Today I talked with an old friend. We'd only spoken once before since our college days, when we were initiated on the same day in 1971 into the Indian mystic-religious faith of Radha Soami Satsang Beas.
We're both heretics now, a comfortable state for each of us. He'd been perusing some of my Church of the Churchless posts and felt like giving me another call.
I'm glad he did. I enjoy conversations that start out with a bang, in this case with "I died this year." Yeah, that grabbed my interest. He had me at "I died."
Which was true.
And disturbing, because he's a few years younger than me, and I don't like to hear about guys having heart attacks at 57, since I'm 59. Especially when they've been a vegetarian for as long as I have (thirty-seven years), had normal cholesterol, and no symptoms of heart disease.
Well, life happens. That was the main theme of our conversation. What is, is. Deal with it. There's always only one thing going on: what's going on.
Wishing, thinking, believing, hoping – nothing makes any difference, except the one thing that's actually happening. In this case, a heart attack.
He had just enough time to dial 911 before falling unconscious. In the ambulance his heart stopped. He was resuscitated (obviously). Not many people with this sort of coronary blockage survive. He did.
Naturally I wanted to know what he felt, aside from a lot of pain, after the heart attack hit. He'd once been a believer. Now he wasn't.
Did he get any inkling of what happens after death from coming so close to dying? Nope. He told me that he wasn't scared after he realized what was happening. He just knew that soon, real soon, he might stop existing. Forever.
Or, not. He might live on in some other non-bodily state. There wasn't any sense that one was more likely than the other. Just that either was a possibility, and either was all right.
What is, is. When you're dead, you're dead. When you're not dead, you're not dead. Pretty darn simple.
We agreed, happy heretics that we are, that having faith in life after death or salvation won't make any difference when the last breath or heartbeat comes. It isn't faith that is going to rule at that point, but reality.
Descriptions of near death experiences sometimes are exceedingly sickly religiously sweet. The person who has drifted to the Other Side and come back to tell his or her tale talks about being filled with light, the glorious presence of Jesus, or some other life-altering experience.
So it was refreshing to have my friend tell me that the big difference in him now is that he's utterly unwilling to put up with B.S. Bullshit, for those unfamiliar with American slang abbreviations.
That's understandable. If you've gotten that close to not existing for forever, which he thinks is the most likely destination after death, I can see why you wouldn't be interested in frittering your remaining life away on meaningless crap.
The question is, of course, why any of the rest of us would want to do that either. For me, that includes not putting up with religious crap – beliefs, concepts, imaginings, superstitions and such with no connection to here-and-now reality.
I enjoyed hearing about someone coming this close to dying, and remaining as confident that there's no life after death as he was before.
Not that I wouldn't like there to be life after death. Just as he would.
But we agreed that it's much better to live life fully, right here and right now at every moment, than to live partly here and now, and partly there and then – in an imaginary anticipation of what will happen in the next life, and what God or the guru requires of us so that we'll enjoy the afterlife.
Enjoyment is now. Life is now. Reality is now. Awareness is now. Experience is now. There and then will only be true when it comes into the here and now.
What is, is. Including B.S.
But we don't have to put up with it. Or have to nearly die in order to realize this.
I know I have brought this up before: If you feel that it's likely that you won't exist forever after death, then logically you must believe that you did not exist forever before your birth. Forever is a long time, so long in fact that I wonder how our moment to exist ever arrived. The 'big bang' occured just a few moments ago compared to the billions of trillions of eons without end we didn't exist before that...an incomprehensible non-ending infinity of non-existence before we were ever born...forever and ever unborn.
How could eternal non-existence become existence and then eternal non-existence again? The operative word here is 'eternal'. Doesn't it seem impossible for eternal non-existence to become existence if in-fact eternal non-existence is eternal?
I find this curious. It seems there must be now or nothing. Or, said differently, there is nothing and just the appearance of something via the illusory perception of the perceiver perceiving itself as an object when in fact there is nothing of the kind. Once you have an illusory perceiver, then you have illusory objects extended in illusory space and time.
If there is nobody, then nothing is perceived for how can a non-object have objects? So, like one of the ancient Chinese wise guys said, "From the beginning, not a thing is."
Perhaps we are only what we are outside the idea of time, unborn, never dead and blazing with Enlightenment itself?
Posted by: Tucson | December 22, 2007 at 07:58 AM
Brian Wrote: "And disturbing, because he's a few years younger than me, and I don't like to hear about guys having heart attacks at 57, since I'm 59. Especially when they've been a vegetarian for as long as I have (thirty-seven years), had normal cholesterol, and no symptoms of heart disease."
