On Dying

For many years, I have felt a certainty that I will continue beyond physical death.

95% of the time, this comforts me, and I rely on it in times of thoughts of death.

Sometimes, though, my mind decides to play devil’s advocate, and I think about the alternative.

The pleasant reality is that I have come to appreciate both possibilities.

It seems there are two, given my …current circumstances.

1. I die, and there is life after death, and the REAL adventure begins!

2. I die, and that’s it. I finally have some peace and quiet, and never again will anything pain or suffer me again.

The pondering of #1 is like winning the lottery, but better. More like an eternal lucid dream… awareness after death…eternal

awareness…never dying…

The pondering of #2 is peace….eternal peace. After all of life’s pains, annoyances, fears, frustrations, worries, suffering, and

grief….never again. Never a single other suffering. FOREVER peace.

Both of these sound pretty spectacular to me.

Unfortunately, a third thought has popped up.

No, it’s not Hell.
No. I’m not much of a hell ponderer.

I go back several years to a quote that stuck in my mind…. a quote that has niggled my mind and gently troubled me for years.

Only recently has it really meant so much to me.

John Donne:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the

sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s

death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for

thee.

Queerly, it isn’t an intellectual draw.

It’s something stranger and deeper. It’s in my bones, my blood, my cells, if you will.

Read this again. I mean it very, very strongly.

How can you know your brother is going to hell, and not care? How can you think ANYONE is going to hell, and not care? Is

it not like going to hell yourself?

How can you ascend to heaven, knowing your brethren are descending to hell?

I could not.

And I ponder it, in those dark times when I think about the rotting, the dead, the worms eating me… (no, I didn’t just make that

up…I got it from my Baptist Minister grandfather..of all places…yet at what point in life he said it, I do not know. Perhaps it was

when he was dying, young, from uremic poisoning and looked into my still then idealistic and religious father’s eyes with a look

my father would later claim as saying, “This has all been bullshit.”)

Why is it dark? Because I think, selfishly, oh, the relief from life’s miseries, if instead of afterlife, we really die, worms eating us,

as the athiest proclaims,what a wonderful, pleasant relief….

but no.

John Donne still haunts me.

Damn you, John Donne.

I think about that tiny, tiny, tiny little possibility….that possibility that maybe we really DO rot in the ground, worms eating us, as

Grandpa Lunsford said, and I think, no…you cannot relax, and finally achieve relief.

There are others you are interweaved with, entwined with, who are suffering…those who you leave behind…who continue to live

and breath and breed and suffer and die and yearn…and it goes on and on and on and on and on…forever and ever and

ever…and how can you relax and have any kind of relief knowing you are entertwined with these…souls…and that they will

continue striving on and suffering?

How could I possibly believe, Pappy Lunsford, that at the end, suffering and in pain and dying, that we are really just primates,

and it was all for naught, and the worms eat us?

How you must have felt when you you passed over and found out differently.

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Controlling Your Emotions Through Expression

It was a few weeks ago when wallowing in one of my longer-lasting emotional valleys that I suddenly remembered something that had vaguely caught my interest a couple years back in Bio Psych class. It was about the James-Lange theory. (Here’s a synopsis of it: http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/james_lange_emotion.htm

Common View:

Scary Happening ——-> Fear —————> Running Away Lange Theory

Scary Happening——–>Running Away ——>Fear

I got to thinking about all this, when I was in my Doldrums Mode. And I decided to experiment. For one full day. I decided to smile. ALL DAY. Now, part of my Doldrums Mode experience was that two things that were happening dissipated:

1. I was rolling and saturating in past experiences. I could not stop rubbing my own nose in my past screw ups, dumb-asseries, and uglinessess. And, oh Lord, what simple things some of them were… very, very simple little silly things nobody would ever remember except me, and I was slamming my face into them, over and over. Looking back, it was like a sick, subconscious attempt at “flooding” (a technique used in behavior therapy; client is flooded with experiences of a particular kind until becoming either averse to them or numbed to them) , but for the purpose of changing reactions to memories this time, rather than phobia control. Well, it wasn’t working. The shocking result #1 of my neurological smile experiment was this: when I dredged up these memories with a big grin on my face, THE SHAME DISSIPATED. This is so huge you may just sort of overlook it. It’s one of those things the human mind doesn’t really grasp so well. Author Whitley Streiber said when something is TOO bizarre, the brain ignores it. Makes sense. You will probably not believe this, but on that day, my past-pain-wallowing STOPPED.

2. Shocking result number two. During this smile experience, I realized that IT WAS MORE DIFFICULT TO REMEMBER THE ACTUAL PAINFUL DETAILS OF AN EVENT.

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Now, I am not a neurologist. (I only play one in my more imaginative manic moods, hardy har. ) But this seems like some pretty heavy stuff, and it bears further experimentation. I also noticed that when I thought of stereotypically sad things that didn’t particularly bother me, and then put on a mock-tragic expression of sadness, that I seemed to feel sadder. Here is a simple article on the subject. I highly recommend doing your own experiments…

Here’s an article that touches upon it a bit…

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1871687,00.html

BTW…I am a courier, so grinning hugely while on the road was no problem for me.  As for those that work in an office….you’re on your own…  LOL