Death and Dying

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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Fri Feb 21, 2014 3:34 pm

Enki wrote:I believe in an immortal soul and that this body is like a Chrysalis containing a metamorphosis within.

So I would say that if you felt her standing beside you, she probably was.

In that sense, I don't believe in death.

Hi Enki. I like your metaphor of the Chrysalis. In that metaphor, the body and the immortal soul would have to be in deep, intimate relation since one emerges from the other. We know that the body dies and breaks down into its constituent elements to returns to the earth. Does the immortal soul participate in that experience with the body it has such kinship with?

You say you do not believe in death in the sense of your metaphor. But to go further: for a butterfly to emerge from a Chrysalis, does the caterpillar have to be no more? Does it die in that sense? Does the end of the caterpillar, the end of the chrysalis, all essential for the butterfly to emerge? If Jesus did not truly die on the cross, how would his resurrection be at all meaningful?

When I felt the dying woman standing next to me, I did not feel that her death was not real, it clearly very much was for me. I felt her death directly and intimately. A part of me died with her, and that part was harsh, irascible, inpatient, and self important. Something entirely different emerged from that and I have not been the same since, but I do not believe that such change could have been possible without her death and, in another sense, my own.

manolo wrote:kmich,

You are not wrong IMHO, in particular your last sentence.

Maybe through long study of philosophy, periods of accepting illness, or just getting old, I have come to the practical realisation that I am part of the universe. For a time this feeling came only in moments, described by some (Eckhart?) as a mystical wholeness or timeless connection. But as the years passed I no longer felt that there was a 'connection' as there was no longer any disconnection. The only way I can describe the feeling in words is that it is "all the same".

This state of mind does not come easily by any means, but I think we can invite it by growing empathy, by being with others and alone without distinction and by letting go of clinging. In fact, I am not a Buddhist, but Buddhists have a lot to say about these things.

Alex.

I think I understand, Alex, but let me ask you this. If you and I were to meet, and I were to relate to you some pain and struggle I were experiencing, how would that be for you? Would you experience my distress from my eyes or your own? Would you experience first hand what I was going through or from the frame of your own being?

You seem to be a benevolent soul, so I am sure you would be empathic, but empathy is about being open to the presence of the other, in an I - Thou contact. I do not see how this is the same thing as being the same, becoming "one" in some way. I cannot know your experience, Alex, other than out of from my own frameworks, but I wonder if what you and Eckhart are saying are actual realities or instead inspired insights derived from maturity and life experiences?

When I had the experience of the woman being next to me during her death, the power of that experience was not in that I was somehow one with her, but that whatever this presence was had such great love that it could aspire across unfathomable distance to hold my heart with such care. It was the immeasurable separation coupled with that deep, loving touch where the great power resided. The parable of the Prodigal Son come to mind.

Endovelico wrote:We obviously can't get rid of our magical impulses... Whether it is a religion, Harry Potter or vampires, we are fascinated by all variations on the hocus-pocus theme...

I don't know, Endovelico. Like it or not, we are mythological creatures that spring like sparks out of the primordial energies of the cosmos to tell her story and to discover her meaning. We spring out with such force that we end up lost in our subjective aspirations and forget our origins. We can get so removed from our birthright that aspirations and ideas around our origins can be dismissed as simply magical stuff that we would be better off without.

There are meanings in the stories we tell, Endovelico, some may appear trivial and some may appear profound. I have found that not only are they an inevitable part of our human destinies, but also there can be important truths and questions that can be derived from them all.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Typhoon » Fri Feb 21, 2014 10:05 pm

My view is that life is a process in the biophysical sense.

Once that process stops and the body goes to thermodynamic equilibrium with it's surrounding then that is the end of that life.

The end. Complete dissolution. Full stop.

You have a number of decades to make a go of it. After that, it's another generation's turn to give it a try.

On the other hand, you do live on in the collective memory of those that remember you.

Once the last person that remembers who you were dies, then you've completely ceased to exist in any sense.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Sat Feb 22, 2014 1:47 am

Typhoon wrote:My view is that life is a process in the biophysical sense.

Once that process stops and the body goes to thermodynamic equilibrium with it's surrounding then that is the end of that life.

The end. Complete dissolution. Full stop.

You have a number of decades to make a go of it. After that, it's another generation's turn to give it a try.

On the other hand, you do live on in the collective memory of those that remember you.

Once the last person that remembers who you were dies, then you've completely ceased to exist in any sense.

You are certainly in very good company, Typhoon. Scientific materialism is certainly the dominant world view in the scientific and academic circles that I am familiar with. There are many good, capable, and brilliant people that share your position that I work with every day and respect, even though I find them overly certain about it all upon reflection upon my own experiences. I just do not share such clear and confident answers to the issues of life and death.

