A Blow to the Head

I had a weird experience a couple of nights ago that keeps coming back to me.

I was about to go to sleep for the night when I decided to get a glass of water. I walked out of my bedroom into the hallway and started to get a little light-headed, this happens occasionally for me and I figured it would pass like it always does. Instead, I passed out* and hit my head on the floor. My partner came over to my unconscious body and called my name. I was only out for a couple of seconds and, except for a couple bumps on my head, everything was fine.

I went back to bed and laid down, but I couldn’t help but think about stories I’ve heard about where people go to sleep after a head injury and they die in their sleep. I wasn’t afraid, though, I figured the chance of death was relatively unlikely but if I did die everything would be okay. I really think there are only two scenarios for death, either there is nothing (seems the most likely), or there is something (probably not), and if there is something the odds are pretty good that it’ll all be okay. I was calm and at peace with the idea of never waking up.

I don’t want to die and I’m going to actively avoid death as much as possible, but if something happens I hope I can maintain this peace and comfort. My life has been pretty awesome and I want it to continue, but I don’t feel like I’ve wasted it or that death will be a terrible experience (though, the act of dying could be pretty miserable). Having a fear of the unknown (whether it is death or something much more mundane) prevents us from having new experiences, if our default is “new is probably bad” we limit our options and make our lives much smaller than they need to be.

Life is just too short to fear death.

*I think I passed out because it was my fast day and I had consumed a couple of beers that night, which likely lead to low blood pressure. I already pass out kind of easily (I’ve done it several times while donating blood) and I won’t make that mistake again. I like fasting, but it is something I need to exercise extra caution with. Oh well, live and learn.

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My Death

It seems possible that I will die someday. I put the odds at 50/50. Because of that (and because I just finished Season 3 of “Six Feet Under”… goddamnit Lisa) I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would like to happen if I die. This probably isn’t legally binding, but I wish it was.

  1. My partner gets to make all the decisions. I’ve talked to her at length about this and she knows me best.
  2. If there is any money available (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA etc), I want that to be divided in half. The first half goes to Anna. The second half is divided again evenly among the children of the following people: Jordan Neiger, Sean Neiger, Kevin Neiger, Kayla Neiger, Colton Neiger, Kim Anderson Dean, Josh McIntyre, John Sleeman, Adam Cuppy, Blayne Bennett, and Megan Roberts. Most of them haven’t had children yet, but if they do I would want my finances to support them. I guess if they have kids after I die they are SOL… better start pumping out babies if you want a share of my wealth (again, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA etc)
  3. I don’t really care what happens to my remains. I’ll be dead and the odds are pretty good I won’t care. Even if there is a life of some sort after this it probably doesn’t involve fretting over the condition of my remains. Do what you need to do to be happy.
  4. But, if you would be happy by doing something with my body that I want done with it then these are my thoughts… First, donate whatever you can to those in need. Second, don’t cremate my body or pump it full of chemicals. Third, take it out to nature somewhere and just let nature do it’s things. I’ve always loved the desert and forests, but any place will do. Let the animals and bugs eat me, let my chemicals breakdown and return to nature. From my body will be other life, and that is kind of badass.
  5. As far as a funeral, it is for you so do what you want to heal and be happy. But, it’d be pretty cool if beer was available and someone played some Kesha (I’d recommend her acoustic album). Again, this is for you so do what you need to be happy and move on.

Death is something that most people don’t like to think about. I don’t particularly like thinking about it, but it doesn’t frighten me. Death may come for us all. With our likely limited lives we should spend our time and energy on loving each other and living in the moment. Try new things, take changes, get the heart rate up, and use what time we have wisely. Take care of your body, but just enough so that it works well. Tell people you love them in whatever way you can… words are hard for some, so maybe hug them or give them a gift or look them in the eye. If there is something you want to do (bungee jumping, get a tattoo, have a foursome, etc) but are afraid I think you should do them sooner rather than later. Hell, do it this weekend if doing so won’t leave you homeless or unable to afford another meal. If you end up on a death bed your memories will be on those experiences, how they made you grow and challenged your sense of being, and not on the day-to-day monotony. And most of all, just love.

