Radically Inept
Thursday, July 01, 2004
  Death, Pain and Atheism

I sort of owe this post.

slight disclaimer: The 'word links' below, do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the author, but rather, are chosen on the basis of 'that'll do' and 'laziness'.

And it sort falls under the heading of "Maybe you'll bear with me on this one" and Maybe you'll bear with me on this one II, "Wherein I confess my complete ignorance of 'common knowledge'", amongst others.

I had mentioned previously that I was going to the funeral of an old friend, well, it's a pretty good place to start.

As it ended up, I wound up driving, and the Pacifier and I wound up being the only ones there from a larger group of friends. It turns out, they 'hung out' Saturday night before the funeral, I'm not sure what you call the function, but all decided they weren't interested in staying overnight just to sit in a chapel the next morning for a 'religious' service.

Well, we drove over in my dad's pick up that I was keeping while my folks were in China. It was a very interesting experience in many ways, including 'call backs' to the preacher on the part of the closest of family and friends. The preacher did his best to soothe Dookie's mother's grief, and I think he said what he could.

I'm able to keep alot of this stuff in context. It's 'their' belief system, and I accept that.

On the way back, we let a couple of young hitchhikers hop in the truck bed, and took five or so miles closer to their destination.

In the mean time, the Pacifier and I are discussing the service, which naturally leads to a discussion of death. And I don't remember it verbatim, but at some point he begins describing an accident involving himself and a mutual old friend. And he described what went through his mind as it became apparent that the car they were in was going to go air born and then down a steep embankment into whatever. He said, "I remember thinking, 'This is how I'm going to die?' 'Everything was moving in slow motion, and I...'" Point being, at the end of the story he had not once mentioned 'god', 'heaven', 'forgiveness', soul, nothing. That's when I told him he now had his own personal refutation of the "there ain't no atheists in foxholes" crap.

I've been there, Near-Death, or at least thinking I'm Near-Death, which I'll argue is close enough. Falling down a cliff face, and head first rushing toward a boulder, qualifies as near-death. The fact that someone else in the party was quick enough to catch my head (pre-smart-enough-to-wear-helmets era) before it hit, well, that is good fortune. But on the way down, I thought, "Shit. This is going to hurt." [profanity left in 'cause it's accurate] Beyound that, well, maybe a little, "Wow. I'm falling fast," and "how could I be so stupid as to do a "fatal hook-up" [APPENDIX C, 1. k. (3)]", and the most important thought on my mind at the time??!!!

Drum roll here

"This is going to hurt."

Notice the lack of fear of death. That's my point. If you aren't scared to die, alot of theology just loses its value. I wasn't concerned about an after life. And I've been in more than one 'real stupid, near death' experience, and my reaction has been consistently just, 'wow, so this is how I go'.

Now onto to this fear of pain thing. I've suffered from this alot. Experience has proven that pain 'ain't no big thing'. Really, now that I've actually experienced extreme, 'Wow, death would truly be a relief right now' pain, I've also realized I can deal with it. Some point in the past, I realized that if I feel pain, I must be alive. Pain means, in whatever condition, you continue to exist as a unique entity.

Post-death, this might not be true. Perhaps, all of the energy that currently is 'you', those unique alpha and whatever waves, those neuron connections, the synapses, the consciousness - ceases to exist. It might be, that consciousness">consciousness exists in/on a plane outside of our normal comprehension, and in fact, just about anything is possible. And if it is possible, it exists. And it exists now. Not perhaps in our current 'reality', but somewhere in the quantum universe, everything exists right now.

I'm tired of linking.

I can live with the ambiguity of that. It does not disturb me. I always quest for more knowledge, but actually 'worry' about it? No. For some reason, I am perfectly happy in my inability to perfectly explain my existence. As such, I am already removed from the question of 'purpose'. Some how, 'purpose of existence' implies I should be doing something. If that's the case, I am immediately aware that I must be failing, because I can't measure my success. Seems pointless.

So, I accept ambiguity. If everything is ambiguous, than it is up to me to choose my course through my existence. I like that. My choice.

But then, you get reductionist and pre-determinationists (is that a word?) that say, 'all is pre-ordained'. Well that sucks. Look, at that point, I might as well die. In fact, it makes existence a prison, and, I don't know, I've always done poorly when faced w/ ultimatums. Sort of that

CUT! Lost train of thought

It dawns on me, that I have laundry to progress, and other chores, but before I do, an attempt at definitions:

Life: The ability to 'feel' external stimulus and re-act in a manner that preserves corporeal existence AND the ability to extract energy from the environment. Pretty broad I know. But I thought it would be fun to start broad, and see how far, if any, logic moves the bar.

Death: The cessation of 'corporeal' existence (wow. I don't have time to go into this, but, there is something strange in this thinking).

I'll be back to this at some point, and probably over time. And, I'll try to get around to setting up a spot in the margin for this series. 
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