I have just not found the materialist view of life and death all that persuasive, even though I have spent a lifetime in the study and application of the biological sciences. What I do know in the biological sciences I have found inadequate and incomplete to the task, unless I chose to make my understandings more than what I find them to be. Taking what has been the successful methods and conventions of science and elevating those to set the boundaries of a metaphysic of life and death always seemed unsound and overreaching to me.

In addition, materialism asserts that experience and sentience somehow miraculously or serendipitously emerged from totally non-conscious matter, which presents the problem of emergence in that sentience and non-sentience, subjective and objective, are ontologically distinct. Within the confines of such a position, I have discovered no credible explanations as to how one could interact with the other, much less emerge from the other. Accurately measuring the associations of neural and biophysical activity with experiential and conscious reports remains only a science of correlation. It remains unpersuasive of causality.

Since I do not have the answers, I only find myself raising more questions. Experience and understanding can be like an inflating space within a universe of unknowns; the larger the space, the longer and more complex the boundaries of unresolved issues become. Since I do not full fathom what I am, my destiny, my inevitably death, remains a mystery. Perhaps I am on a fool's errand. I don't know. In any case, my investigation remains open.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Endovelico » Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:39 am

kmich wrote:...In addition, materialism asserts that experience and sentience somehow miraculously or serendipitously emerged from totally non-conscious matter...


I don't know how life arose from inanimate matter - but it did - nor if "sentience somehow miraculously or serendipitously emerged from totally non-conscious matter". Some people say such processes are inevitable and innate to the material universe as we know it. What matters is that once life occurred and consciousness occurred "something" is going to come out of it. It is important to know how we came about, but more interesting is finding out where we are going to. And if there is one thing I have little doubt about is that the process is still developing. And I have absolutely no need for a preexistent God to give me a plausible answer. I suspect that group consciousness will arise from our individual consciousness, just like multicellular beings arouse from unicellular ones. If that happens the way will be open to an universal consciousness, which could be a very interesting thing to experience...
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Sat Feb 22, 2014 2:39 pm

Endovelico wrote:
kmich wrote:...In addition, materialism asserts that experience and sentience somehow miraculously or serendipitously emerged from totally non-conscious matter...


I don't know how life arose from inanimate matter - but it did - nor if "sentience somehow miraculously or serendipitously emerged from totally non-conscious matter". Some people say such processes are inevitable and innate to the material universe as we know it.

That is the default position of many, Endovelico. However, “inanimate matter” is an abstraction whose definition has been an evolving complex of properties and relationships from primary Newtonian bodies to the deeply subtle properties of 20th century quantum mechanics. Since it is only a convention under constant revision, taking “inanimate matter” and making it a primary substance from which such things as conscious, sentient processes emerge is employing what Alfred North Whitehead would call a “fallacy of misplaced concreteness.” One cannot resolve Cartesian dualism by reifying one of its abstractions to make the other mere epiphenomena. Both materialism and idealism fail as explanations.

Endovelico wrote:And I have absolutely no need for a preexistent God to give me a plausible answer.

“God,” as commonly employed, is another evolving abstraction like “matter” subject to many influences well beyond the conventions of science. Cultural and political forces play a major role in its evolution. It is subject to the same fallacy discussed above.

Endovelico wrote:What matters is that once life occurred and consciousness occurred "something" is going to come out of it. It is important to know how we came about, but more interesting is finding out where we are going to. And if there is one thing I have little doubt about is that the process is still developing. And I have absolutely no need for a preexistent God to give me a plausible answer. I suspect that group consciousness will arise from our individual consciousness, just like multicellular beings arouse from unicellular ones. If that happens the way will be open to an universal consciousness, which could be a very interesting thing to experience...

What happens next is important, it will evolve, and it is exciting. However, unless we understand where we came from and what we are, we will be driving blind in what destiny we can direct. How we orient ourselves in the present sets the intention that will guide our direction and experience through life and death, individually and collectively. Those orientations are derived from our understandings.

If we are set on the understanding that we, as conscious, intelligent entities have somehow arrived into a world of unintelligent, meaningless, insentient matter, we are likely to approach our journey as a fearful, adversarial one in a world that is fundamentally alien to us. That has enormous implications on how we proceed, and such assumptions should remain open to critique rather than reside as given axioms.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Endovelico » Sat Feb 22, 2014 5:40 pm

kmich,

I tend to agree with most of what you say, but I'll make an exception on what concerns this paragraph:

If we are set on the understanding that we, as conscious, intelligent entities have somehow arrived into a world of unintelligent, meaningless, insentient matter, we are likely to approach our journey as a fearful, adversarial one in a world that is fundamentally alien to us. That has enormous implications on how we proceed, and such assumptions should remain open to critique rather than reside as given axioms.