Turning Thirty-Four

This week I turned 34 years old. I guess this means I’m officially in my mid-30’s, which is kind of crazy to think about to me. I don’t really feel like I’m in my mid-30’s, I don’t really feel like any age in particular. I know logically I’m getting older and I also know logically that the numbers are kind of arbitrary and meaningless at this point. If the earth moved a little slower or orbited the sun at a different distance than I wouldn’t be 34 right now. Age matters for a little while due to our legal system, but it increasingly becomes a poor signaling device.

I really have no complaints about the last year. There were struggles and hardships, of course. And some sadness and heartbreak, but overall it was a good year. I continued to explore my sexuality, my desires, and my passions. I failed sometimes, and succeeded at others. I got sterilized so that I can’t have my own children, learned that I like brewing beer, and have become more passionate about my mental and physical health. I have travelled to new places and made new friends, while some other friends and places have drifted into the past, possibly forever. I have also learned some life lessons and found new philosophical views that appeal to me. I feel like my tenuous relationship with my parents is starting to heal again, and for that I am glad.

Overall, I’m looking forward to my 35th year on Earth. The number isn’t really important, it is how we live during those years that are important. I know 25 year olds who seem unlikely to grow and experience anything more until they retire, and I know 50 year olds who are adventuring like they are fresh out of high school. Each year, each month, each week, each day, each moment is an opportunity to do more than just exist, it is a chance to learn something new, try something new, and be someone better.

It is likely those opportunities will run out at some point for me. Bodies and minds fade gradually, or a disease or accident could end my life tomorrow. I hope this isn’t my last birthday, but if it is I have no regrets. I feel like I’m living the best I can. Sure, there are things I want to do but it is hard for me to have any FOMO for things I miss when I’m trying my best to do things I love.

Final Thoughts on Death

This is the fifth post in a series where I think about death and the afterlife. The first post was kind of an introduction, the second covered the elimination of consciousness at death, the third was about reincarnation, the fourth was about an afterlife, and the this final one will be my concluding thoughts.

Our society has an unhealthy relationship with death. It is something we pretend isn’t happening but we all know it will likely come to each of us. As far as I know there has not been anyone who has been able to escape it, though the film “The Man From Earth” had an interesting premise and you should all go watch it on Netflix. Part of our fear comes from how sheltered we are from death in the modern world and part of our fear comes from not knowing what happens afterwards.

Nobody actually knows what happens to our consciousness after death, and anyone that says they know really mean they have a hypothesis that is based on subjective feelings or intuition. Regardless of what happens we really shouldn’t have anything to fear, the most likely scenarios are either neutral or good. Though I have no more empirical knowledge about death than the next person I think the likelihood of each scenario we discussed is as follows (first being most likely and last being lease likely):

  1. Nothing. I think it is most likely that when we die our consciousness dies with us. This hypothesis fits best with our current understanding of life and our universe. That isn’t to say it is the only possibility though, it is possible that humans have a consciousness that exists separate from our bodies and upon bodily death that consciousness continues to exist. We just don’t have, and may never have, the technology necessary to measure that. I still think that is unlikely though.
  2. Video Game:  The next likely scenario to me is that our entire existence is really a simulation or game for a technologically advanced species and our consciousness is all that is “real” about this universe.. Upon my death my consciousness will return to the future and play a new game or do whatever it is advanced species who have overcome death and can harness all the energy needed to never need to work. This hypothesis also has the benefit of fitting within our understanding of the universe and human nature, though I’m not sure if it could ever be verified. If a species can create a simulation this advanced surely they can program it to prevent the characters from discovering it.
  3. Traditional Reincarnation. Now we move much further down the likelihood scale for me. The first two exist in cooperation with our understanding of the universe while the rest require more subjective measures. If our consciousness stays alive and moves to another being after death we have no objective way to check that. Instead, subjective measures like past-life regressions, DMT use, and patterns of spiritual traditions that exist throughout different cultures are all we have.
  4. A General Afterlife. Perhaps when we die our consciousness does move to a heaven (or hell) but no religion has it specifically right. Humans have rewritten, translated, and passed down orally almost all of the divine documents in the world and a lot has been messed up. The prophets were also all human who may have gotten the spiritual path or message from a being from another universe but things got lost in translation or were dummied down for the audience. Instead of any religion having a monopoly on truth it seems more likely that patterns that exist almost universally throughout religions should be trusted instead of worrying about the details of which person to deify.
  5. A Specific Afterlife. This seems like the least likely scenario to me. The idea that one specific modern interpretation of a prophet’s words is the truth is unverifiable and seems to ignore everything we know about history and science. It also seems to point to a cruel and selfish deity who would punish and torture good people because they grew up in a place where the “wrong” religion was more common.

