I remember the day of my Christian salvation experience, that moment when, in the spirit of spatial irrationality I “invited Jesus into my heart.” There are countless others who have experienced a similar moment, reveled in its purifying quality and soberly accepted the reality of a world in which death was no longer the enemy but simply a momentary stop on the way to worshiping the Lord in a celestial body. I was a child but I recognized then the awesome power and weight of divine final judgment; that moment when having given up this mortal coil there exists the recognition that one lacks the essential component to confer everlasting life. Fear of damnation and eternal torture at the hands of a supposedly loving ‘God’ drove me to the contemplation of my mortality and not rather an exploration of life’s many manifestations, the potential for something new and glorious.
Thankfully whereas then I saw “through a glass darkly” now I see “face to face,” the reality of life’s continuance, of the abundance where death is not a finality but merely the end of only one manifestation of nature’s abundant forms. Death has lost its sting and not because of some sacrifice by another. Life goes on, it must, it cannot do other than perpetuate its own life-giving-ness. Where in that should fear reside? Where in a universe that has all that we can even potentially comprehend, pushing us by virtue of creative constancy to the frontiers of inquiry, is there a place for having lack, either here or in the moment of our final breath?
Life breeds more life just as love manifests more love and joy luxuriates in the openness of more joy. I believe the existential angst that death often brings results in a profound need to believe in a continued continuity of experience. Stories of what exists beyond death are numerous and often fantastical, exhibiting the imaginative manifestation of humanity, each story drawing from personal experience, cultural myths and familial ties. We want to keep going on and our bodies, caught as they are in this middle earth, can only conceive of something new from within a place of personal knowledge. What truth they all have in common is a heartfelt desire for personal continuance in some form or other.
We create narratives out of implicit memories of emotional connections to events we are automatically shifting our perceptions of to fit a worldview, pushed by internal demands that seem to flow from the universe itself, resulting in a constant stream of meaning-making desire. This desire should be celebrated rather than dismissed. Such desire can be and is a source of connection to the inevitable continuance of creative expression, where the cessation of the ego in death is not a place of finality but an emergence into a near-infinite potential of nature’s possibility.
That possibility, like the myths and legends and stories shaped through human history, manifests the values life holds for each person. If one lives a life of judgment, then the afterlife will exhibit such. If one lives a life of acceptance and celebration of connection, then the afterlife will reflect this. The relationship one has with immortality is not about whether one’s conscious presence continues, but rather the connection to the life currently practiced. Ask yourself what object of desire should continue on when this form has ceased and there you will find the connection to your own immortality. If such is life-denying then so shall death be, but if such is life-giving then so shall the eternal be.
© David Teachout