I don't see anything adversarial between conscious, intelligent entities and the insentient world. I see them rather as complementary. One cannot exist, or rather have meaning, without the other. Just as our spirit cannot live without our body.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:12 pm

Endovelico wrote:kmich,

I tend to agree with most of what you say, but I'll make an exception on what concerns this paragraph:

If we are set on the understanding that we, as conscious, intelligent entities have somehow arrived into a world of unintelligent, meaningless, insentient matter, we are likely to approach our journey as a fearful, adversarial one in a world that is fundamentally alien to us. That has enormous implications on how we proceed, and such assumptions should remain open to critique rather than reside as given axioms.


I don't see anything adversarial between conscious, intelligent entities and the insentient world. I see them rather as complementary. One cannot exist, or rather have meaning, without the other. Just as our spirit cannot live without our body.


I fully agree in the intuition of your statement, Endovelico. I will only point out that if entities participate in informing each others meaning, that will require that they also are somehow congruent ontologically. If that is not the case, a process relationship of a mutual, meaningful nature as you describe would not be possible. That is where the problem remains unresolved and a destructive relationship between us and nature can emerge.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Doc » Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:53 pm

kmich wrote:
Endovelico wrote:kmich,

I tend to agree with most of what you say, but I'll make an exception on what concerns this paragraph:

If we are set on the understanding that we, as conscious, intelligent entities have somehow arrived into a world of unintelligent, meaningless, insentient matter, we are likely to approach our journey as a fearful, adversarial one in a world that is fundamentally alien to us. That has enormous implications on how we proceed, and such assumptions should remain open to critique rather than reside as given axioms.


I don't see anything adversarial between conscious, intelligent entities and the insentient world. I see them rather as complementary. One cannot exist, or rather have meaning, without the other. Just as our spirit cannot live without our body.


I fully agree in the intuition of your statement, Endovelico. I will only point out that if entities participate in informing each others meaning, that will require that they also are somehow congruent ontologically. If that is not the case, a process relationship of a mutual, meaningful nature as you describe would not be possible. That is where the problem remains unresolved.


Factually (Or at least best as we know) there are no absolutes in the Universe. Everything relates to everything else in some way small or large. Image a man in a space suit in a universe devoid of any other matter. He can travel around the universe at unvarying velocity and never know he moved an inch. Take two people passing each other. One traveling and the other still. For each they can believe they are either still or moving there is no way for them to tell which is which or even if both are moving

Add another person and it is still indeterminate who is moving relative to whom is or isn't. Everything is relative to everything else. There are no absolutes.
The classes and the races to weak to master the new conditions of life must give way {..} They must perish in the revolutionary holocaust --Karl Marx
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Sun Feb 23, 2014 12:29 am

Doc wrote:Factually (Or at least best as we know) there are no absolutes in the Universe. Everything relates to everything else in some way small or large. Image a man in a space suit in a universe devoid of any other matter. He can travel around the universe at unvarying velocity and never know he moved an inch. Take two people passing each other. One traveling and the other still. For each they can believe they are either still or moving there is no way for them to tell which is which or even if both are moving

Add another person and it is still indeterminate who is moving relative to whom is or isn't. Everything is relative to everything else. There are no absolutes.

That's right, Doc. Good points. :)

There are no absolutes as far as we are able to conceive. We cannot state axiomatically that "there are no absolutes" without creating an absolute that refutes itself. As far as we are able to know, the cosmos is a collection of ever evolving, interacting events that are radically contingent and can be only meaningful understood within a web of relations. That includes us. What would that tell us about the meaning of our death?
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Sun Feb 23, 2014 4:05 pm

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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Doc » Wed Feb 26, 2014 1:38 am

kmich wrote:
Doc wrote:Factually (Or at least best as we know) there are no absolutes in the Universe. Everything relates to everything else in some way small or large. Image a man in a space suit in a universe devoid of any other matter. He can travel around the universe at unvarying velocity and never know he moved an inch. Take two people passing each other. One traveling and the other still. For each they can believe they are either still or moving there is no way for them to tell which is which or even if both are moving

Add another person and it is still indeterminate who is moving relative to whom is or isn't. Everything is relative to everything else. There are no absolutes.

That's right, Doc. Good points. :)

There are no absolutes as far as we are able to conceive. We cannot state axiomatically that "there are no absolutes" without creating an absolute that refutes itself. As far as we are able to know, the cosmos is a collection of ever evolving, interacting events that are radically contingent and can be only meaningful understood within a web of relations. That includes us. What would that tell us about the meaning of our death?


That it is an end point on an eternally existing line. According to Einstein and others, as time does not really exist. Which means that every "moment" is forever or at least as long as the universe exists. The idea of "now" in this moment is just an illusion. The nature of the universe is not what we perceive it to be in every day life. This is an areligious thing. It does not detract from religion anyway and may well not add anything either.*

In any event, best to live each moment well, as each is "forever".

