There are some answers (or, let’s call them ‘solutions’ rather than answers, since there is no yet any absolute confirmation that this is indeed the truth, but the probability seems high enough to make it truly feel like an answer) to big questions, that when they present themselves you not only get a huge a-ha experience, but you also can’t believe you had to arrive at this conclusion by yourself. It seems so obvious that it ought to have been the first thing anyone told you when you asked as a child. Like what happens after death.
I remember being very freaked out at the thought of my own death when I was younger. I even remember one specific time when I got so worked up that I was shaking. And this was not in a crisis situation; this was just speaking about it over dinner.
It wasn’t so much the afterlife that worried me – my parents had always answered ‘probably nothing’ when asked what they thought happens after death – but it was the aspect of being dead forever that really scared me. Because my brain couldn’t handle the concept of forever; there was no way of picturing forever. Or ‘nothing’ for that matter. How do you imagine not existing? Being nothing? Forever? It was distressing.
The day I realised that death would not be anything new to me, the relief was palpable. I can’t remember how it came to me, but it was not from reading anything, seeing anything on TV, or somebody telling me. And that’s what I cannot understand. One simple sentence that seemed to make everything infinitely better: After death it will be just like before you were born. Of course! I’ve already done all this once! The nothingness and the forever – just that forever stretched in another direction – what’s the point in fearing something you’ve already experienced (or not experienced in this case) and have no bad memories of?
Why had nobody told me this? I was born in the 70s, maybe nowadays this is common knowledge amongst the kids, but back then, it wasn’t. And to think grown men have struggled with the concept of death all through history! Inventing heavens and hells and all manner of reincarnation rules and practices… it seems so unnecessary!
Now, if it was only as easy to find a solution to the problem of grief. Other people’s death seems a far scarier thing than my own. It’s the people left behind that have the problem, not the ones who are dead. But… I’m still working on that one.