Wednesday, May 05, 2010

This mortal coil....

About a week ago I learned that a colleague's sister succumbed after a long battle with cancer. She doesn't read this blog, but nonetheless I'll extend my condolences to her here. I've been fortunate enough not to have lost a loved one before...I can only imagine her pain and sadness, which, no doubt, has to be great.

My prayers and condolences to her and her family.

Whenever someone, or a relative of someone I know dies...I can't help but think about my own mortality...or the mortality of those around me.

When I was much younger...say in high school...I was so obsessed with the subject that I amassed a number of books discussing the prospect of life after death from a scientific perspective. At the time, I suppose, my faith wasn't enough. I couldn't bear to believe that this material world is all there is to existence, that there is nothing after we expire, that our ancestors and loved ones who have predeceased us live only in our memories and are not waiting to be reunited we us when we finally get to cross over.

Several years after...while I'm no longer that obsessed with the subject...still, it crosses my mind from time to time...like now.

Nowadays, scientific explanations abound explaining so-called "near-death experiences". Everything from out-of-body experiences, to the tunnel of light, to literally seeing your life flash before your eyes, to seeing departed loved ones, or being greeted by a religious figure...has been attributed by science to a brain misfiring from lack of oxygen. The feelings of bliss and calmness attendant to the near-death experience has been attributed to the release of endorphins by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. Near-death experiences have been thoroughly studied and documented that they can even be induced by deliberately causing hypoxia or by G-forces in a centrifuge.

The bottom line is...science has defined near-death experiences into nothing more than physiological reactions of the human body to the stress of dying. This doesn't really sit well with anyone hoping that there is more to life than this mortal coil.

In my later years, say in college, I turned to religion in my attempt to find the answers I was looking for. I've had lively discussions and there were even some attempts to recruit me by seminarians, Born-again Christians, some INCs, even had a brief stint with Opus Dei, way before it was popularized in popular literature by Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. None of them really succeeded in giving me a different perspective from what I already knew.

By the time I was taking up my post-graduate studies, I was more into philosophy, particularly along the lines of realism, rationalism, pragmatism, existentialism, humanism, deism versus atheism. To be honest, while a casual study of such subjects can be quite enlightening, I still never found the answers I sought. Eventually, I reverted to my roots...that of being a Catholic.

I guess I've realized that maybe, just maybe, the answers to the questions I'm looking for don't really exist, or are not meant for comprehension by the finite mind. I went full circle, and opted to just have faith. Still, my faith must not be that great...as there are still times that I fear death. Not it's physical aspect mind you...just the concept that after we die, there may be nothing else.

These are all probably nothing but abstract concepts. I mean, we have our own problems with life itself, mundane things like our jobs, bills to pay, children to send to school, and the like, and most of us probably couldn't be bothered to think of what happens after.

I don't know how to end this entry...simply because I don't know the answer to my question. There are times, I admit, that I consider the possibility that maybe...there really is nothing out there...but I can't help but be depressed with that prospect. Surely our consciousness must transcend our physical existence somehow, if only because to think otherwise would reinforce the nihilistic idea that at the end of the day, we are all insignificant, that we are all just made of stardust.

I can't just accept that.

Whatever. I have to get back to work. Maybe I'll blog about this again.





Anonymous bing reacted...

i find myself asking too many questions, too, about what will happen after death? what if there is hell? i couldnt be worried about heaven because all will be well there, i guess, when one will go there. but what if hell is one's destination? the bible's description is truly, truly scary (been using this word many times today, i noticed, triggered by the scary scenario of the may 10 elections). whew, i have to stop thinking muna about it... so many things to think about pa.

May 05, 2010 9:24 PM  
Blogger Ronald Allan reacted...

I find the concept of heaven worrying as well. What if I'm in heaven and a person I care about is in hell? Would I be alright with that? If heaven is pure bliss, then would I have anything to do? Would the traits which make me human still exist if I'm in heaven?

Being punished for eternity in hell is scary enough. But if we do get to heaven, will we be the same persons we are while we were alive?

As for the May 10 elections...let's just keep our fingers crossed.

May 06, 2010 6:13 AM  

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