I’m really not sure why anyone would be interested in my thoughts on the afterlife but it helps me to clarify my own thinking when I write. So I did. I’ve been thinking about death a lot as several close friends have died recently and the corona virus has surely put death in the news. These sort of ponderings seem to happen to many people as they age. I offer these ideas in a public forum in hopes that some readers might share their own thought/feelings about life and death (in the Comments box below).
SO HERE GOES…
First, I’m not terribly fond of the word “afterlife” – even though I used it in the title. Most people know what is meant by the term afterlife, so it is useful. But the word “afterlife” feels too final as I have come to believe in the continuation of consciousness after the death of the physical body. For me, the death experience appears to be more of a transition to another form of existence, a continuation – not an ending. I need a better word to describe the “condition of being that follows once the spirit-self has left its bodily container.” Perhaps you have a suggestion.
I surely don’t have a picture in mind of a heaven with “pearly white gates, hanging out with old friends playing harps in the clouds etc.”, I do understand why that description might be a useful story to tell children and I suspect it can be a comfort to those who believe. But it’s just a bit too easy for me to accept what seems more like a fairy tale than a thoughtful depiction of the state of existence that continues following the demise of the body. Nevertheless, I believe that we live forever, as suggested in Francis Hodgson Burnett’s classic book, The Secret Garden.
“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” ~Henri Nouwen
It’s hard to stand at the edge of someone else’s grief.
There’s the awkwardness. You always feel a little like an uninvited guest who arrived late and missed the first half of the conversation—a conversation that turns out to be a wrestle between another person and the deepest parts of their own soul.
What can you say when you realize you’ve barged in on an interaction so intimate, so personal that you just want to avert your eyes and slink quietly away?
In a recent episode of the TV series The Crown, Queen Elizabeth’s husband Prince Phillip, had a brief conversation with his mother Princess Alice of Battenberg, who asked him casually “so how is your faith?” After a slight hesitation he replied, “dormant.” The aging Princess told her middle aged son bluntly…. “That’s not good, let this be a mothers gift to her child … find yourself faith, it helps, no… not just helps … its everything.”
It is easy to imagine why the husband of the Queen of England might find himself too busy to worry about his faith… too busy to “bother with God.” After all, there are all those royal ceremonies to attend! But what about you and me? Why and when did we let a sense of the divine, the spiritual or the sacred slip out of our lives? Or maybe we are hard core materialists (if you can’t see it, then it doesn’t exist) and have never had any sense of the spiritual in the first place? If so, you would not be all that unusual in the secular world in which we live today. Most of us today don’t “bother with God.”
Adapted from an Interview with Matthew Fox by Mary NurrieStearns
Much of our life is spent in the world of work. Our time, energy, and even identity are wrapped up in what we do and how much money we have. Therefore it is important to explore how work is associated with prosperity. At times, work is a job an exchange of effort for money. But work can also be vocation. When work is vocation, it is where we express our unique talents, find meaning, and contribute to what Matthew Fox calls “the great work,” the work of the universe.
To discuss this subject with Matthew Fox was like finding a gold mine. The author of many books, Fox describes in “The Reinvention of Work” a new vision of livelihood. In his envisioned world of work intellect, heart, and health come together to celebrate the whole person. He is a true teacher of what he espouses. He was dismissed by the Continue reading Beyond a Job: Doing The Great Work→
PEOPLE LOVE THE OCEAN. People are always asking me why I don’t study the ocean, because, after all, I live in Hawaii. I tell them that it’s because the ocean is a lonely, empty place. There is six hundred times more life on land than there is in the ocean, and this fact mostly comes down to plants. The average ocean plant is one cell that lives for about twenty days. The average land plant is a two-ton tree that lives for more than one hundred years. The mass ratio of plants to animals in the ocean is close to four, while the ratio on land is closer to a thousand. Plant numbers are staggering: there are eighty billion trees just within the protected forests of the western United States. The ratio of trees to people in America is well over two hundred. As a rule, people live among plants but they don’t really see them. Since I’ve discovered these numbers, I can see little else.