So, there we go. Just my random thoughts on death and the afterlife. Things like this go through my head a lot when working (stocking groceries isn’t a very mentally intensive activity) and I like to play with different scenarios. Maybe I’ll do more multi-post series in the future, this was fun.

Maybe Something Completely Different…

This is the fourth post in a series where I think about death and the afterlife. The first post was kind of an introduction, the second covered the elimination of consciousness at death, the third was reincarnation, this one will be about an afterlife, and the final one tomorrow will be my concluding thoughts.

One of the most common human beliefs about death is that there is some sort of afterlife that is different than this. This usually takes the form of a heaven and hell where people are sent based on how they lived their life. In fact, an afterlife is one of the key tenants of most (if not all) religions. Unfortunately, most religions believe they have a monopoly on truth when it comes to this issue which prevents religions from being compatible. Our consciousness on this plane of reality is a one time event, after this our spirit shoots off to another universe where we will either suffer greatly for our misdeeds (which can be simply not having the “right” faith) or be rewarded eternally for our faith (even if that faith requires us to kill innocent people).

I am pretty open to the idea that our consciousness exists outside of the body, that it somehow communicates with another dimension in a way that science has yet to decipher… hell, I’m even open to the idea that this is a one-time ride and afterwards we move on to another dimension that is vastly different than this. But, I can’t really believe any of the religions have the details correct. It is simply impossible for all of them to be right and pretty unlikely that any one of them is. Many organized religions not only require faith in the unseen, they require faith that our current reality is wrong. They require a belief that science and nature are lying to us, and instead we should trust our subjective feelings.

Now, I know that sometimes the subjective is all we have but when the feelings of one group of people are in direct opposition with the feelings of other people then there is a problem. I know many Christians who say they “know” that they are correct. I have also met many Muslims  who “know” that they are correct. In fact, the more sure someone is that their faith is correct the more heinous they can justify acting in this life. I’d be the Westboro Baptists are more sure that they “know” the truth than most religious people.

Religion and the afterlife just seems too much like politics to me. But, instead of making campaign promises that they will never be held accountable for religious leaders make afterlife promises that they can never be held accountable for. And in the mean time they take money and power from those who have very little.

I understand the appeal of an afterlife, particularly if your life on this earth is really shitty. Atheism, or really any belief that there isn’t an afterlife, is kind of a privileged belief. Thinking that this is all there really is or that our suffering has no meaning can be a depressing idea, but just because an idea is depressing doesn’t mean the opposite is true.

If there is an afterlife I really don’t believe any of the religions have a monopoly on the truth about it. It is possible that we are connected to another universe that we go to after death thanks to “God” who is more evolved than us, a being that is simply more technologically advanced than us, or just nature connected us through some weird evolutionary trait, but if that is true it seems we should look for common patterns throughout faiths instead of believing that one is correct.

Maybe More of the Same…

This is the third post in a series where I think about death and the afterlife. The first post was kind of an introduction, the second covered the elimination of consciousness at death, this one is about reincarnation, tomorrow will be about an afterlife, and the final one will be my concluding thoughts. 

With death and the afterlife on my mind I have been pondering what comes next for our consciousness when we die. Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility that our consciousness simply disappears with our bodies. Today I am going to write out some of my thoughts on another option, reincarnation (for lack of a better term).

The idea that our consciousness moves on to another body or life similar to this is not a new one, but it can take some modern twists. My understanding, which is pretty minimal, of early thoughts on reincarnation saw our souls as attached to our body but distinctly separate. When we die our souls move on to another body that is in a uterus somewhere, or maybe there is a purgatory like system with a line that souls get in. I wonder if the attachment to a new body is random or there is some choice involved? Anyway, the soul gets a new body but generally can’t remember the experiences from the old lives on a conscious level. Some hypothesis say that past lives can be remembered through hypnosis, dream interpretation, etc. As far as I know most traditional views of reincarnation don’t allow for human souls to enter the bodies of alien bodies, but some allow for us to enter animals.