*I could get all metaphysical at this point But another time perhaps.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Parodite » Wed Feb 26, 2014 2:02 am

1 1/2 week ago, the father of a girl from the classroom of my 8 year old daughter tragically died in a car accident. We were notified by email that the next morning the two young female teachers would inform the children of course, in a special setting in the classroom. I told my daughter what happened the next morning before I brought her to school.. and as an adult you feel the gravity of it of course.. with a heavy heart. Her immediate response and concern was that something like that should not happen to me and seemed actually happy it wasn't me who died. The teachers that morning were red eyed waiting for all the kids get into the classroom.. most knew what happened of course already but they looked all pretty cool and calm as opposed to the teachers. Maybe it is easier for kids to look the other way when such an event is not too close and immediately count their blessings.

It reminded me of the two dogs I once had. The small one was killed by a car in front of the house, lived for maybe a minute screaming in agony when my wife held it in her hands. When laid down on the grass, our other dog slowly approached and sniffed near the nose as if to check if it was still breathing. She looked very depressed with tail hanging lifeless down.. then walked into the house and went immediately to sleep as if by decision. An hour later or so, the little dog already taken away by a veterinary, the other dog woke up and came back into the garden, all smiles as usual, hungry for life.

The ceremony at the funeral of the father was totally secular, no spiritual or religious references at all. Just speeches of friends, his best youth friend, business partner, family, his wife and two little daughters telling about him, who he was, how he was, the relationships, some memories of course, anecdotes, how they will miss him. Lots of choking voices. In between speeches music that he liked, chosen by his wife. In the end we went to the garden area with everybody around the coffin, kids writing or drawing some things on it. More music. Pumping techno! His wife chose that I guess to say that the beat of life goes on, must go on..

Then all the children of the classroom let colorful helium balloons fly away, some hundreds in total as a symbolic let go and good bye. Most went fast high up, there was a rather strong wind. Two or three balloons however refused to leave the area for few more minutes.. going up but blown back a couple of times by the swirly winds around the building. But then they also got air born and were taken away by the higher winds. At that moment I got the shivers and tears, I knew him rather well and like him a lot. So strange the deep sadness, the sorrow and horror in the eyes of his loved ones, the mystery of life and death, speechless but also that surreal beauty and accepting stillness.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Simple Minded » Wed Feb 26, 2014 1:03 pm

Parodite wrote:1 1/2 week ago, the father of a girl from the classroom of my 8 year old daughter tragically died in a car accident. We were notified by email that the next morning the two young female teachers would inform the children of course, in a special setting in the classroom. I told my daughter what happened the next morning before I brought her to school.. and as an adult you feel the gravity of it of course.. with a heavy heart. Her immediate response and concern was that something like that should not happen to me and seemed actually happy it wasn't me who died. The teachers that morning were red eyed waiting for all the kids get into the classroom.. most knew what happened of course already but they looked all pretty cool and calm as opposed to the teachers. Maybe it is easier for kids to look the other way when such an event is not too close and immediately count their blessings.

It reminded me of the two dogs I once had. The small one was killed by a car in front of the house, lived for maybe a minute screaming in agony when my wife held it in her hands. When laid down on the grass, our other dog slowly approached and sniffed near the nose as if to check if it was still breathing. She looked very depressed with tail hanging lifeless down.. then walked into the house and went immediately to sleep as if by decision. An hour later or so, the little dog already taken away by a veterinary, the other dog woke up and came back into the garden, all smiles as usual, hungry for life.

The ceremony at the funeral of the father was totally secular, no spiritual or religious references at all. Just speeches of friends, his best youth friend, business partner, family, his wife and two little daughters telling about him, who he was, how he was, the relationships, some memories of course, anecdotes, how they will miss him. Lots of choking voices. In between speeches music that he liked, chosen by his wife. In the end we went to the garden area with everybody around the coffin, kids writing or drawing some things on it. More music. Pumping techno! His wife chose that I guess to say that the beat of life goes on, must go on..

Then all the children of the classroom let colorful helium balloons fly away, some hundreds in total as a symbolic let go and good bye. Most went fast high up, there was a rather strong wind. Two or three balloons however refused to leave the area for few more minutes.. going up but blown back a couple of times by the swirly winds around the building. But then they also got air born and were taken away by the higher winds. At that moment I got the shivers and tears, I knew him rather well and like him a lot. So strange the deep sadness, the sorrow and horror in the eyes of his loved ones, the mystery of life and death, speechless but also that surreal beauty and accepting stillness.


great post! thanks!
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:24 pm

Simple Minded wrote:
Parodite wrote:1 1/2 week ago, the father of a girl from the classroom of my 8 year old daughter tragically died in a car accident. We were notified by email that the next morning the two young female teachers would inform the children of course, in a special setting in the classroom. I told my daughter what happened the next morning before I brought her to school.. and as an adult you feel the gravity of it of course.. with a heavy heart. Her immediate response and concern was that something like that should not happen to me and seemed actually happy it wasn't me who died. The teachers that morning were red eyed waiting for all the kids get into the classroom.. most knew what happened of course already but they looked all pretty cool and calm as opposed to the teachers. Maybe it is easier for kids to look the other way when such an event is not too close and immediately count their blessings.

