Is there life after death? Considering how one has to actually die to find out… we, the living, can only conjecture. As for my own theories? There are at least nine different forms of living on… in varying degrees… some of them earthbound… others otherworldly… some are somewhat short-lived… others could endure through eternity. The specifics…
Heaven Awaits Scenario ~ When the physical body expires, everything that ever made us uniquely different from everybody else… all of our memories, hopes and dreams endure. Everyone who has preceded us in death and has ever meant something special to us is present to welcome and usher us into everlasting life.
On one hand, Near Death Experience survivors corroborate. On the other hand, the skeptics contradict… claim these episodes are merely due to an end of life brain chemistry… one which causes the mind, normally accustomed to keeping us alive, to freak out when it cannot do so. Little doubt, oxygen starved brain cells and, perhaps, even some physician-administered pharmaceuticals are all in play. Factor in a lifetime’s worth of spiritual indoctrination and you’ve got the perfect recipe for hallelujah inspiring hallucinations.
My Own Experience… in an Actual Death Experience, my mother’s spoken with awe in her eyes, last words were, “They all came!” Since just prior to that we’d been engaged in a totally lucid conversation… since we were the only ones present in her nursing home room at the time… who, pray tell, were “They”?
Double Helix Scenario ~ Folks who are “fruitful and multiply” preserve their DNA… their human traits remain within the gene pool for generations to come. As for anyone who has opted out of parenthood, we’re now talking about pruned and felled family trees… bloodlines banished to oblivion.
Of course, procreation does have its limitations… can only immortalize 23 of each person’s 46 chromosomes per conception. Genetic duplicates having never been Ma Nature’s game plan, there’s virtually zero chance that anyone would ever wind up totally replicating themselves… right down to the freckles and fingerprints. Furthermore, even if such an identical copy were to exist, that person would not grow up with the same life experiences.
Send In the Clones Scenario ~ While the technology to create genetic duplicates exists, human cloning is still considered a huge no-no by principled politicians (if there are any such animals), bioethicists and theologians.
If this ‘tude were to change, someday, clones would only be physically identical since, as I’ve already mentioned above, they’d not share the unique life experiences of the original being.
Donor Gametes Scenario ~ A man and woman can procreate without having actually met… in fact… neither of them even need be alive. Harvested female and male germ cells, once thawed out from the cryogenic deepfreeze, combine in the in vitro fertilization petri dish and the surrogate mother does the rest.
Donor Organs Scenario ~ Harvested human hearts and the other major bodily organs can prolong recipients’ lives for decades. In a sense, donors can live on for many decades, maybe even longer when recipients utilize their new lease on life to become new parents. IF both parents and offspring then go onward to make something of their lives… oh… say… contribute something of great value to society… THEN (albeit indirectly) so would the organ donors.
In a horror film sense, people with “yuge” ego problems (think Donald Trump here) could, someday, even resort to some ghastly surgery… could “donate” their own heads… have them bolted onto new, recipient bodies. Fortunately… so far… and to the best of my knowledge… there are no real life equivalents of fictitious Dr. Frankenstein’s monster out there… way, Way, WAY out there.
Surviving Elements Scenario ~ The basic chemicals, which make up our bodies will eventually get recycled, at first, here on Earth (e.g. during cremation) and, eventually, back into the vast, inky dark, cold cosmos… the very place from where humanity had originally borrowed these elements.
The late astrophysicist, astronomer, philosopher, educator, author and TV host, Carl Sagan, the master of simplifying complex science, once wrote…
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
Naturally, disembodied elements, (even if human brains were their original source), will not possess any intelligence… will never really be us. While it’s a virtual certainty that we’ll “survive” in this sense… we’ll never know it.
Intellectual Property Scenario ~ We live on in the memories of others. To remain a household name throughout perpetuity, one would need to be some sort of superstar scientist, physician, psychiatrist, philosopher, theologian, educator, engineer, architect, inventor, sculptor, painter, lithographer, publisher, poet, playwright, author, actor, entertainer, comedian, singer, musician or world leader (or some combination of the above). Even people who history would judge to be our worst-nightmares-come-true can be remembered… as examples of who NOT to emulate.
For the vast majority of us… who don’t make the history books… who would not even be an obscure footnote in such a publication… we’ll be forgotten as soon as all who ever knew us are dead. Even if our pictures were to appear in some handed down from generation to generation photo album, would an ancestor, three generations down the road, truly know us beyond the lifeless, two dimensional depiction? Once there’s no one to give a damn anymore, family photos will eventually wind up getting trashed. Only if today’s landfills were to become tomorrow’s archaeological dig sites would anyone ever try to remember us.
Good Mentor Scenario ~ Throughout our lifetimes, we’ve all been teachers (no formal classroom required). This face-to-face intergenerational imparting of everyday knowledge and skills is how we leave our small mark on the world. It even counts, e.g., when we demonstrate the fine art of tying shoelaces to a youngster. While this mundane stuff easily goes towards the betterment of our society, to be remembered, by name, for making such contributions is highly unlikely.
Internet Scenario ~ This involves anyone who, anywhere and at anytime, ever did anything great or small on the WWW.
Over the course of the past decade, I’ve made my own presence known here in cyberspace… at MySpace, Xanga, Blogger and WordPress. I’ve got to believe that some of what I’ve said made some small difference in the life of someone… somewhere… sometime. Maybe that person shared my thoughts with someone else… and that person did the same… and so on… and so on… and so on…
True, I’ve blogged many a time and netted not more than one “like star” click… but does that mean all is lost? Carl Sagan didn’t think so. To quote him once more, he observed…
“Books are like seeds. They can lie dormant for centuries and then flower in the most unpromising soil.”
I suspect if the good Doctor S. were alive today, he’d have no problem making the words, “books” and “blogs”, interchangeable.
Beyond that, it has oft been said that once posted, nothing ever really dies on the Internet, and so, if that, indeed, is really true… well… I know that, someday, as I’m taking my last gasp of oxygen, I shall live on…
Hmmm… to leave my mark upon the world via the World Wide Web? Not bad. To maybe even witness this actually occurring, while my loved ones and I reside in our Heavenly Home throughout eternity?
Yeah… for me… that’ll do…