I was afraid of dying last night. Terrified. Full blown existential angst. It took me back to my childhood. I lay there trying to fathom why that fear was back again – my old enemy.
I realised that it is my “I” that is afraid. My ego; the confection that has spun up in this particular life of mine. I have throughout my life woken suddenly in the night with a sense that my heart has stopped – as it misses a beat – and with the immediacy of dying. Whilst it was frightening as a child and into my early adulthood, it disappeared as my faith grew that there is more beyond this life. (A faith built out of intense questioning). Indeed what lies beyond this virtual reality is all, everything. Not the nothing of our ego’s fear.
I am lucky because I have experienced good deaths. My mother had almost died and described her experience of moving toward light and love but being summoned back to this life – and her reluctance to return. This is of course common; but it’s difficult to be a doubting Thomas when your mother – a true glorious person – gifts you her personal experience. My father died after an operation and I experienced for the hours after his death his transcendental joy before disappearing. Literally he was bursting with excitement and joy before he finally left me. It was intense and real. Since then some part of the thought of death has been exciting – a way through the fundamental loneliness of life.
Lucky. Because I have known other deaths where there was fear, confusion and loss. Intensely painful rather than joyful, and I have seen how those deaths affect those left behind.
So, to last night..
I believe that our ego only exists in this particular life, like some kind of computer memory that fades when the machine is switched off. Of course my ego is terrified of death. “I” am not, however, my ego. I am part of all and will return to the everything beyond. In what way, is not for me to see here now, because our senses can only see “through a glass darkly”. I do know that in order to move beyond my fear, my work is to move beyond my ego, and back to the living and loving connection that continues and is what I anyway call God. I only use that word tentatively because it puts some people off – because many “religions” hijack this personification of all-that-is for their own purpose. Political manipulation.
A rose, however, is a rose by whatever name.
In any event, I offer my thoughts not to convert – but as a witness to hope.
… that the universe is really one and that we and everything in it is connected, a part of the same thing – and so a part of each other. The loneliness and insecurity that is the subtext of all of our living would be illusory. So, indeed would be death. We would be all, part of each other. The making love, the smile shared with a stranger, the sense of one-ness within a brilliant landscape, the tenderness and awe holding your baby… all intimations and pale imitations of what existence would be. If we removed our blinkers. And, this is what scientific discovery points toward. So indeed does our brother, Jesus. What did he actually say? Love thy neighbour (as thyself), by the fruits shall ye know them, forgive over and over and over again (70×7), rich men shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Christ would have been, in our modern world, a revolutionary – but not a divider of people against people. He would have been, and is, the true blueprint of a socialist radical.
Imagine, if the universe is really one and that we and everything in it is connected, a part of the same thing – and so a part of each other. After all its what the science points toward.
Wordsworth wrote of wandering “lonely as a cloud”. I wonder if the ego is an artificial construct, which keeps us separate and boundaried. Clouds have inchoate edges and are constantly changing, intermingling with surrounding cooler and warmer air. Since constantly in touch and part of the rest of nature I suspect they wouldn’t “feel” alone – in the way that we as a species can and do with our locked in syndrome.
It appears that the physical world is governed by fields. Mass and energy depend upon them.
Electricity and magnetism, and therefore the cinema, facebook, light, our e-mail traffic and our clean clothes, are underpinned by the electro-magnetic field (James Clerk Maxwell).
Gravity, and therefore mass itself – structure, form, atoms, molecules and things, result from the gravitational field (Newton, Einstein).
Time results in our sense of experience. Without it nothing is. We sense and experience anything and everything NOW (Alfred North Whitehead). It isn’t the past or future – the “late and soon” of Wordsworth’s poem – where we build existence, it is here and now – the present. The experience of NOW is though only possible because of time. I am not a mathematician, but it seems logical to me to think of time as a field which makes possible NOW. In the same way that the gravitational field makes possible MASS, matter.
I am deeply convinced of our joyful and interconnected existence beyond space and time. We are part of “the Word existing beyond time”. I have a sense that we are droplets here, in this material world. We are boundaried as water is within a droplet as opposed to infinitely inter-connected as within an ocean. Boundary brings loneliness (if we let it), but is essential for experience.
Perhaps time is the field within which this transmutation occurs. Gravity has been described as a “field like treacle that sticks down energy as mass”. Is time the equivalent – a field like treacle that allows spirit to be stuck down as experience? As being.
Loneliness. The first and fundamental pain, which stems from the loss of birth. We arise from a state of Being ” a pulse in the eternal mind, no less”; and being born we are bounded. The edge that defines each as individual also encloses and imprisons. The pain of our loss is the absence of connection to all that is. The struggle toward consciousness – the vital urge that drives evolution – is surely the need to re-connect. It is a mistake to equate consciousness with thought or the ego. Consciousness observes the mind and emotion. Consciousness springs from the space between Ich und Du. It is the force (be with us!) that de Chardin names as Love. It is Jung’s insight – the drive toward integration (of opposites).
Without separation and boundary there is no form; no possibility of self-awareness, of perspective. Indeed there is no internal and no external. “Let there be light” – does not abolish dark, but separates from dark and becomes it’s opposite. Understanding can only spring from boundary, edge, individuality and separation.
But separation without re-integration is imprisonment, loss and loneliness. It is the narcissism of Ich und Es – the connection with the material rather than Being. Self-reflection instead of integration.
Boundaries are simply discontinuities. Lines in two dimensions, surfaces in three. On the other side, through the looking glass and in the land of the other – lies the answer to loneliness. My Nation, My Religion and My Life have borders beyond which are the Enemy, the Damned and Death. (Oh yes, and Loneliness). However Our universe has none of these – only Love.
Don’t believe me? Try smiling at a stranger and see how you feel when they smile back.