It reminded me of the two dogs I once had. The small one was killed by a car in front of the house, lived for maybe a minute screaming in agony when my wife held it in her hands. When laid down on the grass, our other dog slowly approached and sniffed near the nose as if to check if it was still breathing. She looked very depressed with tail hanging lifeless down.. then walked into the house and went immediately to sleep as if by decision. An hour later or so, the little dog already taken away by a veterinary, the other dog woke up and came back into the garden, all smiles as usual, hungry for life.

The ceremony at the funeral of the father was totally secular, no spiritual or religious references at all. Just speeches of friends, his best youth friend, business partner, family, his wife and two little daughters telling about him, who he was, how he was, the relationships, some memories of course, anecdotes, how they will miss him. Lots of choking voices. In between speeches music that he liked, chosen by his wife. In the end we went to the garden area with everybody around the coffin, kids writing or drawing some things on it. More music. Pumping techno! His wife chose that I guess to say that the beat of life goes on, must go on..

Then all the children of the classroom let colorful helium balloons fly away, some hundreds in total as a symbolic let go and good bye. Most went fast high up, there was a rather strong wind. Two or three balloons however refused to leave the area for few more minutes.. going up but blown back a couple of times by the swirly winds around the building. But then they also got air born and were taken away by the higher winds. At that moment I got the shivers and tears, I knew him rather well and like him a lot. So strange the deep sadness, the sorrow and horror in the eyes of his loved ones, the mystery of life and death, speechless but also that surreal beauty and accepting stillness.


great post! thanks!


Agreed. Thanks Parodite.

The feelings you refer to at the end, the deep sadness, sorrow, horror in the face of the mystery of death are very hard to describe. I don't think we really know how to do that well. When faced with them, we often append the labels of grief and sadness to them, but I do not believe those labels do them justice. There is something about facing death that really forces the heart to open. Sometimes we can distance ourselves: it is not someone we knew, not someone in our family, not a close friend. When we can't, we may contract, hold on, and our heart and spirit will become contorted and very painful. If we allow the heart to open in a spirit of gratitude for the life we have or the life we knew, we still may weep, but a kind of freedom, a great generosity, a joy can well up with us.

The overwhelming spirits of love, gratitude, and generosity I have often witnessed with the dying between the moments of confusion, pain, and somnolence. They may express it in assorted religious or non-religious metaphors, but the spirit is definitely the same and the joy is often there. This can be hard sometimes to appreciate, as I experienced when I first saw the video I posted above about the ALS patient. How can someone facing such a hard way to go have such love and generosity for the world?

It is very real though and actually not that uncommon. After witnessing death and dying many times over my life, and witnessed those moments of joy and grace with them, I am starting to understand that these are the people who really get it. There is much we can learn from them. If we are open, they may be able to teach us how to open our hearts to others and to the world we live in, and, in the end, that may be the only thing that really matters.

The "if we are open" is the really hard part and may be the ultimate test of spiritual courage...
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:48 pm

Doc wrote:That it is an end point on an eternally existing line. According to Einstein and others, as time does not really exist. Which means that every "moment" is forever or at least as long as the universe exists. The idea of "now" in this moment is just an illusion. The nature of the universe is not what we perceive it to be in every day life. This is an areligious thing. It does not detract from religion anyway and may well not add anything either.*

In any event, best to live each moment well, as each is "forever".

*I could get all metaphysical at this point But another time perhaps.


It is important to be clear that scientists apply measurements of time, space, velocity, etc. as conventions to assist explanations and predictions. None of these are "illusions." Einstein did not say that time did not exist, he just proposed that a universal Newtonian clock did not apply under certain conditions where clocks would run differently for different observers. The important thing to note is while such practical conventions exist and are not illusory, they are only conventions and cannot be elevated to form the parameters of an eternal truth or metaphysic without straying into fallacies of reifying what are no more than abstractions. Metaphysics is a tricky business.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Parodite » Thu Feb 27, 2014 1:26 am

kmich wrote:The overwhelming spirits of love, gratitude, and generosity I have often witnessed with the dying between the moments of confusion, pain, and somnolence. They may express it in assorted religious or non-religious metaphors, but the spirit is definitely the same and the joy is often there. This can be hard sometimes to appreciate, as I experienced when I first saw the video I posted above about the ALS patient. How can someone facing such a hard way to go have such love and generosity for the world?

It is very real though and actually not that uncommon. After witnessing death and dying many times over my life, and witnessed those moments of joy and grace with them, I am starting to understand that these are the people who really get it. There is much we can learn from them. If we are open, they may be able to teach us how to open our hearts to others and to the world we live in, and, in the end, that may be the only thing that really matters.

