Chapter 56 Death is a Non-Experience

In addition, if we were somehow disconnected from our physical body/mind we would have no ability for experiencing the world in any meaningful way. We would not be able to see and hear or feel those who are still alive, nor could we have any way to speak with or interact with them.  Even if we took the argument that our minds and thoughts all end with death, it is still not “rational” to fear a state that we cannot even experience! 


We would certainly not see what we were missing out on, without a brain to process and store memory and interpret new experiences we would not even realize, in an actual sense, that something was going wrong. If some immaterial aspect of ourselves like our atoms and energy just drifts around the world after we are dead, we still have no rational reasons to fear that state of being, or non-being. If you think about it, it makes no more reasonable sense to fear death while alive than it did before we given a “soul”, an immaterial status before life. 


Fear as such is future-oriented, and future experienced, if you can truly live in the present, fully and completely, there will be NO fear of death.  If your soul is “immaterial” and continues, then so be it, and if it does not, then your experience of death would be the same as how you felt before you were born, which is again a state of no-fear. 


It should follow that we should not fear death…we should feel nothing about it—no fear and or no happiness—because death is basically non-existence.  Basically, when you are simply living your life with mindfulness in the present moment, you ought not fear dark alleys, even if there is the chance that, at any time you may find yourself forced to walk down one. Entertaining such fear would impair your ability to live your life, and thus is something to be ignored…and avoided, at all cost.  Exercising daily exercises in living in the present moment, would allow your soul to evolve to the point of no-fear, in other words, no-future, because you are living in the present moment.


Epicurean philosophy also comes into play here as he states that what’s good is easy to obtain, and what’s bad is easy to endure.  Epicurus would also state that even if faced with a painful death before us, the pain would be short-lived and the respite afterwards would be completely absent of discomfort (obviously, as you no longer exist to be in any possible situation of discomfort).  Epicurean philosophy is very wise and immersed in equanimity because even if faced with death like if you are on a sinking ship, if you lived your life up to then with a sense of purpose and grace and living in your present moments, so even impending death should not instill any fear in your heart.


In other words, the fear of death comes much from your fear that you will be “missing out” on potential events that will come in the future.  But that fear is not rational because you don’t really know if those immediate future events may carry with it “painful” moments.  Again, if you are a person who completely is calm and lives in the present moments, you know that you have no control over the future, and thus you do not fear the future, hence also you feel no fear of death.  If you live in fear, that is only telling yourself that you have work to do, because you are not fully living in the present. 

Possibly, one reason that human beings dread death is related to their self-awareness of self awareness (so to speak).   You are aware of yourself and are also aware that you are aware. The world seems external to you, but you have “sense awareness” that gives rise to its existence.  I am sure that you know humans are not the only ones with “awareness”, such as your cat or dog.  They are likely self-aware, but not aware of being self aware.  This may be what separates us from other animals but which also gives within us the fear of death. 

Possibly the source of the fear of death that everyone seems to have comes from again…not fully living in the present moment.  The world did not exist to you before conception, then awareness slowly birthed into you as your grew as a young child. At death, your self-awareness may indeed have a terminal point, in a sense…the world ends.  Other beings with self-awareness (maybe) try to convince me that the mountain near my home was there long before I was born (“On Certainty”), but it certainly came into my awareness recently.

So what is this self-awareness thing?

For many days you endeavor to avoid the deadly situations. Other days a quick exit would be welcome.  I am not so sure that I personally fear death.  I do not care or worry that I may miss out on some important news event like Extraterrestrials visiting Earth or a new movie in 3-D that would be very enjoyable.  I am not keen on worry that I may miss out on fun future events because I realize fully that there would be painful moments waiting for me as well in the exact same proportion.  Maybe what we all fear is a painful exit.  Of that, I do admit a certain degree of fear that I know I would have to work on.

