Thursday, 16 April 2020

Life after Living

A Chinaman and a Roman take a stroll up a rugged path towards the sun.

"What happens after you die?", are the words on both men's lips. The most human question that has ever been asked. In fact is is basically the question of our species. Asking what happens after death is essentially the same question as "What is the meaning of life?", or "Does God exist?". I have noticed there generally being two schools of thought on this topic: the Oriental and the Occidental perspectives, and both perspectives must be in turn viewed through a temporal lense.

In the East they believe in some form of cyclical life. One dies and is reborn as another being. In the age of God this meant that while your body may die, your soul would pass on to another body and continue living. In this, the age of reason, you live on through your prodigy and the collective. One does what they can to leave the collective a better place than they found it.

Here in the West we believe in a more linear life. Once one dies their soul passes on to the other side, whatever that may be. In times gone this meant your soul would leave your corporal body and pass to the afterlife, somewhere that you cannot return from. There is an interesting but seldom resolved difference between direct and delayed afterlife. That is whether the soul passes to the other world directly on death or waits until the end of time to pass on. In the age of reason we believe that you simply die. Your soul-worth is judged by others and your individual name will go down in the history books.

Both systems answer all three of the aforementioned grand questions:
Question East West
What happens after you die? Rebirth Afterlife
Does God exist? Yes (No) No (Yes)
What is the meaning of life? To live a life of good To live a life of good

As you can see, the first question is really the only one humans have ever disagreed on theologically. The second question is outside the scope of this post, but its a question that's solution lies in contradiction and has, throughout history, always been the sole purview of a priestly class. The third question is a cheat. We ask for a meaning but are given a purpose. A vague answer that really is just a retelling of the question. Rather than questions, I like to appeal to the sun and call them "equations". An equation is itself a truth. All the knowledge needed to solve it is held within the question itself, and all you must do is reorder the question to get the "answer".

I, as all Western men must, fall into the linear view of life. My vision of heaven and the contextualisation of the meaning of life was once explained to me by the son of a vicar. He explained heaven as a convergence of time. And as time converges upon your soul the deeds of your life are judged by the final form of yourself. So as your death approaches, your perception of time speeds up exponentially, making the final moments of your life seem to last for an eternity. In this eternal state you will be dead to the world, living in a world made purely of your own mind. And the details of that world depends on the memories you keep from your life. If they are good memories then your afterlife will be heaven, but if they are bad, you will be stuck in the eternal hell flames of regret. Purgatory could be seen as a period of judgement, as you go over every detail of your life until it merges into one: good or bad. I've always liked this explanation. It comes from a modern mind that was constantly locked in a battle of two zeitgeists: religion and science. Your life crossing across your mind as you trip over is part of this natural process. A process made of scientific jargon of oxygen deprivation and hormonal shifts that hold about as much water as a book written by an omnipotent formless trinity, that is too say: a lot.

Whatever your belief is, the important thing is to have faith in it. Realise that the answers to question A and B are meaningless in the face of question C, and as such you can never live a good life if you are stuck on the fundamentals. I believe this is the cause of many modern afflictions, primarily caused by a lack of faith. Much wiser men than you have found the answer: live a good life. The functionality of which is in question, but the path is clear.

A Chinaman and a Roman take a stroll up a rugged path towards the sun. They are locked in heated debate. Neither shows weakness in rhetoric nor logic: truly matched equally in strength. They both wear two faces. One of stern disagreement and of mortal toil, faced toward the other. The other of childlike glee facing forward toward the light. Together they pass into the light and become birds.

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