I ponder death a lot. The notion of me not existing any more isn't appealing, to say the least.
It isn't my body that I'm afraid of losing. It's my awareness, or consciousness. I'd be cool with living on as a disembodied soul, so long as I was aware of it.
But ...being extinguished completely ...forever ...not a trace of consciousness left. Yikes!
Some say that it isn't possible for us to contemplate death, not in a realistic fashion.
We know what life is like because it's being experienced as we envision death. Yet non-existence obviously can't be imagined, since imagining occurs while we're existent.
So death is a mystery lying on the other side of bodily life.
Either our consciousness will continue after we die, or it won't. There's no way to know which will happen. If anybody claims otherwise, ask them "Since you're still alive, how can you be sure what you'll be after you die?"
Now, let's turn our attention in the other direction: toward the birth of consciousness, rather than its death.
Surprisingly, I hadn't thought about this much until yesterday.
That every baby in its mother's womb is going along like a recently sprouted sprig of grass, growing yet unaware, until suddenly (I assume it's sudden) the light of awareness comes on.
Consciousness. The baby changes from (1) being alive, to (2) being aware of being alive.
In those three additional words, "being aware of," lie every mystery, every truth, every everything that comes with being human. Or any other sort of creature with consciousness.
What boggles my mind -- as it should, because this is mind-boggling stuff -- is the instant, the dividing line, the moment, the difference between being alive and being conscious of life.
Spirituality, religion, mysticism, science, philosophy: these all depend, and flow from, that mysterious birth of consciousness.
That's our real birth. The birth of you and me.
When we pop out of the womb, that's a secondary birth. (Note to abortion opponents: I'm pro-choice and don't see what I just said as inconsistent with that position, though I realize others could reasonably disagree.)
If we could understand what happens at this birth of consciousness, which likely occurs with a puppy in the same fashion as it does with a human baby, the cosmos would be a lot more understandable.
Consciousness is the ultimate Secret of the Universe, since without it no other secrets can be revealed.
Yet we don't know the nature of consciousness. Not scientists. Not mystics. Not theologians. Not philosophers. Not anybody.
Each of us experienced its first blossoming as a baby in the womb. And we have no idea what it is. That's marvelous.
I could go back much further, of course. To the big bang -- the birth of our entire universe. Was consciousness present in the cosmos at that moment, or did it come into being later?
Another unanswered, and maybe unanswerable, mystery.
When we don't understand the birth of consciousness, I don't see how it's possible to claim knowledge about what happens at its death.
My bet is, our personal consciousness is gone forever. But I'd be (ecstatically) happy to be otherwise surprised. I'll just have to wait and see.
Like everyone else.