The "if we are open" is the really hard part and may be the ultimate test of spiritual courage...


Thanks for charing your experiences and thoughts. Man, you deserve a big tap on your shoulder for what you do! I'm a bit without words re your very intimate experiences and of the people falling into the darkness in agony and pain that you share in their last moments. I haven't been there myself but can imagine how when the lights go out and the future ends.. in the last remaining present a new light can reveal itself that escapes words and definition. Like that ALS patient that suddenly starts to glow. This probably happens a lot when people know their life is ending soon. The present becomes extremely precious and meaningful.

I believe though (and hope) that we don't need to suffer and be on the brink of physical death first.. for the present to become so precious and meaningful, to make us open. Would be kind of sad. How does it help the bulk of us, the living?
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Thu Feb 27, 2014 4:21 pm

Parodite wrote:I believe though (and hope) that we don't need to suffer and be on the brink of physical death first.. for the present to become so precious and meaningful, to make us open. Would be kind of sad. How does it help the bulk of us, the living?

That really is the major question, and I suppose that is the one I have been most contemplating. I do not believe it is necessary for us, as individuals, to experience pain and suffering, or to be on the verge of death, for the present to become so precious and meaningful, but I believe we have to be open to the pain and suffering of the people and world around us to do so.

To be open though one has to be willing to hold the world on its terms and not on one’s own. It is easy to be open to the nice things, the beauty; it is much harder to keep an open heart without recoiling or hiding out in sloppy sympathy or stock religious formulae when faced with pain, suffering, and death. Probably the best place to start is to ask the question, if we are not open, what keeps us closed?

In the developed world, it is easy to stay closed to these situations. Wealth, power, and youth are our overriding values even though we frequently pretend that they aren’t. The sick, the old, the insane, the dying, the confused are for the hospitals, the nursing homes, the prisons, the hospices, the shelters where we need not be bothered with them. We can instead keep up with the Kardashians, Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo Boo, and our endless political circuses between our making money and going on shopping trips without unnecessary discomfort.

People who are suffering with illness and decline in this culture struggle with a sense of embarrassment and failure. They fear the burden they place on others and often work to keep up the illusion of their health to reassure anxious relatives even when they are really hurting. When they die here, they are made up to appear in the guise of the old icon of American commercial culture, the department store manikin, for everyone to visit. It is really very unreal here. This is a culture filled with existential avoidance while secretly living in existential dread. Discovering meaning and nobility in suffering and death can appear as a very strange idea. How can that be if we are only losing? Aren't we supposed to be winners?

I have traveled in medical emergency teams to developing nations. Not that these places are any better. I sure wouldn’t want to live in any of them. But often you can’t avoid people begging, suffering, dying, and rotting in the streets and on the land in these places. The harsh realities of life and death just cannot be avoided. I do not believe that it is a coincidence that the kindest and most generous souls I have ever known have been people I have been with in these situations.

Such examples and opportunities are present in our culture also. We just have to make a real effort here to seek them out.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Sat Mar 01, 2014 1:24 pm

Go Snowball! :D

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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Doc » Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:22 pm

kmich wrote:
Doc wrote:That it is an end point on an eternally existing line. According to Einstein and others, as time does not really exist. Which means that every "moment" is forever or at least as long as the universe exists. The idea of "now" in this moment is just an illusion. The nature of the universe is not what we perceive it to be in every day life. This is an areligious thing. It does not detract from religion anyway and may well not add anything either.*

In any event, best to live each moment well, as each is "forever".

*I could get all metaphysical at this point But another time perhaps.


It is important to be clear that scientists apply measurements of time, space, velocity, etc. as conventions to assist explanations and predictions. None of these are "illusions." Einstein did not say that time did not exist, he just proposed that a universal Newtonian clock did not apply under certain conditions where clocks would run differently for different observers. The important thing to note is while such practical conventions exist and are not illusory, they are only conventions and cannot be elevated to form the parameters of an eternal truth or metaphysic without straying into fallacies of reifying what are no more than abstractions. Metaphysics is a tricky business.


I think didn't say what I intended clearly enough. No moment in time is special in any way. They are all equal from the moment of the big bang until the moment at the end of the universe. They all exist. The big bang did not create the universe. The Universe as a box is whole with all its component moments, distances, Masses etc... It is a whole. If there is nothing outside of it then there is no clock external to the universe. There is no absolute external measurement of anything in the universe. Therefore conventions are a human constructs of absolutes are an illusion since everything is relative not to a reference but to each other.


For example in the theory of relativity time dilation at very extreme distances occur when two object move by relative miniscule amounts with respect to each other. In the form of two people at opposite ends of the universe one walking away from the position of the other by say a few feet would travel in time relative to the other. By thousands of years. It is not just the distance in space but the distance in space-time that counts and space time is purely relative. On a local basis at local speeds through space time relativity is small enough that conventional measurements are not effected enough to notice. But the underlying fact of space time is still there, but as one thing not two separate things .

