Death and not dying

MurderSo some guy goes to a Bible study meeting to commit a brutal act of terrorism that kills nine innocent people.

The guy was caught, and and the governor immediately wants to impose the death penalty.

The story feels so familiar, as if it’s just another episode of a TV crime show, another novel about a crazy serial killer, more of the same violence and response to violence with more violence. The politicking continues over gun control, seen by some as the answer. Jon Stewart said that “jackshit” would happen as a result of the latest killing. People keep getting shot and nothing keeps happening except business as usual.

Every time a big murder hits the news, I have my seasoned response:: Why don’t we as a society study death?

(I see some eyes rolling and a few stomachs turning amid the high fives. That’s OK.)

THE TORTURE MYTH

Recently John Oliver on his Last Week Tonight show discussed the misconception many people have that torture works well as an investigative tool. He said it only works in our entertainment media. It’s fiction. No study has proven that Americans should be torturing people for information.

So I wonder about death. Maybe like torture in the movies, death as it is usually portrayed might be fictitious, too. That, at least, is a view frequently expressed by people who have had classic near-death experiences. Their bodies and brains were clinically dead, but their minds were off exploring amazing new dimensions.

Death looks much different than Hollywood depictions from the point of view of the millions who have consciously left the confines of their bodies during near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, and mystical experiences.

Mainstream thinking seems to dodge basic questions. What exactly is death? Does death really kill us? Does capital punishment really kill the killer? What happens to murder victims including those whacked by lethal injection? What about evidence that seems to support reincarnation? Does a greater system of cosmic justice exist?

I cannot offer proof that there is an afterlife, but that in itself frustrates me. Plenty of circumstantial evidence supports the premise that consciousness survives death. So why in the face of so much violence don’t we study death more seriously? If so many people think that death doesn’t really kill us, it seems ludicrous that we ignore the huge implications of the experiences so many people have had.

I HAD A DREAM

I recently had a dream where I was in a car with a friend. I suddenly realized to my horror that we were going to crash at high speed into the rear end of a truck that had stopped on the freeway. I awoke screaming out loud.

But there I was in physical reality safe in bed. No problem. Didn’t even feel the impact in either reality.

A friend of mine had a near-death experience during a real traffic accident when she was in her twenties. “I was out of the car hovering over the roof before my head hit the windshield,” she said. How familiar it sounded. Dying was painless, like waking up from a dream.

There are plenty of mystical experiences described and available for public view on the Internet. Google it. Watch YouTube videos.  There is more than enough to suggest that we should be studying this.

IMPLICATIONS

If death is transformation instead of termination, it means that at death mind separates from body. In short, we are still alive, caterpillar morphed into butterfly. It also means that mind or consciousness may not be a creation of the human brain as science has said; consciousness may instead dwell outside of the brain. Brains may be more like receivers of consciousness than generators of consciousness.

So when someone is shot to death (including suicide), it may trigger (sorry) a quick shot (sorry) to another dimension of life. Bang-bang — oops, you’re not dead.

So those nine people shot in a church in Charleston may not actually be as dead as mainstream defines death. And if the shooter is executed, his body may be snuffed out, but his consciousness may live on.

So what? If consciousness lives on, does it do any good if those who died can’t communicate with those still living physical lives? Will any social change occur if there’s no back-and-forth phone calls between flesh humans and spirit humans? That seems to be the case now when only psychic mediums can converse with the so-called dead. That procerss often sounds like woo-woo guessing games. “Do you know someone who died whose name begins with an L?”

Belief in heaven and afterlife also does not seem to automatically inhibit cruel and violent behavior. Sometimes people think that they will earn a better place in heaven if they act as a pest control company on behalf of their chosen god here on terra firma. Terrorists and kamikazes are examples. Just believing in an afterlife apparently does not turn people into sweethearts.

On the other hand. past-life regressions often indicate that there is a system of cosmic justice, usually called karma, involved in the mix. We reincarnate back in Earth School to learn lessons. If you murder someone in one life, you may get your turn being murdered in another life. To me, karma is such a tantalizing system of justice that I wonder with great impatience why we don’t investigate its reality (or non-reality) with any enthusiasm.

ARE WE AFRAID OF NOT DYING?

A blogging friend posted a story citing a study about why people dislike atheists so much. It concluded that an unconscious fear of death drives this response. Belief in an afterlife gives a person comfort and meaning, and atheists do not share this philosophical view. (The article focuses on believers in a religious interpretation of soul survival, which is not the only possibility.)

I wonder about the reverse. Why do skeptics and atheists have such a visceral and negative reaction to the idea of soul survival? Why do they fight the idea with such enthusiasm?

Is it that spirituality often suggests a personal accountability that would not happen if we absolutely, positively, undeniably died?  Is it too scary to think that we might have to look into the mirror of full-disclosure at some point? Is it more comfortable to think that you can get away with murder so long as you are not caught?

Again, why don’t we research this stuff as eagerly as we research new ways to kill people?

