Musings on the Afterlife

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While being chauffeured back to Melbourne from Corryong in Victoria’s north east, where we spent a lovely Christmas with all the family at my daughter’s place, I found myself pondering the afterlife. I think this was brought on by the ‘elephant in the room’ at Christmas lunch, or rather the absence of something in the room – my dear dad who passed away in July.

It would be no surprise to readers of this blog that I don’t believe in the afterlife – at least, not as commonly understood as ‘life after death’ or the ‘hereafter’.

Actually after thinking about it over the last few months, I do believe in a form of the afterlife, but it’s closer to ‘death after life’. That is, yes, people die, after having a life. And no, I don’t subscribe to some sort of metaphysical existence in another plane or dimension or whatever (although it would be kind of cool if it were the case). Rather, people die, but in a way they imprint themselves on the world, and in that way others can retain some sort of connection to them.

This is an old idea, of course – every Christmas time we get the old Jimmy Stewart classic ‘A Wonderful Life’, in which Jimmy gets to see how different the world would be without him.

I think I’ve found a more direct physical connection – again, not in a metaphysical sense, but through everyday occurrences: hearing particular conversations, seeing particular sights, and especially through particular objects. I’m sure everyone who’s ever lost anyone could relate to this.

And I believe this form of afterlife to be a lot more satisfying and helpful to those left behind, than stories of dead people being whisked away to some extra-dimensional place, where they will undergo some sort of everlasting joy or pain.

I think for me this explains why visiting a cemetery plot is meaningless, while visiting my dad’s garage is loaded with connections. I don’t want to get too sappy here – it’s just that the imprint is so strong, it’s as if he’s there. I have many such experiences – his tools, everything around us he’s built, every time I look at a gap in a door, or a drip from my spouting I hear his words of advice (or admonition!). I have a particular favourite – the power saw, well used and many times repaired over many years. It was used on so many jobs, and in the latter years borrowed back and forth between us. In what was to be our final conversation, I jokingly asked him if he was using the power saw over the coming weekend, because I needed it… I’m sure I saw a smile.

Doubtless, religious types will ascribe these feelings to the mysterious ways of the lord yada yada yada. But there’s a much simpler explanation, which doesn’t require the insertion of a magical being, but relies on the good ol’ human brain. We are lucky enough to be able to form wonderful neural connections which allow us to associate objects, feelings, things we hear or see or smell, with people who have imprinted themselves on us. For a time at least, we are able to summon these associations at will, or with the aid of various artefacts. For me, that power saw is the equivalent of a religious icon; except that the saw evokes associations with the real, and not some ethereal go-between.

Bless-ed is the 200mm Makita.


One thought on “Musings on the Afterlife

    MyBrainHurts said:
    January 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    I agree with most of what you say (enough of the hallelujahs please) except for visiting the cemetery plot. It is nice to know it is in good nick, that the dead flowers are refreshed and that the grass is growing – that it is a nice place for such a horrible event.

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