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.