I’m not sure if I skipped the midlife crisis stage or if I just couldn’t afford it, but all of a sudden I started thinking about the end of my life. Basically, someday, I’m going to die…. This is normally a conversation stopper, even if only conversing with the self. But I guess I got tired of ignoring it, or something.
Actually, I’ve learned that accepting our impending death is what people do when they reach their 40’s and 50’s so maybe I was just following the book. Either way, I am happy to say that I have found peace when it comes to closing my eyes on this life as I know it.
I mean, I’d prefer not to fall 40,000 feet to my death in an explosion of fire or lose a long drawn out wrestling match with a ferocious animal, but no matter what happens, I know that everything and everyone are going to be okay.
Somehow I had avoided the whole topic of dying for four decades. Maybe I thought in the back of my mind that I would be the one person to defy death. Or maybe I just believed that I was going to heaven and that was that. There was no need to concern myself on the matter any further. I made a rash decision based on perhaps some many quick decisions made before me.
But now I have serious doubts about the traditional Christian doctrine of heaven. After taking an honest-to-self look at what the Bible might say about the issue, I really can’t see any support for some separate place or utopian state of bliss apart from earth. And it’s not just the Bible. I can’t find this evidential support anywhere. The idea of heaven as some far away place appears to be based solely on myth.
When Jesus used the word “heaven” it seemed to be in full compliance with Jewish tradition and the words of the prophets when they spoke of the age to come on earth. It was the day when God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven – when heaven and earth will become the same essence. “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.” Isaiah continues to say that God will “swallow up death forever” and “wipe away the tears from all faces.” Swords will become plowshares and spears will become pruning hooks. This is heaven which is on earth.
It seems that some prominent guy (female voices were rarely recorded in history) catches on to some scriptural interpretation and over time, it becomes a doctrine written in stone. And this stone has had a tendency to crush anyone who might have proposed a viable alternative to these interpretations.
In this case, the Christian doctrines of heaven and hell (both invariably linked together) were first rejected by the Roman Catholic church because they came from pagan sources, from my understanding. Eventually these beliefs, which included purgatory, were adopted by the institutional church at large and while there may be some variation, they are now considered facts of truth by Christians all over the world.
Believers now get to choose between a variety of end times views such a premillenial, postmillenial, amillenial or a pretribulation, mid-trib, post-trib rapture. You can also discover partial preterism, full preterism, futurism, progressive dispensationalisn, historicism, idealism and sometimes it’s a tough choice when you’re out shopping for eschatologies.
I always liked the pretrib rapture idea because, well, it got me out of a seven year tribulation. Escapism from a God of wrath sounded pretty good to me. The only problem was that I never really took the time to think about and question what I believed. It was pretty much a rash decision to take care of the scary death idea as quickly as possible.
Facing death, as well as the possibility of the worst-case scenario such as torment in a never-ending inferno, helps me to think about the issue with more logic. I was also forced to genuinely consider the possibility that maybe life is simply over at death. I can tell you that these theories are not as frightening as we might anticipate them to be. And I will explain why in a minute.
So how do we know which afterlife plan to choose, if any? And how do we know somebody didn’t mistranslate or misinterpret one word in the Bible upon which the entire end of the world hinges? While we’re on the subject, how do we know anything?
I’m going to veer a little off topic (ha, like I’ve never done that before) and explain my personality…. I love trapping someone into a philosophical debate where I ask endless questions and propose even more endless answers. When my victim looks like a deer caught in the headlights, I order another round of lattes and keep talking of course. I’m a joker, I’m theoretical, passionate and my rationale is in your face. But I haven’t always been this way.
I always wanted to be the quiet, sweet flowery girl sitting in the corner who looks like she’s going to break if you step on her toe. I’ve tried to be this person and I always felt out of place, awkward – like something wasn’t right. This is because it wasn’t me. When I’m the dorky, arbitrary, cynical smartass me, I feel alive. I’m in my element. Conversations flow. Life flows. It’s that split second victory when a puzzle piece twists to land in just the right place.
In that sense, I guess you might say that I know something, at least as far as I can know anything. I know what’s right for me personally, and I know what doesn’t work for me personally. I’m tempted to say that figuring things out is half intuition and half trial and error, but I’ve learned that diverse human beings can’t be stuffed into formulas. My truths might not work for someone else because we live in unique as well as common environments.
I can only assume, based on my own life experience and consciousness, that it’s possible to know things even in a state of ignorance or diversity. Even a baby knows when to laugh and when to wail. In fact, kids might be more in tune with their truths than us adults. Maybe this is only because infants don’t have as much to lose as someone with a longer investment in a lifestyle.
But life experience is still a great teacher. There have been moments in my past where I found myself walking for miles out in the cold, dark rain… just walking because I’m in so much emotional pain and anguish, that’s all I know to do. I’ve also cried for hours with my face pressed against a cold bathroom floor. I’ve faced hard reality when I’ve had to admit to certain failures, or acknowledge that I’m not as fabulous as my illusion….
And I now know that it’s possible to make it through something really painful or difficult. How do I know? I guess I just know. I’ve been through it. Through living, I’ve also observed a pattern. For every death that I’ve died, I’ve risen stronger than I was before. I’ve noticed this pattern in other people too, as well as in nature.
Everything seems to be in a constant state of breaking down and building up in various degrees. The breaking down isn’t only allotted to some people while the rewards go to another. It happens to everyone. Everything is born and everything will eventually die. There is no escape from life.
And it doesn’t end. When a piece of wood is burned in a fire, it doesn’t disappear but is transformed into different chemicals that are assimilated back into the atmosphere. More trees and other forms of life are created from this atmosphere. Existing matter doesn’t ever vanish; it is only altered. Existence also doesn’t have a beginning if we look at the time and space continuum of the universe.
As the life cycle continues, many scientists assert, the universe is intrinsically expanding. It isn’t expanding into further space outside of itself, but within or among itself. It is continually in motion and continually in the process of metamorphosis.
This is why I believe that life continues after death. I can say that I know this, as far as I know anything. It only makes sense to me. The majority of the world has always believed in reincarnation. Christians might have an aversion to this concept except that they believe in reincarnation too, if they embrace any kind of theory of rebirth in a new body. While Christians might believe in a reincarnation into heaven or hell, someone else might consider earth as that heaven and/or hell.
I also believe that this continuing life is essentially good, not evil. This is because of the sheer brilliance and cohesiveness of all that exists. Evil seems to be generally characterized by ignorance rather than genius wisdom. There is too much depth and intelligence in the world of life to be meaningless, pointless, illogical or only temporary.
So you see, there is definitely a risk when considering all viewpoints. The risk is that we might find that the thing we fear could be true. But as long as we avoid facing our phobias, they will manipulate our peace. If we face them and discover agony or vexation, then we can learn to accept its purpose and rise above it. And chances are, we will realize that we had nothing to fear in the first place. We might even stumble into heaven, or some kind of reincarnation.
As far as afterlife plans go, I’m curious to know what’s on the other side but patient enough to appreciate the ebb and flow of the here and now which, I imagine, will only continue just as the universe continues in eternal time and space. Although the world is ever changing, it can be trusted to persist and thrive because it is self-sustaining. Just as you and I can keep going with increasing strength after experiencing some excruciating obstacles.
Whatever I believe, it’s nice to be courageously true to myself and my beliefs, and to rest in knowing, as far as I might know.