As for Einstein and time... It took me a few days to find this quote. Which says it better than I have:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michele_Besso
In a letter of condolence to the Besso family Albert Einstein wrote his now famous quote "Now Besso has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion"
The classes and the races to weak to master the new conditions of life must give way {..} They must perish in the revolutionary holocaust --Karl Marx
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:56 pm

Doc wrote:I think didn't say what I intended clearly enough. No moment in time is special in any way. They are all equal from the moment of the big bang until the moment at the end of the universe. They all exist. The big bang did not create the universe. The Universe as a box is whole with all its component moments, distances, Masses etc... It is a whole. If there is nothing outside of it then there is no clock external to the universe. There is no absolute external measurement of anything in the universe. Therefore conventions are a human constructs of absolutes are an illusion since everything is relative not to a reference but to each other.


For example in the theory of relativity time dilation at very extreme distances occur when two object move by relative miniscule amounts with respect to each other. In the form of two people at opposite ends of the universe one walking away from the position of the other by say a few feet would travel in time relative to the other. By thousands of years. It is not just the distance in space but the distance in space-time that counts and space time is purely relative. On a local basis at local speeds through space time relativity is small enough that conventional measurements are not effected enough to notice. But the underlying fact of space time is still there, but as one thing not two separate things .

As for Einstein and time... It took me a few days to find this quote. Which says it better than I have:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michele_Besso
In a letter of condolence to the Besso family Albert Einstein wrote his now famous quote "Now Besso has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion"


Einstein's models of time are well known in his papers. His thoughts on death:

"I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature..."

- Albert Einstein, The World As I See It
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Typhoon » Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:50 am

kmich wrote:
Typhoon wrote:My view is that life is a process in the biophysical sense.

Once that process stops and the body goes to thermodynamic equilibrium with it's surrounding then that is the end of that life.

The end. Complete dissolution. Full stop.

You have a number of decades to make a go of it. After that, it's another generation's turn to give it a try.

On the other hand, you do live on in the collective memory of those that remember you.

Once the last person that remembers who you were dies, then you've completely ceased to exist in any sense.

You are certainly in very good company, Typhoon. Scientific materialism is certainly the dominant world view in the scientific and academic circles that I am familiar with. There are many good, capable, and brilliant people that share your position that I work with every day and respect, even though I find them overly certain about it all upon reflection upon my own experiences. I just do not share such clear and confident answers to the issues of life and death.

I have just not found the materialist view of life and death all that persuasive, even though I have spent a lifetime in the study and application of the biological sciences. What I do know in the biological sciences I have found inadequate and incomplete to the task, unless I chose to make my understandings more than what I find them to be. Taking what has been the successful methods and conventions of science and elevating those to set the boundaries of a metaphysic of life and death always seemed unsound and overreaching to me.

In addition, materialism asserts that experience and sentience somehow miraculously or serendipitously emerged from totally non-conscious matter, which presents the problem of emergence in that sentience and non-sentience, subjective and objective, are ontologically distinct. Within the confines of such a position, I have discovered no credible explanations as to how one could interact with the other, much less emerge from the other. Accurately measuring the associations of neural and biophysical activity with experiential and conscious reports remains only a science of correlation. It remains unpersuasive of causality.

Since I do not have the answers, I only find myself raising more questions. Experience and understanding can be like an inflating space within a universe of unknowns; the larger the space, the longer and more complex the boundaries of unresolved issues become. Since I do not full fathom what I am, my destiny, my inevitably death, remains a mystery. Perhaps I am on a fool's errand. I don't know. In any case, my investigation remains open.


Well, you're certainly not alone either.

In my case it's apathy and a complete lack of curiousity regarding such matters. After all, I'll find out soon enough . . . as will we all.

That and a lack of empirical evidence to the contrary makes what you call the scientific materialist view seem that most likely to me.
However, it's just my opinion.

As for the conventional portrayal of heaven . . .

On another note:

Image

Relativity, special and/or general, has nothing to say about metaphysics and conjectures regarding an afterlife.
All the world's a stage.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:25 am

Typhoon wrote:In my case it's apathy and a complete lack of curiousity regarding such matters. After all, I'll find out soon enough . . . as will we all.

That and a lack of empirical evidence to the contrary makes what you call the scientific materialist view seem that most likely to me.

However, it's just my opinion.

As for the conventional portrayal of heaven . . .

I have been around death too much to not be very curious about its mystery at least to suit my own temperament. I suppose the meaning of our death can be comfortably dismissed unless, of course, one is actually dying. Still, I have never found materialist, religious, or cinematic assumptions at all persuasive on that issue, so I remain open to whatever science, experience, or intuition can offer me.

I have had a strong intuition for the urgency of some spiritual preparation, along the lines of opening the mind and heart in a devotional orientation, but that has yet to take form.

