the final journey; afterlife

I guess I'd like to know what your opinion is on an issue that, for as
long as I can remember, has been a big struggle for me. Do you think about
dying, and if so, how do you cope with the fact? I have no idea why, I've
been fortunate to not have to witness much death in my life, but ever
since I was a young child I've been haunted by the thought that I will
eventually die. My dad used to encourage church, but I had some bad
experiences and disagreements with church, and have never gone to church
routinely. When I think about dying, I think about myself not existing, I
think about it all being over. I can't really conceive it, so I don't
think I can explain it well either. I find myself staying up at night
distracting myself from wandering thoughts by watching tv or reading
books, but sometimes the thought just gets to me, and when it does it has
this snowball effect that leads me to this state of panic and fear.

I've never read the Bible, which is my own fault, but I did find some
partial inspiration in some writings by Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet";
however, I realize that they are still only words, manifested by human
thought, and although beautifully written, they are still just words. I
recently read 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich', and at the end the character
experienced a spiritual epiphany, but that's only our mind making sense of
things, because it's in our nature to find meaning.

Lately the only solution I can think of is just to enjoy life, which still
creates a big problem for me. You say we are distracted from truth by
things like movies, music, and daily routine of living, but some of those
are things I enjoy, and how do we know 'the truth' is indeed real? How can
a human mind conceive the answer? I find myself without any motivation in
my transition from college to career, because I'm only focused on living a
good life. I realize I'm going to die someday, so I want to enjoy it. I
want to understand things, like technology, biology, medicine, I want to
travel, I like to write (I hope to one day write a movie), and I want to
enjoy the materialistic things that I find interesting. But it seems that
happiness DOES require money these days, so I'm pushed to pursue a career
with financial stability. Basically I'm stuck in the middle of happiness
and financial freedom, and when I go to bed I'm reminded every night that
no matter what, everything that I am, every thought I have had, every
happy moment I've caused or shared will eventually cease to exist.

thanks so much for writing, and i want you to know these thoughts have consumed every man (and women) for centruries before us and after we taste death men will still think on these things.
it is the last great unknown, it is both exciting (it is something that no one has experienced completely and come back to tell of their month long journey) and something to be feared.

i admit a great fear in my life, i am not only afraid of death but of getting old as well. i do not want to ever be incapable of feeding or clothing myself. i never want to be a burden but a blessing on others lives. death is inevitable, the process of learning to cope with it takes a lifetime (literally.) i have not coped with death yet, we who are young are immortal, or at least we think we are to some degree. we never view death as relevant in our lives right now, it is a distant lighthouse and we are still in the midst of the raging water.

but sometimes these thoughts are the raging water, the clamour that seems to involve everyone around us. why are some more afraid than others you asked? hope.
the answer is some have found the lighthouse not as something to fear but something to embrace and actually look forward to. you said you have never read the bible, and that is fine, i think the majority of the people in this world have never opened its pages. but i want to ask you to seek. if truth is what you desire than truth you must lust after. if you want anything of worth in this world you MUST BE WILLING TO FIGHT FOR IT! that goes for material posessions, true love, and truth among other things.
SEEK and you will find, but the key word is seek. i am not going tell you this is an easy road, but hope is the antidote, you must first be stung by the venom of hoplessness. (and that sounds like the stage you are in with sleepless nights, and constant worry.)

what can we do with the life that has been given to us? Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife. The first question was, "Did you bring joy?" The second was, "Did you find joy?"
and that is what we must seek aftert. i want to delve deeper into this subject but my time has been cut short here in norfolk virgina due to my career. but i want to hear from others on this topic. what has everyone/anyone learned on this subject in their own lives.

more coming; this topic could take a lifetime to solve...


Anonymous said…
wow, I'm a bit dumbfounded by you're post. I don't think much of death, and before I became Christian (yes, I'm one of 'them' I formulated in my head my own ideas of 'the after life'... what sounded good, what sounded right. I suppose it doesn't help when "church" gives a negative aspect to "Truth", and if the church has nothing you want, then sure, why would you go there?

You say that you are in the middle of 'happiness and financial freedom' but at the same time it seems that you're mind isn't focused on that at all. That you "find [yourself] staying up at night distracting [yourself] from wandering has this snoball effect" that doesn't seem like such a 'happy' thing if you ask me. Especially if it is something you fear.

You've never read the Bible, and Stephen's right, not most people have. Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD. This is what God told those carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. And I'm sure he intended this verse for each one of us. Searching has to begin with you. When I looked for God, I didn't know what I was looking for, but I started reading the Bible, little by little... and eventually it clicked. It all made sense and I found the Truth. But its not always this way, God works in so many ways and its so wonderful (because we will all have our own stories to share), but Stephen's right about the promises given by movies, television, etc, etc... they are constant distractors from what our focus should be on: the Lord. They teach us things that only further our pain, and corrupt us until our conscience no longer sends us signals.

