Here’s a question I bet you don’t get asked very often: what do you hope happens when you die?
Mind you, I’m not asking what you think happens when you die, but what you hope happens. I see a difference there. What you think happens probably derives from whether you subscribe to some notion of an afterlife or not. If you do, then you’ll think what happens is whatever your notion entails, be it the whole pearly gates scene and beyond thing, or alternatively, maybe being reincarnated into a higher life form, say, as a banana slug. If you don’t so subscribe, then I guess what you think happens is nothing more nor less than the great fade to black and Out! Nighty night!
I’m less interested in knowing what you think than I am in knowing what you hope might happen after that last big exhale. Hope—as in, wouldn’t it be cool if….
It’s been my experience that lots of folks think about what happens, but most don’t permit themselves the indulgence of hoping for anything in particular.
Now–ha ha–would it shock you to know that I have? In fact, I have a pretty specific treatment of what I hope happens when I die, replete with a distinct metaphor, even.
Before sharing, however, let’s play the shrink and acknowledge that if ever there was a mental task that could yield exposure to a person’s most deeply felt needs, values, and/or fears, it very well might be this one. Defining what you hope happens at what arguably could be the most monumental moment of your life—that of its conclusion—would seem to pull, or perhaps push, you to reach down searchingly for some semblance of understanding of your essential nature. I mean, wouldn’t it?
So what does my hope say about me? You be the judge.
(Italics used for dreamy, afterlife effect)
Imagine a life as being like a cup of water. Better yet, let’s say a cup of colored water. At the moment of death, that cup of water is cast from the cup and into the surrounding sea, the sea of all-being. While in flight, and when it splashes onto the sea, it still retains a good portion of its identity, it’s you-ness, though its boundaries have been released. You can see the slick of colored water still there on the surface—that is still you, who- and whatever “you” are and have been–your spirit perhaps, your ego, your soul. But now you are connected in a boundary-less fashion to the great all-being, the infinite energy field of the universe that cuts across all time and space. And for those brief moments when that slick remains essentially you, you become aware, by this boundary-less connection, of literally…everything. Every bit of knowledge and awareness is now made known to you, every instance of every other being’s existence, history, and thought is available for your consideration. You see the Big Bang occur, the formation of the first elements, first planets, first creatures. You witness the emergence of Pangea, the separation and drift of the continents, the rise and fall of the dinosaur kingdom. In a flash, you know the moment the first homo sapien learned the first technique to manage fire…you know how Washington felt the day of his inauguration…you experience every one of King Jr’s emotions as he delivered I Have a Dream…you experience Joan of Arc’s final thought amidst the flames. Everyone you ever knew, loved, or simply bumped into: their every dream and despair is as familiar at once as those of your own. You simply know it all, every last thing, and for just those few moments, before the vast energy of the all-being works to dissipate “you” into a scattering of now not-you, you experience the most profound and profoundly satisfying sense of awe beyond anything you ever felt during the days of your life. And as this fades, it brings with it an even deeper sense of satisfaction, a self-less sense of infinite confidence at the unending duration, dance and swirl of perfection that is existence itself. And finally this sense too peacefully fades, and…
…you wake up a banana slug.