Proof of soul survival could inspire a huge shift in beliefs and attitudes. What if potential killers and other criminals (including those in government) were taught that what they do in physical reality literally creates their life experience going forward? In simplistic terms, what if that person understood that nothing is hidden from the universe? There are no secrets, and while you can destroy bodies, you cannot destroy souls.

We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…

MURDER AND THE NEWS

I think it is instructive to observe what happens when a big murder case gets splashed all over the news. There is no talk about freed souls because that’s metaphysical, and the news doesn’t do metaphysical.

Instead the news gets caught up in the drama of the tragedy. If the murders are gruesome enough, politicians makes speeches. The old saws about gun control start buzzing. People pontificate about hatred or racism or mental illness or terrorism or tragedy. Sometimes the murder victims are famous people or upstanding citizens, and there is great rhetoric about them and the circumstances which shut them down.

I have come to see the news primarily as soap opera. The forces that present the news stick to the materialist viewpoint and heap on the drama. Political and commercials interests scare us with stories as if potential murderers are lurking around every dark corner. If all the drama scares us enough, we’ll want to buy security (which is usually an illusion — read the fine print before you buy.)

The death penalty often gets described as the ultimate punishment, the solution, the closure, justice. There seems to be no consideration that execution might spring the murderer’s mind from the body, sending the perp of heinous crimes unhealed and unrepentant into another dimension, perhaps to join friends.

But the news won’t go anywhere near there. The idea is considered preposterous.

IS DEATH SO TRAGIC?

A death is often described as tragic. Is it really? Or is death tragic because we have been taught for so long that it is? Has it become a habit to think that way? Is it just part of the program we’re taught from an early age — that we have but one life to live and when it’s used up, its end is tragic?

From the spiritual point of view, if you suddenly realize that you never die, you only change form, death is not tragic at all. It’s more like graduation. “Congratulations! You’ll make a great butterfly!”

My favorite analogy for death involves the working life of an actor. When movie production wraps, the actor stops playing a certain role. That’s a kind of death for the character, but the actor simply moves on to the next role. Any sadness for leaving the location, the cast, the crew, and the role is tempered by the promise of new roles to explore.

Death seems much more tragic to those left behind who will dearly miss their departed loved ones. It’s like being untethered from those in our orbit we were accustomed to having near. But those who have been set free, I believe, are doing just fine. It’s why in my own mind I always change “rest in peace” to “rest in ecstasy.”

THE NEWS NARRATIVE

In my idle moments when I think about the world I would prefer to live in, I imagine a modern newscast at a time when death has been proven to be morphing forms. The narrative about dying would be different. The narrative about life would be different, too.

It is really not so hard to imagine this. Attend an IANDS meeting in person and listen to how people talk about dying. It’s nothing tragic or scary to them. More scary and tragic to them is how mainstream society portrays death as the end of existence.

What is beauty?

Beauty as nature

I have run into several videos and articles lately involving women and aging, women and body image, and male-born transgenders transitioning into females. All of this leads to me answering a favorite question of mine: “What is beauty? What does beautiful mean?”

In one article, Rebecca Shaw writes about actress Maggie Gyllenhaal “being told that at the ripe old age of 37, she was too old (and I assume decrepit) to be cast as the love interest of a 55-year-old man. Let’s consider this: Gyllenhaal, who is already 18 years younger than the actor in question, cannot be cast as his love interest because she is too old. I really don’t believe that we stop often enough to consider how absolutely warped the world of Hollywood (and our world) must be for this to occur.”

As a man reading this story, and an old man at that, I frequently find Hollywood’s mind set hideous. It supports the cliché that female attractiveness is all about — and just about — physical youth and beauty. It entirely ignores a facet that I find at the core of human beauty: consciousness.

Beauty is not just how we look. It is how we think.

I saw another video on Facebook where signs placed over two doors in a city high-rise gave women a choice of which door to enter through. One said AVERAGE and one said BEAUTIFUL. Women were shown pondering which door to claim as theirs. The video also included some interviews with women sharing their thoughts about the choice they made. Several wanted a redo so they could enter through the door marked BEAUTIFUL.

While the video apparently intended to show people, especially women, that it was OK to claim that they are beautiful, it still left the definitions of average and beautiful up in the air. It  passively hinted that beauty was a mental state.

Then there’s the much yakked-about public transformation of Bruce into Caitlyn. Much of the focus has been about the high cost of surgeries. She could easily afford it. Some have complained that with all the resources ultimately poured into the Vanity Fair photo shoot, anybody could look smashing. The focus seems to have been on the outer Caitlyn, the packaging, not the inner being. It again poses the question, albeit slightly under the radar, what makes for beauty? What makes a person beautiful?

There are countless articles now related to ranking beautiful women with headlines like “The Most Beautiful Women of All Time.” It’s immediately obvious that this is all about looks, and it doesn’t supply the criteria for the judging someone a great beauty, as if it is too obvious for consideration.

SO WHAT IS BEAUTY?

I want to say that having been raised in the American culture as a white guy, I have certain conditioned responses to beauty. As a young kid my heart throbs included Doris Day, Ann-Margret, Patty Duke (especially when she played the British twin), and after discovering my dad’s magazine stash, countless Playboy Playmates.

