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Whether from living in the horror-show of 2020 or because of the recent death of my father, my thoughts have been tending recently toward deeper topics than usual.

Lately I’ve been thinking abut the nature of consciousness. In that context, this quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth came up in a conversation the other day:

Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I love that passage β€” and it ties into my deep conviction about afterlife, which is this: All that exists of us when we die, beyond worm food, is whatever people remember about us after we’re gone.

Do you want to live on past your residency in your mortal coil? Then live a memorable life: Make your time on stage count. Make sure the plot line of your play and your performance while you strut will get good reviews and that you’ll leave behind impressions that people will remember with fondness or admiration.

If you do that, then you will live on in the minds of those who remember you. If you make it into history books or otherwise into the zeitgeist you could exist for a long time. But for most of us: we live only as long as those who remember us are alive. When they pass on from their own mortal coils, then we will truly be gone.

There. The memory of you in the minds of others was your afterlife. All done.

On the flip side

This also ties into my thoughts about grieving and how we remember those who are no longer in our lives, whether because of death or something else.

My world exists in my head: when I remember someone with warmth and it tugs on my heart, it’s like that person is alive there with me for just that instant.

Yes, it is sad when a loved one dies or is otherwise away. Grief is necessary and inevitable, but after a point, dwelling on the sadness or regret will just turn their absence into a more complete erasure from your life.

Put another way: we pollute our loving memories of people if we get too maudlin about them being gone. If your memory is overshadowed by how sad you are that the person is gone, then you might miss out on those momentary pings of warmth and love that would otherwise have been rich and wonderful moments in your life.

1 thought on “Afterlife”

  1. I just finished a seminar through UNC Chapel Hill and Bart Ehrman about heaven and hell. I wish you and I could be face to face for a great talk on this topic. I think Christians would say I’m going to hell for not believing in heaven or hell! Ha! Your ideas of the afterlife are early Jewish–sheol being down under, as in dead and buried or simply not existing. The concept of a soul is Platonic, not initially Christian. I see a new Ehrman book in my future.

    I’ll be happily tripping into the Lord of the Rings season feeling free and thinking of you and your tribe.

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