I turn 45 at the end of this month. Currently, I am half my father's age who at 88 is going strong. I admire him for that, but I admire him for much more that I don't need to go into here. This coming anniversary of my birth has set to me thinking. I don't anticipate living longer than 88. So when my 45th birthday occurs at the end of this month, I think it will be safe to assume that I will have lived at least half of my life. I have been contemplating my demise, but not morosely, instead, cheerily. I have been wondering about what will happen when I depart this fleshly shell. That language assumes that "I" am not my body. I am not sure if that is true.
I see three basic options with perhaps variations on each theme. So let's play "Choose Your Afterlife!"
Behind door number one:
1) I am my body. Like cats, and rats and elephants, I will cease to exist. I will experience it as I experienced life before my birth. No recollection. A peaceful, dreamless sleep.
Door number two:
2) "I" am somehow different from my body and will exist again in some hidden universe. Much of traditional Christianity has spoken of this as "resurrection of the body." When I lived in upstate New York, I remember being fascinated by the 19th century tombstones that faced east. So on the day that Christ would come with shout of acclamation and with the morning sun, the bodies would rise to meet him and enjoy bliss in heaven. Of course, we must also consider the fate of the poor souls who didn't believe correctly. Their bodies will be resurrected as well. Except they will receive a big "F" and spend eternity in hell. Variations on this theme include universalism or "everyone wins" kind of like the special olympics. And, of course, there are other speculations that we are passing through this veil of tears and will somehow be conscious in another universe in some form (ie. follow the light). This is the immortality of the soul view. We pass on into something else. Door number two in a nutshell is "I" retain self-awareness in another hidden realm.
Door number three:
3) This is similar to door number two. In this view our souls (self-awareness, or "I") are reincarnated in this universe at a later time. We keep getting recycled until we get it right. I don't want to sell this view short. I like the concepts of non-attachment and impermanence regardless of the metaphysics.
As I see it, these are the three possibilities. Which door to choose? What difference will my choice make in the way I live the remainder of my days? Is it really important what I believe will happen? I certainly cannot know. It seems that whatever will happen will happen whether I believe it or not.
I reject the heaven/hell view. I think that is manipulation and coercion by the church to control its sheep. Eternal lollipops or spankings depending on whether you obeyed its authority. That doctrine has done and continues to do a great deal of damage in my view.
Back to my choice. Do "I" cease with my body, go to another realm, or reincarnate in this realm?
I am going to wimp out. I really don't know. And, I am at peace with that. Whatever happens is how the Universe (or God if you prefer) works. I am honest about not knowing. I may at some point be persuaded by one of the three (or a variation). I trust the outcome.
The Historical Jesus gave me a clue. He said, "The domain of God is within/among you."
I think that means that we are conscious now, so don't worry about it. This life is holy and sacred. This brief moment is good. Live it. I now choose to live in this moment and for the welfare of future generations so my children and grandchildren and your grandchildren and the grandchildren of people in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and every other place can also enjoy their conscious moments with as much bliss as possible.
If this life is it for "I", great. If there is another existence for "I", great. I hope to be aware and awake for any possibility. But I don't want to lose focus on the mystery and the beauty and the joy that is now.
What say you? What is your philosophy?