Ever read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy? I have, and Levin goes through a spiritual conversion at the end of that book either. But I don't think that it's merely our 'minds' making sense of things just because 'its our nature to find meaning'. I think it's foolish to think that we are it, and that there is truly nothing after this. That because some man made a 'theory' and it derails from God that it is valid (merely because people don't like the concept of "God")... the complexity of life, and language its just way too gradeur to just slap a theory/ideal on that 'its our nature'. If its our nature, it was given to us, and if it was given to us, it was to help us find a greater understanding to it. But this can only come if we search for it. And I mean searching beyond the television and internet. You can enjoy these things thats fine, but when you see no real direction in you're life (aside from becoming financially stable), you're selling yourself short. There is so much more to life, and (oh this is going to sound cliche) the best things in life are free. Jesus dying for our sins, was free... and because of that I and all my brothers and sisters in Christ will be able to spend an eternity with Him, something money has no bars on.

In order to live you must die, but that concept won't make sense until you've reached that epiphany. (1 Corinthians 2:13-15) The fact that you even posed the question you have to Stephen shows hunger.

Lastly, pushing a career for financial stability is not a bad thing, you're using you're gifts, but placing the value of money to equal happiness just doesn't work out in the long run. I hope this post was coherent.

-monica, VA :)
Anonymous said…
Death is necessary for life. It is a needed reminder that we do not have eternity on earth. No matter your outlook on the afterlife, the common consensus is that life is precious. It is to be enjoyed and shared. Death and getting older are both out of our control and both inevitable. I also fear death, but it is a fear that I welcome. I do not let the fear paralyze me; instead it motivates me to experience as much as I can in life.
Shane, you should not think that everything you are ends when your body dies. Good things you have done will live on through the lives you touch. You said that you like to write, and that is a way for your thoughts to live on after you.
Anonymous said…
“the last great unknown”?? says who and why? is it because it comes last? not for those who are left behind to mourn you.

death is our only certainty it is true, it is scary, yet it is beautiful.

this is indeed an exciting yet fearful topic that i’m sure crosses everyone’s mind at least once. for me, i feel i’ve crossed the path of death one too many times. i personally have never came close to or ‘cheated’ death…nor do i believe in cheating death in the first place. unlike you shane, i unfortunately have dealt with death numerous times—in my family and friends. i firmly believe that if its your time to go, then its your time to go. i’m sure lots of people have their finger-biting stories to tell when it comes to a brush of death…and there’s probably even more who can tell of multiple incidents. whatever the case or the number, they’re probably not even meant to leave this earth ‘til they’re 100—who really knows? however unfortunate it may be at first, its always a fortunate lesson we all learn in the end. as the person before me has commented, "life is precious"...

this is all not to say to try (as the previous person has)and work towards welcoming death with open arms. that is nearly impossible for most (and to the person before me, i applaud your ability to do so). but maybe understand it as best your HEART can. i forget exactly which culture/tribe it is (i believe it was native of Africa), but at the time of one’s death, they did not wear black and go about a funeral the way we do. instead, they wore bright colors and rejoiced in the glory of a “new life”—this would be in comparison to our “afterlife” in which most view as either heaven or hell, black or white, good or bad. now the extent of this “new life” i’m unsure of…but needless to say they did not fear death in the same sense we do. it is quite a task NOT to fear death altogether. however, i’m more personally concerned and fearful of HOW i’ll go (praying it will be painless and peaceful), rather than WHEN to expect death’s knock on my door. i would love to grow old, but God has not blessed everyone with this request or any other that we have. He simply gives what He knows we can handle.

"I know God won't give me anything that I can't handle, I just wish He didn't trust me so much."-Mother Teresa
dealing with death THROUGH coping is the second battle…right after LEARNING to cope in the first place. if these are just “words” to you, then why ask such questions with the same “words” in the first place? its obvious you’re already seeking something. its all just a matter of time (i’m personally not too fond of that word—time—it hardly ever implies anything good). my advice to you shane is to keep living however you please, whether that’s through enjoying life through happiness of materialistic things or searching for your financial freedom to achieve it (i’m in the same boat as you, trying to find that happy medium that doesn’t kill the check book). seek, yes, yes by all means, seek…but don’t expect to find truth, let it find you. and when it does, you won’t question whether or not its real or if it even exists…you’ll just feel it coursing through your veins. a human mind can’t conceive the answer [about Truth] (at least not one that is universal to everyone’s capabilities)…this you’re right about, but just like you, its something they “can’t really conceive”, so they try to explain it as best they can. don’t think of it as all that you’ve accomplished or experienced as coming to a complete and utter cease of existence. after all, your “words” have been posted here in which many have read and probably will reply to. no one is promised to be remembered forever like some (wouldn’t that be great…). but know that you're remembered here.
Anonymous said…
If you found out that there is no afterlife, that your life simply ends and that is it, would it change the way you live now? Should it change the way you live now?
I do not welcome death with open arms, because I cherish my life. I do fear death, but I feel it is a necessary fear. I have no clue what waits for me at the end of my life on earth, but I do know that I will enjoy my life.
It is not the years in your life, but the life in your years.
Stop worrying and start living.

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