Yet over the years, as I discovered that physical beauty is not enough, my personal conception of beauty embraced a more wholistic approach. I noticed that some qualities that made women beautiful to me were usually not traits I saw featured in the personalities of women heralded as great beauties.

For one, I prized humor. Humor is a bonding force for me. I have little orgasms of joy when someone gets my humor. I find bliss when someone in my personal universe makes me laugh. Unfortunately, woman glorified as beautiful (in media terms) often act like Stepford wives-in-waiting. They lack the cutting edge perspective of someone who can see the human comedy in action, who can drill through pretension with laser-like precision.

I also prized empathy and compassion. I have no particular fantasy desire to melt ice queens and give my soul in love to narcissists. I am much more attracted to one who cares about the feelings and welfare of others than I am to someone who looks gorgeous yet flaunts snarky insensitivity. Beauty is the capacity to feel what I feel. Empathy makes for much better conversations.

I  found curiosity and the urge to explore ideas as very attractive. Conformity addicts are not my cup of tease. People willing to step outside the box and let their imaginations run wild (especially with humor and empathy) are beautiful to me.

I find affectionate people beautiful. Smilers, cuddlers, huggers, toucher-feelers, and flirters give me joy. Often they inspire me, especially when it seems as if the world is filled with people hardened into hostility and competition. People who are generous with affection remind me of the world I would prefer to live in where people care for people.

BEAUTY IN THE MEDIA

For much of my life, I have noticed that while watching movies or TV shows (when I used to watch TV) that I was often attracted to the “character actors.” I found that they indeed had more character than the leads. They were just more fun.

In Hollywood formulas, character actors are usually not supposed to be perceived as “good looking” as the leads. They are quirkier in their appearance. In Hollywood, however, this is often less than obvious. The dialogue uttered in the show often has to inform us that we are supposed to see the person as second fiddle, not up to par.

The sidekick friend often launches more interesting lines into the story than the glamorpuss does. She often has a better sense of humor, more freedom of speech, and just plain more substance. Since she is often depicted as single, she often seems more appreciative of the love she does not have. If I were in the movie in some sort of Pleasantville fashion, I would seek her out over the star beauty.

This principle carried over into my physical life. I found myself more intrigued by women who had spicy personalities over good media looks. Yet here is the irony that lucky people discover: love literally shapes perception of how someone looks. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder because emotions shape our experience. When someone delivers an emotionally fulfilling time, it literally shapes how they appear to the perceiver.

SEX MYTH I CAN DO WITHOUT

There is an elitist cliche that when someone says that a friend has a great “personality,” It means that the person rates anywhere from homely to downright ugly.  The mockery implies that personality is less important than physical beauty; that physical beauty ranks people as to how sexually desirable they are.

Too often the assumption is made that the better you look physically, the better sex you’ll have, as if physical beauty is the magic ingredient for ultimate sexual satisfaction. People who do not feel that they rank high in the beauty standings often feel as if they lack some mystery power. Meanwhile, social media is filled with complaints that men in particular are so shallow they cannot appreciate anything but the right, tight beauty dressed in whore clothes.

God bless physical beauty, but in my world, lovemaking is a juicy journey filled with mental and emotional intercourse. The richness of that experience comes in the consciousness people share, which is yawning bland if the meeting of minds is just about looks.

THE COMPLIMENT

Over the years, the world has gotten much more complicated. Now it’s not safe to say
“You’re so beautiful” without fully defining your terms. Is it just a line used by a womanizer or a con for some nefarious end? Is it just physical, physical? Is it chauvinistic ballyhoo? Is it patronizing pabulum? Is it a nonspecific, catch-all compliment that the receiver installs the desired meaning to — you think I’m beautiful?

Some women have told me they become quite perturbed when some stranger called them beautiful. They heard the line more as a substitute for “I want something from you,” like when a stranger approaches you and calls you Friend. Uh-oh.

The beauty that I am struck by is a complex amalgam of personality traits and physical qualities. The feeling that motivates the desire to share it in words is not something easily packaged into a pithy sentence or two, especially in the passion of the moment. Unless I feel safe or confident in the person’s ability to empathize with my intent, I’ll likely keep my compliment to myself.

AMAZING GRACE

I doubt if I am the only man in America to think this way, but here goes: A woman who is my age does not need to look like anything but a woman who is my age. I am not riding on the youth and beauty bandwagon. I do not appreciate the cultural obsessions that cause  middle-aged and older woman to feel bad about the state of their bodies.

I doubt that society is going to turn this around. There are too many economic interests that depend on keeping people in a state of anxiety over their appearance. Those promoters of superficial beauty succeed because we don’t just say no.

But I would like to bring attention to the idea that beauty encompasses intelligence, humor, sensitivity, creativity — in short a lot of nonphysical qualities that do not wither with age. There are people who prefer savoring those qualities more than worshiping plastic surgery and cosmetic attempts to appear untouched by aging.

Want to read more on the topic? Here is an earlier post on this topic.