Friday, 13 December 2013

The Meaning of Life - The Grim Reaper

The fourth part of my mini-series on the meaning of life was going to cover happiness, leaving death until the end. However, Christmas is approaching faster than a speeding Santa so happiness is a fitting topic to finish on.

Sadly this means I have to discuss death now.

Death is a nasty part of life – which is kind of weird really because death means the end of life. Some people become preoccupied with death in the later stages of life and become obsessed with it.

I hope that doesn’t happen to me.

I have faced death in a major way, as regular readers may know, when I watched my father die at the tender age of 44. Obviously that was a traumatic event which time helped to cure. The problem was that because his death was so unexpected and so sudden that it planted a seed of anxiety that lay dormant until I approached the same age.

Reason was cast aside and for a whole year, a part of me expected my own life to come to an abrupt and meaningless end. The feeling was totally irrational and while it didn’t dominate my life, I found my thoughts drifting towards the Grim Reaper more times than I would have hoped for.

My 45th birthday was a great day because to me it meant the end of what I described as the year of death. I felt like I had reached the finish line of a great race.

Looking back now, some seven years later, I have no such fears and I can’t believe the thought ever crossed my mind. Furthermore, I really ought to be worrying about it more because I am older and, realistically, closer to the day when the Grim Reaper comes knocking to collect me.

And I can’t help but wonder why that is.

Death is the inescapable conclusion to life and, unless you have discovered the secret of immortality or are a vampire, it will happen to you.

Why worry about it?

There is no reason.

Life is great and when the time comes, it will come; there is nothing you can do about it.

What’s more, death may not be the end. The premise of most religions is that death is merely a transition to a higher plane of existence – or possibly even the chance to pop back to Earth as another person or another creature.

As a Catholic, I have been indoctrinated by the premise that when I die, I will be judged and, having been a naughty boy (and I have been a naughty boy), I will suffer the consequences in Purgatory before joining the legions of the dead in Heaven in eternal happiness.

I could go to Hell of course and spend the rest of eternity being tortured and tormented by demonic forces. My punishment would almost certainly involve being locked in a cell with Piers Morgan with diabolical pop music blaring out of speakers at a high volume.

Reincarnation seems a reasonable option – if options are available. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to be born again as another person and live another life? Of course, it might already have happened and I may have been a slave in Pompeii, or a jester in the court of Henry VIII or an explorer sailing towards America with Christopher Columbus.

Apparently it is possible to be hypnotised and drift back through your past lives. I am tempted to have a go at this but I am too sceptical and realistically I imagine my “past life” will come from a historical novel I have read or a blockbuster movie.

Other options exist; what about the science fiction concept that death is just a way of entering a new plane of existence? When we shuffle off this mortal coil, do we shed our old bodies and float off into space in an alternative reality?

Or the idea that we all drift off and continue to prevail in death? In the Necroscope series of books, when people die, they exist in a different form and continue their life’s work in death.

Apart from Hell with Piers Morgan, most of the alternatives sound appealing in one way or another.

And being a positive person, I would like to think that there is something more. The scientist within me is very sceptical and informs me that we will simply cease to be. After all, we don’t remember anything from before we were born do we?

I have no memory of anything before October 1962, my birth month. I suspect the reality is that I will return to that emptiness.

But I may be wrong.

Death could be the beginning of a brand new adventure.

Finally, please excuse the morbid tone of this post but people can’t talk about death without some negative overtones.

To cheer you up a bit, here are a couple of funny videos relating to death:


H2B said...

Oh Mr PM, you forget another scientific interpretation of after-death. I can't put it as eloquently as the scientist's letter to his young granddaughter ( I saw it on TV). Here is my attempt:
Death is just a part of the cycle of life. After one's death, their carbon molecules will be converted into another life form. If you scattered my ashes in the garden, part of me will become a rose bush or a tree, whose leaves may be eaten by a caterpillar which will become a butterfly. So, if you see a butterfly flying past, it may be part of me saying hello. See, I will never be far away.

It stuck in my mind because my mum told me when I was little that when a moth came into our house, it was an ancestor coming to say hello.

Elephant's Child said...

Monty Python were brilliant at their best. Dave Allen had charm too.
Death is not something which bothers me. As a non believer I suspect there will be nothing to follow - but that's ok too. Which is probably just as well since there is nothing I can do about it.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi H2B,

That's a nice thought - and of course absolutely true.

I love that kind of positivity.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

Monty Python were kind of patchy but at their best, as you say, hilarious.

Dave Allen was one of my favourite comedians and his mickey taking of Catholicism was legendary.

You can do absolutely nothing about death - exactly true - so why worry?




jeremy north said...

Be assured PM that nothing in catholic doctrine about death and judgement is in any way based on the bible. That was all a scam to get money out of grieving families

More to follow ...

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jeremy,

Doesn't surprise me. The church could help with lots of world problems if they dipped into their vast wealth - however it was acquired.




Jackie K said...

Great post and a good summary of the options. My belief system is very much as commented by H2B.
I like that this was posted on FRIDAY THE 13TH.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jackie,

Ah - the date is a complete fluke.