************************************************************************ Is there life after death? Wrong question. Is there death before death should be the question, because only if there's death before death is there life before death.
But what is death before death? Death before death is identity death and identity death is the only death. Physical death is an illusion. Ephemeral forms don't "die"; they run their course, they come and go. All songs have endings -- if they didn't have endings they wouldn't be songs.
But identity death for most of us is the very essence of terror. It's the ultimate bogeyman. Is there physical immortality? No Virginia, you're not immortal and neither is your SUV. And neither are your memories.
But then why does most of the planet believe they're immortal? Isn't it because it takes the better part of a lifetime (if ever) to realize the consensus beliefs of our species are all of a piece with the miseries of the human condition. These consensus delusions are whistling in a dark that's not listening, and where majority rule truth rules, sorrow inevitably follows.
Ironically, identity death is liberation -- it's the "good news". Certainly not the good news of permanent separate selfhood, but the good news that "nobody's home." The good news that personal pronouns are blips of language, not descriptions of ontology. The good news that there isn't any "doer" (to succeed or fail), i.e., no victims, no heroes, no psychic ball bearings, no "livers of living"
Naturally what we're talking about now is never on network news, but that's ok since there aren't any talkers or "we's" anyway. What's being talked about is a meta perspective on the consensus perspective of the world. But this meta perspective isn't grounded in personality. In fact, it's not grounded in anything since it's a "thing-less" perspective. It's the self communication of untheoretical living. This is life talking to itself.
But how is that possible? Surely, there's "someone" writing this, isn't there? Yes and no. The writing is emerging from a body/brain life form, genetically programmed, socially conditioned, and absolutely vulnerable, but NOT from a unit of independence (the mythical Cartesian ego). It's more like this writing is being "channeled" from beyond personality realness through a time and space creature. Yes, these fingers and this brain are doing their thing, but only as flowers growing from n-dimensional ISness.
And note that "growing from" is not the same as "being grown by". There's no transitive verbs in nature, only language. And while we're at it, "channeling" is also problematic since it carries the sense that Greek God like beings are speaking through more finite life forms, but big personalities are as just as delusional as small personalities. Greek Gods, ego/personalities, Higher Powers, identity units of any stripe -- who needs 'em? Not the spontaneous ongoingness of that which is already the case.
But if death before death is a (paradoxical) good, then who's supposed to obtain it? Well, who's asking the question? And who's waiting for an answer? That's just the confusion, there ISN'T ANY "who" to ask questions, answer questions, get born, get Grim Reapered, think thoughts, or pay taxes. The separate self perspective on things is the essence of illusion. And it is just this pseudo self that keeps the game going. Consensus reality minus the pseudo self is like a dissolved (not solved) problem. You don't have to answer meaningless questions.
It's like living in a world where everyone thinks they're Napoleon (or their delusion of choice, such as the name and face on "your" driver's license). This brings to mind a story Joseph Campbell used to tell about a pregnant but ill tigress that gave birth and then died while attacking a flock of sheep. The sheep took pity on the cub and raised him as a sheep; ergo, a tiger cub with a sheep self image. In due course an adult male tiger also attacked the flock, but stopped when seeing tiger cub. The disgusted adult tiger realized the cub thought he was a sheep, so he took the cub by the scruff of the neck to a stream where he showed the cub his reflection, saying, "Look, for Christ's sake (or something to that effect), you're a TIGER, not a sheep, so start acting accordingly!"
The thing is, what happened at that moment? Did the tiger cub, for the first time in his life, start being a tiger? Certainly not. Sheep self image or no sheep self image, tigers are tigers and sheep are sheep. But surely the tiger cub acted differently after his "moment of truth" (his Satori?). Indeed yes, but not because he "found himself", not because he obtained something which was formerly missing. His "good news" was the ending of a nightmare, a snapping out of a waking dream, not the return of a Prodigal Son.
Here's a way to sharpen the focus on this. Imagine a tiger cub with a sheep self image who WANTS TO BE A TIGER. What do you do with a life form like that? Nothing at all. Not just because there isn't any "doer" (which there isn't), but because nothing's missing, there's no problem to be solved here, no goal to be achieved. It's like wanting to be alive, or have a head, or to be exactly where you are, living exactly the life you're living. Or, to adapt the nursery rhyme song, "This is how we're living our lives, living our lives, living our lives . . . "
All this obviousness gets covered up because we humans are so seduced by our instutionalized illusions, e.g., disembodied physics (string theory is a 3rd millennia version of Immanuel Kant's scandal of metaphysics), or the glassy eyed ravings of religious fanatics. For these intuitions, science and religion are Twiddle Dum and Twiddle Dee -- different sides, merely, of the same separate self coin.
So forget the scientific and/or religious certainty machines. You can't feel one down if there isn't any you. The sheep self image is merely disowned tigering. Death before death is an ecstasy beyond delusion and Enlightenment alike.
more essays, political op-eds, poetry, and fiction from Bill at . . .
The Liberation of Realism