When I personally think of the past I have great regret and great joy. Suppose when I think of death I can have a great regret at missing great joys like future grandkids, etc. but I can also have a paradoxical great joy at the possibility of missing tiring tragedies like prostate cancer and dementia that I may be afflicted with.  Therefore, for many, tt seems that the fear of death is often related to the pain of exit. We can conclude then that regret and joy of a future death is directly related to perceived possibilities and is similar to our regret and joy of our past awareness.  In sum, I can postulate that if a man lives his life in perfect equanimity, not embracing the past nor being excited about the future, but just living in the now, the present moment, not being swayed by the tides of fortune, not being swayed by the passions, then he can accept his death with absolute serenity. 

The problem with this is that we are all still addicted to our melodramas, as Ram Dass would say.  We are obsessed with seeking happiness, and that is where our fear of death would come in.  We would be afraid that the occurrence of death in the future would interrupt or make impossible our experiencing future joyful moments that may possibly come our way.  But as we discussed, this is not a rational way of thinking because we have no control and do not know what the future will bring.   


About youngkim3000

I grew up in Virginia and went to a top tier high school, being so ambitious and wanting fame and fortune like the next kid. I received good grades and then I went off to the University of Chicago where I majored in Psychology and Economics. After a brief but successful "Wall Street" career, I realized that I was not happy and left thinking that a career in the medical field would satisfy me. Then, I did some post Bac work at Northwestern and UIC, and then ended up at UIC Medical School. The problem was I was not happy there either. The structure, the repetition, and lack of being able to be free and spontaneously creative really knocked me down. Having to be subject to constant subjective evaluations sucked my soul dry. As I sought another chapter in my life, then came the financial collapse of 2008-9 which destroyed the "nest egg" and saving that I had worked so hard to build after college--which I so "identified with". I was so depressed at the loss of career and the loss of money that I fell into self pity and a deep seated depression. For weeks on end, I could not even get out of bed. I went to many doctors who could not really help me. I took so much anti-depressant medication and also self medicated with alcohol to dull my mind. One day though, I went to the public library in Niles, IL, and picked up some books on "Self-Help". I figured what do I have to lose? I was already so depressed I could barely get through a day. I picked up books by Wayne Dyer (Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life), Deepak Chopra, Louis Hay, Ram Dass, Osho, and Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth), The Dalai Lama, and revisited my faith in Catholicism. I devoured so many books to unearth just why I was suffering so much. I learned so much about myself and realized that my deep suffering was actually a gift for me to discover myself. Simply put, those words in those books saved my life. I was taking so many drugs and my physical health was in serious jeopardy. I realized that I could not live with myself any longer, and I needed to be free. I realized...that it was my own thoughts that were making me so depressed, as was my own "life story" that I replayed over and over. I realized that my mind was busy creating negative thoughts. Thoughts are "things" and expand. I understood that you do not "normally" choose your thoughts. Just like the digestion of a meal, the mind automatically creates all kinds of thoughts whether you like it or not. Just like you do not "choose" to breathe with your lungs or "choose" to make urine from your kidneys, you "normally" do not "choose" your own thoughts. They just happen, just like digestion. And if you had a bad experience, your mind recreates the negative thoughts without your conscious consent but you are forced to relive them endless times per day. It is only through CONSCIOUS INTERVENTION that you can make your mind change course from recycling negative thoughts. This is just like your breathing. You breathe automatically, but you CAN choose to influence your breathing, you can hold your breath if you are going to dive deep in the water, or you can consciously "slow down" your breath if you are relaxing in meditation and prayer. Once I realized I did in fact have an ability to control my thoughts, I consciously redirected the thoughts to positive uplifting notions. I noted that I had built such a large ego that the collapse of it dragged me down in catastrophic fashion. A big ego is different from self esteem. Both were destroyed, but I learned to regain self esteem through positive affirmations and knowing that the negative thoughts are not reality. I was choosing definitively to live in