Death is not a subject most people want to talk about – surely there is something clickable about baby orangutans or funny garden hose accidents or a bird to watch, instead. No problem – keep away from the topic, it’s not going as if you are ever going know the experience of death.
The great thinkers of the world, though, alive or dead, have dipped their gnarled toes into this subject, and yet it remains distinctly unclear for most of us still upright here on earth. We need help on this subject, those humans capable of entertaining Big Thoughts without losing their minds. No qualifications are really necessary, though there should be a general level of informed concern about Life/Death matters.
Death seems the easier part – upon the cessation of electrical activity in the brain, the person is dead, a dead parrot. No more firing/wiring between the neurons, and consciousness is gone, and process of bodily decay begins. Nothing has ever been recorded that suggests any process or dimension above or beyond this stark and observable reality of human death – no “afterlife,” no “spirit,” no other human invention that supersedes the finality of death. Fine, that’s it, all that know through our consciousness, including the sense of our selves, stops, goodbye to all that, let new forms of human life inherit that same capability. All right, death is simple and understandable, case concluded – but what about “Life”?
How are we to say we are “alive” and not “dead”? As individuals, we possess a cognitive apparatus that sustains the illusion that there is a solitary self, a unique irreducible identity that is the “us” we encounter every single waking moment. However, this illusion of consciousness is a product of neurons firing/wiring this shimmering “knowledge” back and forth, a constant, rational assumption that we are that one man or woman, integrated and whole as one human being, with memories, propensities, universal standing. Yet, again, these are just neurons doing their business, across the dendrites, speeding around the neofrontal cortex, subject to great and abiding subconscious impulses and inhibitions.
Is that, then “Life”? This curious molecular arrangement, shaped by the unreachable forces of natural selection, happens to every man or woman, and then stops, fatally out of fuel. Is there a purpose, an acme level of meaning, a grand overarching measurement of the worth to this common, ungovernable, basic exchange of electrical energy between unobserved molecules?
Don’t look to the Big Thinkers for much guidance on this – too much philosophical or scientific grandiloquence from others’ agglomereated neuronal clusters obscures the fundamental, atavistic nature of the concepts of life/death. What can we boil this down to – just keep stepping with the multiple illusions, don’t think too hard, go back to the comforting anti-intellectualism of everyday time-wasting?
Sure, why not. There’s only so much dissonance a neuronal system can sustain before it overheats. Back to “me”?