Beyond the Grave

I see by the calendar Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is approaching.  Death isn’t something dolls, particularly plastic ones, think about very much but at this time of the year, with nature racing toward dormancy, the topic tends to come to mind.

In medieval times death was on everyone’s mind daily.  The Black Plague invited Death to be a regular visitor if not a live-in house guest.  She became so well-known she starred in a regularly performed play called the Danse Macabre.  In the play the Black Angel would appear and along with her spirit helpers the psychopomps  invite victims to accompany them beyond the grave; the beyond being, I guess, a promised land of paradise.

Throughout history (and even earlier than that I bet) people have sensed an existence beyond the grave:  The ancient Egyptians conceived of a Ka or immaterial double that would live on after the demise of the physical body so the deceased would be able to keep doing the same fun things they had always done when alive.

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was inclined to believe that, upon death, an individual’s will or essence of being would be reunited with it’s Cosmic origins: a sort of collective world soul (Plato called it the anima mundi) from which all life originates and subsequently returns; it’s a pretty cool idea of togetherness even though one wouldn’t really be aware of it because one’s memory and ego would cease to exist.

The Hindu people understand the universe to be eternal and that rebirth will continue to happen until enlightenment of the soul propels a leap into the infinite, which, I guess must be a bit like Arthur’s cosmic origins only they call it the Atman.

Contemporary Trans-humanists anticipate a situation in which one’s brain activity is downloaded to a computer and since the brain is where one’s being resides one can expect to live on forever provided someone is around to keep the batteries charged.

I’m sure I’m like everyone else in hoping the Black Angel stays away for a while but when it does come time for me to leave the realm of the physical, wherever  I end up, I hope I will have left behind a reasonably positive image for my friends to remember me by.

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