September 🙂 I’m thinking of moving there…

 

What is love?

It was midnight, but it seemed incredible, judging by how quickly the last hours had passed. The window of the room was open, and through it the cold wind of the dying summer nights of mid-September was coming in. Only the dim light of the bedside table and the one in the kitchen lit the room. On the kitchen table, your dinner, you had just bit once, was getting cold. I had eaten my portion, and as soon as I had finished I had returned to bed to comfort you while you slept with narrowed eyes on me. It was easy, I just had to caress your face, give you a kiss on the cheek or the lips and hug you. In the silence, only the sound of your heavy breathing was heard. Suddenly, I noticed that something new had happened in the room without me having realized until then. While stroking your skin, I had felt a timid warmth in my chest that wasn’t there before. I was frightened, fearing that by having put my attention on it I could make it hide again, fearful. But I checked it again and there it was, inside my heart. I caught it with my conscience, like a child catching a dragonfly to put it in a boat, and I looked at it. It was more solid and stable than the last few times, more and more frequently, I’d noticed its presence. Slowly, all my feelings were getting back to me, with your help. I let his warmth move me and fill me with the sweetest weakness as I laid beside you, resting my head on your chest, while your hand sought mine. And then it seemed absurd to me wanting anything more than you. I felt all I wanted was to love you and to take care of you.

Sometimes you don’t have to complicate your life. What is love? Someone told me that it’s about two people who care about each other and try to give to each other what they need. Someone told me that it’s to die in the Other to find oneself. I know that if I died for you, you’d take care of me. I feel that I owe you the same. There is nothing else. It must be love. At last.

A truth I could love

Death dominates life. Living is just a concatenation of small deaths that culminates in absolute and irreversible death. It may be something that goes unnoticed, we may not even be aware of it, but we ourselves also die many times over the course of our lives. In twenty years, there won’t be even the slightest vestige of the person we are in the present. Time and experience will erode all our ideas, all our feelings, will deform what we are until we can’t recognize ourselves. But the paths of fate intertwine and sometimes lead us back to where we started and we can talk to the ghosts of what we were. And you take me back to a person I was and loved, whom I tried to save by all means until I had to resign myself to abandon her and let her die. You pronounce her name and talk about the old dreams, the old hopes, promises that she thought had been extinguished in the confusion of the world, to raise her out of her tomb, back to life.

In your eyes I see what I was clearly reflected: I see my own feelings, my own fears, my own pain, my own hopes that you now project in me and to that vision my heart trembles and moves, engendering something new that wants to be born and grow because of the simple tenderness of your love and the loyalty it gives off. Then I think that reality can also be wrong. Maybe I rushed. You are the reason enough to feel an illusion that I never thought I’d feel again, and I strive to remove the soil that buries faith and trust as fast as my hands allow me while I forget the causes of their death. But I buried them many meters under the ground and, although I try to protect you from their transient absence, I don’t always manage to do it. I’m so sorry for you, for not being able to protect you from suffering because of something that is not your fault. However, the desire to protect you is a sign that I care.

There’re so many things I’d like to say to you, but language is so imperfect and limited that it can never accurately express what passes through the vague nebula of my mind. Or maybe I’m just afraid of sounding too strange. In any case, I remain silent and try to discover what is hidden beyond what you let me see, what you keep, what you project, the imprint left on you by the world, the contradictions, the unnecessary complexities, defenses, excuses and conventions that blur what you are ultimately and I seem to glimpse the light of your truth, kind and sensitive. A truth I could love.

 

Last time we spoke

I like to sing this song everyday when I come back home. Somehow, it brings me some comfort.

When you called
your voice was so grave,
I knew it would be
the last time we spoke

You said something
that I couldn’t bear
to hear with my own ears,
the last time we spoke

And it’s a hard time
trying to get through,
all the days that drag on
thinking about you

Nothing hurts
like someone who knows
everything about you
leaving you behind

And it’s a hard time
trying to get through,
all the days that drag on
thinking about you

When you called
you might as well have killed me
and that was the last time,
the last time we spoke

From Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (2005) by Eels

You’re finally gone

The first thing I think about when I wake up everyday is that you’re gone. The last thing I think every nigth before falling asleep is that you’re gone. In between those two thoughts, I manage to get out of bed and get stuff done. I’d be lying if I told that I’m depressed or sad. I used to think that leaving you would be a million times worse that it’s actually being. I miss you so much it could kill me, that’s true, but I can bear whit that risk. I love you and the last thing in the world that I’d like to do is what I’m doing: abandoning you. But you’ve left me with no other choice. It’s you or me. It was me or she. And you never chose, so finanlly I had to do it on your place. It’s been some time since a part of me has been growing more powerful, pushing me to grow up and forget about this story.

To stand firm on my decision, I try to ‘convince’ myself that you have died and, despites I want it so much, there’s no way you’re coming back because death is irreversible. The only problem with that trick is that I have to see you every single day in front of my eyes. I try to think that the person I see is not the real you, the person I used to know, but a double someone has put in your place after your death. And that’s how I survive minute by minute. Trying not to think much about the things that united us, the ideas, thoughts and experiences we had in common, the happy days we spent together. At least I could spend some time with you, at least I knew what it is like to feel close to someone, at least I came to know everything about human heart. But it’s hard to stay apart and see how you go back slowly to the place you should have never come out from, where I cannot reach you, where you belong to the others. Anyway it’s more important the arrival than the goodbye.

I’m changing again. I think I’m a complete adult now. There’s no trace of the innoncence I carried with me. Something has died deep inside of my soul with you. It’s the end of an era, the end of the person I was. And sometimes I wish I could go back in time and be that person again, I wish I could skip to the beginning and live it all over again. But I can’t. When I met you years ago, I felt like I could make an effort to know someone, to let him into my life, because I feared loneliness. Now, I’m not afraid of loneliness anymore. That is the fact that scares me the most: it seems to me I don’t need anyone, anymore.

Before I forgot it, I didn’t tell you when I said goodbye to you that I love you. I’m not sure in which form, I think love is always the same. I wish things could have been different. I wish I didn’t have to leave you this way.