the past via my repetitive thoughts. I was also choosing to live in an uncertain future that I painted with dreadful possibilities. I realized that if I live in the "now", the present moment, I really did not have any reason to be depressed at all. I discovered I really only live in the "now". The past and future are fictions. It is akin to a motorboat on the water on a lake. The "wake" that the boat produces is the past, my vision of the future is what I can see in front of me, but I really only exist ON the boat in the present moment. I was living my life only on the "wake" created many meters before. Soon, my self-pity slowly subsided as I learned to accept "what is" and not grasp for anything and everything that is valued by Society. I concurred that it was my own "expectations" not realized that were causing such waves of discontent. Once I dropped my self imposed sad "life story", my yesterdays, I came to my senses that there was no need to feel upset at all. That realization hit me like "a ton of bricks" and quickly lifted me out of the well, like a rope thrown down the dark walls of the deep well. I would like to share that it was only that single moment of enlightenment, a "satori" event that forever changed my life, but that was not so. It was a gradual climb out of the abyss (over about a year). I realized that my mind was like a superhighway of blazing thoughts that went through my mind over and over based on the recent past. While my "life story" was going great, I believed in those thoughts, and my ego grew such that I became arrogant and sometimes unkind. Then when my "life story" changed for the worse, I similarly believed in those new negative thoughts with the same passion (which hurt me so deeply throughout my waking hours). I noted to myself that this was why I craved so many "tranquilizers" and medicines that would halt my thoughts. I realized that I was drowning in my negative thoughts and that I was CHOOSING to believe in them. But I learned through focusing on positive affirmations, meditation and prayer, I did not need any more drugs to "halt" my mind from stabbing me to death. Through the filter of society's measure I had evaluated my own life, unable to fully realize that it was all a fiction that my mind had created. I was completely unable to live in the present before this profound awakening. My life had turned into a constant "replay" of the past, the anxiety of the uncertain future...and my destroyed ego. Because of my belief that my thoughts were the ultimate truth, I suffered so deeply... but needlessly. Once I changed the direction of my thoughts, everything changed. The way I looked at my own life changed. I realized that LIFE is not a long emergency where the one with the most toys at the end wins. I realized LIFE is something to be lived fully, and joyfully...not some series of problems to be solved. Once I realized these insights, I realized that I was the creation of my own depression. Although a devout Catholic, I am also deeply moved by the ideals of Buddhism. About Karma and "Dependent Arising"...both of which are also in the Bible (Galations 6, Do not be deceived, God will not be mocked, a person always reaps what they sow). And I was...for the better part of my life, a runaway train into disaster that I was blind to...that I had planted the seeds onto. Putting money, fame, accolades, trophies, and so forth as the ultimate end to my goals sowed the seeds of psychological calamity when the inevitable tides of change occurs in every life. A person who extols those superficial qualities dooms himself/herself to disaster. The only variable is "time". Would it take a long time to find yourself in a train wreck or a short time? It doesn't matter. What matters is how soon can you realize the truth of existence and your place in it...and rise above what Society tries to focus you to believe. Society always makes you compare yourself to others, Society never leaves you alone to just be yourself. You have to exert effort and unlearn what Society has poisoned you with. I am now doing various "work" (not holding down any soul sucking corporate job), teaching, making money through various income sources like buying items at rummage sales and reselling them through Craigslist, asking neighbors and doing work they need, trading stock options when my financial tools indicate that there is a good trade. I am not focused on any "ladder to climb" or any "prestigious career"...and I am so much happier and at peace. I'd rather be "waterboarded" that go back to Corporate America. I have also a solid equanimity, and i am OK with whatever happens, and thus accept what God and the Universe wish for me. I wish to share my newly found wisdom and hope that my story and my interpretation of my newly found contentment can benefit others and I also wish to hear similar stories of awakening. God Bless, thanks for reading my "profile" and leave me your stories of awakening. Outside somewhere is a field where all of us are the same, I cannot wait to see you there...Namaste...
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