I’m sure the ancients must have wrestled with this, but I’m just a plain and simple guy, and I wonder how can there possibly be a world without a “me” in it. What is consciousness anyway? And who can prove it one way or the other? Not a single person among the billions who have died has come back to bring us a viable answer about what happens after death. Logically, you have to feel you’re getting close to an answer of nothing. No one really knows, and anything more must be relegated to faith.
Was my having existed at all dependent on the chance of my being born or born where I was when I was or even being born at all? What if the factors of my birth – if my father and mother hadn’t come together when they did? What if my parents’ seeds had come together in the next instance from when they did? Who would I be? What if I really had never been born at all? Does this mean there would have been no consciousness and therefore no world, no existence, no me?
When the light goes out for me, when I die, it will be the end of consciousness, at least for this me. Does that mean that the world will end right there? I guess my world will, will it not? Is there nothing more? What happens to all the skills that have taken a lifetime to acquire? What about all the knowledge and learning unique to my brain? Does it all, in the moment of death, dissipate and disappear into a vast nothingness as if it were never there in the first place? You mean to tell me all those songs I learned will be lost? That it won’t matter that I can tie perfect trout flies? Cook a gourmet dinner? Make love? Play the guitar? Learning history, geography, math, proper English, typing, carpentry, planting, telling stories? How about Shakespeare? Will all my memorizations of Shakespeare be gone? Poof! Puccini? Bach? Albinoni? Vivaldi? Scarlatti? All the great artists and architects? Little children yet to grow left behind but without me? Who will lead us? Who will inspire us? Who will make us better than we are? Does it all stop? Who would know? Who is to say?
All those other people out there are walking around with their consciousnesses, thousands of consciousnesses, billions of consciousnesses but none are mine, will be mine. I will be gone. My world will be dark, empty, nothing. As far as I am concerned, there will be no more consciousness. Am I right? Who is to say?
Is it possible that I will come back into the world somewhere as someone or something else? Will I -- this “me” I will then carry around with me -- be conscious of former “me’s,” if any? If so, why hasn’t this been true in this life? Why not in anybody’s life? If not, will all consciousness end after this “me” dies?
In 1978, a very learned, imaginative friend took me on an age regression back to colonial times. I saw things I never knew existed, little things, like a tall basket of apples wider at the bottom. I instantly knew why. I recognized the clothes I wore. It was an exceptional return to a place I had never been. Or had I? All the memories of it are still as sharp as the most vivid dream I could ever imagine. Was it nothing? Was it just a result of overactive brain cells and synapses running around with an abandon brought on by the skill of my teacher. Was it nothing more? Who knows? Who is to say?
You see, I find it hard to believe in pearly gates, St. Peter checking names, all those who went before me somewhere waiting for me, or God on a throne keeping tabs on everybody. There was a lot of stuff like that concocted in simpler times when everyone had a need to know, to believe in something to explain what he couldn’t understand in the ordinary context of his life. This is why Jesus spoke in parables. But is it all a fairytale? Is there nothing more? I find it just as hard to believe that there isn’t something else. Maybe we are all in for a wonderful surprise.
Who knows? Who is to say?