Typhoon wrote:Relativity, special and/or general, has nothing to say about metaphysics and conjectures regarding an afterlife.

Yep. That is not the problem those theories address.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Parodite » Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:40 pm

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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Parodite » Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:26 pm

kmich wrote:
Parodite wrote:I believe though (and hope) that we don't need to suffer and be on the brink of physical death first.. for the present to become so precious and meaningful, to make us open. Would be kind of sad. How does it help the bulk of us, the living?

That really is the major question, and I suppose that is the one I have been most contemplating. I do not believe it is necessary for us, as individuals, to experience pain and suffering, or to be on the verge of death, for the present to become so precious and meaningful, but I believe we have to be open to the pain and suffering of the people and world around us to do so.

To be open though one has to be willing to hold the world on its terms and not on one’s own. It is easy to be open to the nice things, the beauty; it is much harder to keep an open heart without recoiling or hiding out in sloppy sympathy or stock religious formulae when faced with pain, suffering, and death. Probably the best place to start is to ask the question, if we are not open, what keeps us closed?


It's a good question, what keeps us closed? Or, what keeps us distracted from the present and is there a mechanism of selective attention at work? We want to avoid pain and suffering, and indeed in our societies people who suffer badly do that in dark corners, out of sight out of mind. Health and youth are celebrated but because the dark side of life is less present, perhaps that celebration also lost some of its value by lack of contrast. But since we all will be confronted with the dark side sooner or later when loved ones suffer badly or die, or when we see our own death is just around the corner... one would expect that there is no lack of "healthy confrontation" with suffering even in our death-evasive societies. I also tend to think that avoiding suffering is actually a healthy drive. How evasive-closed you are when confronted with suffering and death... is maybe also determined by not a small degree to how open-receptive you lived before that. Maybe people die the way they lived (so to speak).
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Mon Mar 03, 2014 8:23 pm

Parodite wrote:
kmich wrote:
Parodite wrote:I believe though (and hope) that we don't need to suffer and be on the brink of physical death first.. for the present to become so precious and meaningful, to make us open. Would be kind of sad. How does it help the bulk of us, the living?

That really is the major question, and I suppose that is the one I have been most contemplating. I do not believe it is necessary for us, as individuals, to experience pain and suffering, or to be on the verge of death, for the present to become so precious and meaningful, but I believe we have to be open to the pain and suffering of the people and world around us to do so.

To be open though one has to be willing to hold the world on its terms and not on one’s own. It is easy to be open to the nice things, the beauty; it is much harder to keep an open heart without recoiling or hiding out in sloppy sympathy or stock religious formulae when faced with pain, suffering, and death. Probably the best place to start is to ask the question, if we are not open, what keeps us closed?


It's a good question, what keeps us closed? Or, what keeps us distracted from the present and is there a mechanism of selective attention at work? We want to avoid pain and suffering, and indeed in our societies people who suffer badly do that in dark corners, out of sight out of mind. Health and youth are celebrated but because the dark side of life is less present, perhaps that celebration also lost some of its value by lack of contrast. But since we all will be confronted with the dark side sooner or later when loved ones suffer badly or die, or when we see our own death is just around the corner... one would expect that there is no lack of "healthy confrontation" with suffering even in our death-evasive societies. I also tend to think that avoiding suffering is actually a healthy drive. How evasive-closed you are when confronted with suffering and death... is maybe also determined by not a small degree to how open-receptive you lived before that. Maybe people die the way they lived (so to speak).

You are very right, people tend to die as they have lived. Although people never cease to surprise me. There are widely published and surprisingly consistent reports of people who have experienced clinical near death reporting a "life review," where the trajectory of their lives, good or bad, are laid before them in extreme detail all at once. There apparently is no turning back and redoing anything in that moment...

I think though that there is a difference between living without pain and suffering and living meaningfully. We want pleasure. We don’t want pain. But the most meaningful experiences in our lives are in having deep, loving relationships with other mortal beings like us. These experiences have their pleasures, but they also have their significant share of losses, confusions, and pains. Our most meaningful relations are complete packages with absolutely no guarantees for our comfort and security. Death and loss are woven deeply into all of them.

Perhaps there are particular cultural complications and conditions that get in the way of our unconditionally embracing the living relations that form the essential foundation for a meaningful life and death. In US culture, relationships are commonly valued as means to an end, for profit, esteem, power, and pleasure, but often not for themselves, and certainly not on their own terms. A preoccupation with self-validation, a kind of externally oriented cultural narcissism along with an associated existential dread and meaninglessness seem to result. Much of what passes for contemporary religion from Christianity to Buddhism often only becomes further methods and doctrines for exalted self-involvement and improvement, individual and collective. Life and death, the totality of love and human relations, are further made merely instrumental and formulaic rather than living and immediate.

Alternatives, while still small, do exist and are developing:



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