Hello Death. How's the Life?
Recently freed from a net of selective evasions and lies, and somewhat stunned and bereft of words, vision, and confidence, and while trying to ignore the pain knocking at my brain, I stumbled upon a notebook I wrote on Marc's front porch shortly before I returned to New Orleans a few years ago. In the spirit of sharing that which probably nobody cares about, a course of action which has plagued me all of my stupid life, but which at least updates this "damn blog," I offer the following, which opened my mind to new vistas then, and might for you now as well:
From Deepak Chopra's Life After Death:
"What was most magical in my childhood was transformation. Death itself was seen as a brief stopping-point on an endless soul journey that could turn a peasant into a king and vice-versa.
In the West the hereafter has been viewed as a place akin to the material world. Hell, Heaven, and purgatory lie in some distant region beyond the sky or under the earth. In the India of my childhood the hereafter wasn't a place at all, but a state of awareness.
Every frequenchy in nature exists simultaneously, and yet we experience only what we see, and since death snatches a person out of sight, we react to it with fear.
Different planes of existence represent different frequencies of consciousness. The world of physical matter is just one expression of a particular frequency. (Decades later, I was fascinated to read that according to the physicists, there is a background hum to the universe that is so specific as to sound like the note B-flat, although it vibrates millions of times lower than the human hearing.)
In India, a child would never hear such a complicated, quasi-scientific idea, but I did hear about the five elements, or Mahabbatas: earth, water, fire, air, and space. These elements combined to form everything in existence, which sounds crude to someone versed in western science, but it contained a valuable truth: all transformations come down to a few simple elements.
In the 20th Century, western scientists came to understand that all solid objects are actually made of invisible vibrations. In my childhood, solid things had dense vibrations or vibrations on a lower plane. Vaporous things had a vibration on a higher plane.
The cosmos is nonlocal; that is, it cannot be mapped as a location. After death we gradually stop being local. We see ourselves as we really are from the soul's perspective: everywhere at once.
The afterlife is a place of newfound clarity. The afterlife isn't static. We continue to evolve, and grow after we die. Earthly images carry us into the afterlife (we see what our culture has conditioned us to see), but then the soul makes creative leaps that open new worlds.
The only conception of death that makes sense to me allows us to experience everything.
Whatever it is that occurs at death, I believe it deserves to be called a miracle. The miracle, ironically, is that we don't die. The cessation of the body is an illusion, and like a magician sweeping aside a curtain, the soul reveals what lies beyond.
Mystics have long understood the joyousness of this moment. As the great Indian poet Rumi puts it, "Death is our wedding with eternity." The eminent philospher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, "For life in the present there is no death. Death is not an event in life. It is not a fact in the world."
I believe that death accomplishes the following miraculous things:
It replaces time with timelessness.
It stretches the boundaries of space to infinity.
It reveals the source of life.
It brings a new way of knowing that lies beyond the reach of the five senses.
It reveals the underlying intelligence that organizes and sustains creation (for the moment we won't use the word, "God," for in many cultures a single creator is not part of dying or the afterlife."
"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time."
"The following qualities become more intense as we get closer to the soul:
Every act of kindness adds another brushstroke to the picture, every insight draws you nearer to your essence...what keeps life fascinating is the constant creativity of the soul.
Truth, wisdom, beauty, and all the other qualities of the soul don't need physical settings. Pure love exists even in the absence of a person to love. Spiritual truth needs no crusade to follow. The soul in its full intensity takes center stage after we die but is foreshadowed long before."
(I would like to believe in Chopra's lofty vision, but alas, he has no more evidence for the existence of a soul than I.)
(Read Apologies to the Iroquois, by Edmund Wilson)
Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.--Chuang Tzu
Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.--Confucious
Failure is the foundation of success...success the lurking place of failure.--Lao Tzu
I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls.--Thoreau
I was never less alone than when by myself.--Ed Gibbon
There is a society in the deepest solitude.--Benjamin Disraeli
Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast-to-coast without seeing anything.--Charles Kuralt
Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who can attain it in nothing.--Eugene Delacroix
A Word About the Gentrification of New Orleans:
New Orleans isn't being re-built, it's being gentrified with flourishes, federal money, and a more-artsy grafitti. The majority African-Americans still are underpaid, unemployed,and misrepresented, and they suffer the highest murder rate in the nation. Federal money is being used to make the city safer for white people, particularly tourists and those who can afford large hotel and restaurant bills. Anyone can see that most of the cops are stationed in the French Quarter, which is relatively free of street crime. But large parts of the city are an inferno of fear and violence. New Orleans and the State of Louisiana needs a massive, federally-funded vocational program. But this would threaten the white labor monopoly, would suck away profits from established siphons, cause a rise in wages, income, and prices, and nibble further at the cruel foundations of southern racist labor servitude. Just as southern black slavery was a threat to northern labor, a freed and empowered black labor force would be an economic threat to white workers and the status quo. Ultimately, with reduced crime brought about through increased black employment, the prison system itself, which is a very profitable industry nationwide, would suffer. With a majority population of people-of-color, Louisiana's Angola Prison Farm is the largest in the nation, with more than 5,000 inmates. Young black men and women are being shot down like dogs on the streets of New Orleans. How is this much different than the past? If young white people were being massacred at the same rate, the FBI would be swarming New Orleans like locusts. When will the federal government intervene? When the burden of poverty is lifted by the strength of emerging labor from the backs of the poorest, prosperity will be general. White racist southerners must be made aware that a rising tide lifts all boats.
President Obama, do something!--Mike Havenar