--Did you know that only 30-40% of people with heart disease have elevated cholesterol and there is no definite connection between atherosclerotic disease and high serum cholesterol? This comes from Dr. Michael De Bakey, noted heart surgeon. Not moi.
Every so often this subject comes up and I get tempted to react to it because it used to be an interest of mine. There are still adherents to the old 'cholesterol is bad for your heart' hypothesis, for that is all it ever was...a hypothesis that endured for several decades until they started to wise-up about 25 years ago.
Only about 10% of your serum cholesterol comes from food. The rest is manufactured by the liver in response to insulin which is manufactured by the pancreas in response to, guess what?...glucose (sugar).
Sugar is the bad boy, and not so much fat and cholesterol. Excess carbohydrate (sugar) is more likely to mess up your insulin/cholesterol metabolism than animal fat and dietary cholesterol.
By the way, cholesterol is not a fat, but a waxy alcohol and is actually produced to 'patch-up' arterial lesions usually caused by excess insulin or inflamatory conditions, hormonal imbalances and other causes. It is actually essential for certain metabolic processes, and your brain is loaded with it.
But it's not that simple. That is, you can't just avoid white bread, candy, potatoes and 'Sugar Frosted Flakes' and expect to have a healthy heart, blood chemistry and arteries since inflamations, hormones, dental plaque, viruses, stress, drugs, activity levels, and genetics all play their part.
Let's say your total cholesterol is 250 and you think that's bad, but that alone means nothing which I'll briefly explain in a minute. Anyway, you eliminate all dietary sources of cholesterol, i.e. animal food. The most you can expect your cholesterol to drop is roughly 10% or 25 pts. So, having eliminated full-fat yogurt and butter from your diet, you are now the proud owner of a total cholesterol of 225. Big deal. Even if your cholesterol was 300 it would only drop to about 270. Big deal again.
People are being turned down for life insurance when their total cholesterol is above 210-220 or so. This is ignorant and absurd in light of current science. The insurance companies are decades behind the cutting edge of science and they may actually be turning down perfectly healthy clients that pose no statistical risk.
It is the composition of your cholesterol that counts far more than the total amount. HDL colesterol level is thought to be the most important single component relative to the total. So a person with a total cholesterol of 190 could actually be a greater disease risk if their HDL levels are low.
Another thing. Did you know that there are no essential carbohydrates? Dieticians put foods into three groups: proteins, fats and carbohydrates. But only two of these are essential and neither of them is carbohydrate. You can live without carbohydrate, but not without protein and fat.
This is why certain Inuit tribes were able to survive and reproduce for many generations on a diet consisting entirely of animal-source food and probably why they now have such high rates of diabetes and heart disease. The sudden switch to white man's sugar was too much for them.
Do you want to lose weight? Eat fat, Because it teaches your body to burn fat as fuel instead of depending on sugar rushes for energy. Your body will learn to burn your excess stored body fat as fuel more efficiently.
There are some harmful fats such as trans (hydrogenated) fats. Also some vegetable oils like corn, safflower, and soy are highly oxidative in the system and too high in omega-6 fatty acids, but I've already gone on too long in this vein.
What this has to do with this blog I can't say. The spirit moved me and I just got carried off on a rant. So shoot me.
And Merry Christmabuddhaka
Posted by: Tucson | December 22, 2007 at 09:09 PM
What do you know about canola oil? I've read recently that it's quite harmful due to the presence of certain compounds, which I don't recall at the moment. Interestingly, it's used in most "health" product.
Posted by: Bob | December 22, 2007 at 10:25 PM
Ah con-ola. Mary Enig is one of the world's leading lipid bio-chemists, so I defer to her:
Posted by: Tucson | December 23, 2007 at 10:16 AM
I note that Dr. Enig and Ms. Fallon each have healthy children that have been fed "whole foods including butter, cream, eggs and meat." Their exposition sounded quite intelligent to me.
Robert Paul Howard
Posted by: Robert Paul Howard | December 23, 2007 at 09:55 PM
My purpose was not to suggest that vegetarians become omnivores. I just wanted to illustrate that there is widespread ignorance in the general public regarding cholesterol.
Since humans are omnivores, both vegetarians and non-vegetarians can be healthy. Feats of longevity, strength and endurance have been performed by both groups.
Thanks to modern food distribution, and the wide variety of food and dietary supplements available, various dietary philosophies can be supported.
However, if you put a person in the wilderness with nothing but a rock or a sharp stick, I think he will find it easier to maintain health long-term if he is willing to eat fauna in addition to flora... Anyone for a nice, plump, juicy, wiggling grub?
Posted by: Tucson | December 24, 2007 at 09:29 AM