How weird is it to post a piece on death on Christmas Eve? Maybe not at all if death is life-affirming.
We open our show in an operating room. A woman patient has a tube in her mouth.
“It’s a question that haunts us all,” the deep-voiced narrator with a British accent booms. “What happens … when we die?” Ooh, dramatic.
Quick series of shots shows a huge truck plowing into a compact car with its damsel-in-distress driver. Glass shattering, metal crumpling. Looks painful. Terrible.
In the audio, a frenzy of bass-rich boom, boom, boom electronic strumming amps up the creep factor.
Another shot of the victim in the hospital. Dire straights on the operating table.
“FEAR suddenly entered our life,” some guy says.
OK, STOP THE TAPE
This squirrelly, edgy beginning was from a National Geographic Paranatural show on life after life. Several of those interviewed later in the show, including famous neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, have become convinced through their own profound near-death experiences that we humans morph more than we die. Consciousness lives on. We change forms rather than go completely lights out. Caterpillar into butterfly.
The fear of death has been wiped away from these near-death survivors (and hundreds more I have met, heard, or read about.)
So let’s get this straight. They are not haunted. They are not afraid of death. They do not accept death as a reality. Whether or not we believe them, they believe themselves and what they experienced first-hand.
But for the rest of us, the underlying message of the show with the foreboding music and dramatic collage of horror shots nevertheless says, Death—scary stuff. Very scary stuff.
FEAR OF DEATH
When I think about why people fear death so, one conclusion I draw is that our entertainment media continuously shows death as a sad, painful, often horrific event. We’re hypnotized through countless hours of life-versus-death programming, let alone vast amounts of reading matter, to see death as solemn, scary, and spooky. It’s a deep chasm filled with judgment and punishment. It’s a one-way street, the ultimate sacrifice, the end.
To the contrary, in places where people who’ve had NDEs or other spiritually transformative experiences gather, the whole gestalt about death is a very different story. It is not a stretch to say that they celebrate when someone dies a natural death, much as we would celebrate it when a loved one graduates from high school or college. They believe, and some would say they “know,” that death means graduating from Earth School for a much less hostile, much more loving environment.
Yeah, they miss those who have departed, but they characterize it positively. Death, they believe, sets spirits (consciousness) free from the confines of mortality. For many of those who have been there temporarily, it has even been ecstatic.
“There is no scientific proof that there is an afterlife,” the program’s requisite skeptic said. He was a neurosurgeon as is Eben Alexander. Alexander had a profound NDE, and the other doctor has not. Documentaries about near-death experiences usually include a skeptic, usually a person of science, who just says no to the possibility that consciousness exists outside the human body.
Skeptics in these shows usually seem to say, “Well, for the people who think they saw the afterlife, great for them. But if you are rational and scientific, don’t take any of that to the bank.”
On a very practical level, including the one I have adapted for myself, I begin to wonder what’s the harm in believing in life after death — even if it turns out to be dead wrong. You can’t really wake up dead. If you do wake up dead, you’re not actually dead.
If the brain is indeed the generator of consciousness, its demise ends all thinking, all awareness. So would it be a bad thing to have spent a whole life not fearing death because a fairy tale of immortality was more comforting?
Or would it be more productive to go through life dreading death — with a lot of boom, boom, boom creep-out music playing in the back of my head whenever the topic comes up?
Of course, many near-death experiences believe/know that the brain is not a generator of consciousness. Consciousness exists outside brains say those who have left their bodies when their brains were not functioning, reports Eben Alexander, the neurosurgeon.
A PROFITABLE PARADIGM
Our society has done pathetic job of embracing death. We spend more time creating and selling an ugly vision of dying. This includes pandering products that are motivated by our fear of death.
We place myths and stories of death high in the priority of our mass entertainment media. Our news, our dramas, and our marketing all sell us visions of death that are intended to inspire fear. We tell ourselves scary stories galore and spice them up with words like loss and tragic and horrific. When we can, we show awful pictures.
Death in our world seems to be more of a money-making opportunity from our fears of it than a natural life event.
THE LIFE AND LIFE DRAMA
The people who seem to be doing more to say inspiring things about dying are those who believe (some say know) that death is transition, not termination. For them the issue is not life and death; it is life and life or life and more life.
Believing or “knowing” that death does not end consciousness seems to promote living more fully and mindfully. Those who believe that life has a purpose, that we’re here for a reason, seem more motivated to live purposefully. They do not put their lives in neutral and coast their way to an afterlife. They are busy living a productive life, often spreading the love that they believe is life’s best currency.
Those who believe in nothing after death are more likely to feel more hopeless and victimized when looking at the prospect of impending death. Many of them feel inconsequential, especially if they did not accomplish what they had hoped to. The prospect of entering a void actually comforts some people sick of pain and perceived failure.
THE DEATH TRAUMA
Whether one believes in an afterlife or not, the media depiction of death is usually filled with visions of pain, misery, sadness, and grief. Our “civilized” culture generally does not recognize death as a success, a graduation from Earth School, or a natural passage like caterpillar to butterfly or autumn to winter to spring. As a society, we like death to haunt us. Cue the creepy boom-boom-boom music.
We seem to want death to be tragic. When Nelson Mandela died at 95, some people called it a tragic loss. When my mother died 12 days short of her 93rd birthday, many friends played the script of lamenting our loss. My mother was more than ready to go off the clock, freed from constant pain and severe physical limitations of old age.
Tragic? No. Not for them.
I think of my mom dancing in the streets of heaven. Arthritis gone, walker gone, pain gone. While I miss her physical presence, I find joy in thinking of her freedom.