A more modern twist on this, and one that could hypothetically exist in our reality, is kind of like the Matrix. Imagine the human species (it could be an alien species but for convenience sake I will just say human) reaches a level of technological advancement where we are able to harness all the power in our sun or galaxy or whatever and can automate everything. We have overcome death and computers/machines take care of all our needs. Our time could instead be spent doing recreation and exploration. One of the forms recreation could take would be really advanced video games.

Right now, I might be nothing more than the character of a video game. Maybe an NPC, but maybe I am actually a playable character by an advanced human. It would be like World of Warcraft but created by people who are incredibly advanced technologically. Future humans would be able to design whatever universe they wanted and play any character they wanted, time could even be distorted so that playing a lifetime would take only a few minutes or seconds of “real time”.

Now, it might seem ridiculous to have advanced technology and games like this and decide to play as a random dude in the early 21st Century… but maybe not. Maybe there is something really exciting and monumental that is going to happen later in my lifetime that is worth experiencing first-hand. Or maybe priorities of the future humans have changed that experiences like an average life have value. Or maybe if you live forever you eventually get bored with being Kings and Generals and “important” figures. That was certainly the case for the Q in Star Trek: TNG in the Q-Continuum who spent time being a dog or a fence just because they had done everything else.

While ancient views of reincarnation can’t be verified with our modern use of technology I am not ready to discard them completely. There are lots of experiences that are necessarily subjective (taking DMT for example) but are also understudied, it is possible that consciousness does move on from the body and enters other bodies after discarding this one, like a snake casting off skin occasionally.

The more exciting, and at least technologically possible at this point, reincarnation hypothesis for me is the one involving technology. Our universe exists in some super advanced harddrive in the future and when I die my consciousness will return to the player who will remember this experience, grow from it, and maybe decide to play another round as Keira Knightley, Rosa Parks, Spartacus, or Bob the gas station attendant.

Maybe Nothing…

This is the second post in a series where I think about death and the afterlife. The first post was kind of an introduction, this one will cover the elimination of consciousness at death, tomorrow is about reincarnation, the fourth will be about an afterlife, and the final one will be my concluding thoughts. 

Yesterday I talked a bit about what I would like to happen to my body if I die. Basically, return me to nature, let the animals feast upon me, or my partner can do whatever the hell she wishes. I’m dead. I won’t feel anything. She can burn me, bang me, abandon me, blast me into pieces, or send me to Europa. Whatever she wants and makes her feel better, I won’t feel it because “me” is no longer a concept that applies to that body.

But what happens to our consciousness*?

I feel like there are three primary possibilities: they disappear, they move to another body, or they move to an afterlife. There are many variations of the latter two that I’ll ponder on in future posts but this post is about the first possibility, that we simply die.

Our current understanding of science and the natural world seems to argue that when we die our consciousness is eliminated with our bodies. To my knowledge there have not been any peer-reviewed studies that show our consciousness can exist outside of our bodies and that it continues to exist once our bodies die. We are stardust and to stardust we shall return.

The scientist in me loves this, but is also open to more information (as all scientists should be). It would be a fatal hubris to assume that what we know about the human experience now is end of knowledge. It is possible that we are simply unable to measure, read, or understand the spirit at this point (or maybe any point). Reality doesn’t conform to human knowledge. Sight existed long before we understood light, it is possible that consciousness exists in a state that can leave the body after death but we just don’t have the technology to view it.

That being said, I don’t think that is likely. From what I know at this point it seems likely that our consciousness dies with our body. I’d like more research though, particularly into the experiences people have had on DMT and other psychedelics that seem to open gateways in people’s minds to other dimensions and lives. But then again, I like research into all the drugs I enjoy so maybe I am biased.

Either way, the idea that after death there is nothing isn’t a scary idea. I have no reason to fear what I will experience when I die then I do to experience fear when thinking about life before I was born. If consciousness is nothing but an evolutionary side-effect it actually makes me smile a bit. 100% of my existence, that was forged in the heart of stars, will be used to provide life for other creatures and eventually be blasted around the universe. The atoms will never arrange themselves in a way that makes “me” again but it will join with other atoms to be a part of other lives and reactions.

That is immortality.

* I’ll be using the term consciousness but you could also call it a soul, spirit, or something else.