We are in the midst of the most ridiculously cold weather I have ever experienced in my entire life. It is so cold outside, it hurts my nose and my entire bronchial system to even think about breathing this frozen air. I wonder what Georg would think about all this.
I remember whenever I was cold as a child, Dad would encourage me not to exacerbate the feeling by dramatically shivering. He had a sort of “mind over matter” philosophy about these things. His thing was, if you acted “as if” you were warm, you would feel warmer. But if you gave in to the cold by shivering and chattering your teeth and pulling your sweater tighter, you actually made yourself feel colder.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Georg would purposely allow me or my sister Illia to freeze. I’m saying that when we were in a situation where conditions were temporarily less than favorable, this is how he would try to help us overcome any momentary discomfort. Think warm, sweetie, and it will be so.
Meanwhile, I cannot stop thinking about death and how I might apply to it Georg’s mind over matter philosophical approach. I’m looking for a way to see death as more than the loss of a loved one and a time to be sad. Think continuum, sweetie, and it will be so.
I have a newly developing theory or paradigm about death that I want to share with you. It first came to me while I was driving myself to the airport to board my flight for Los Angeles almost two weeks ago now. My new thought pattern/paradigm/theory goes like this:
I have always been impressed with the fact that, if you can manage to get your body to an airport on time with the right equipment (luggage, ID, liquids in small bottles in a quart bag, etc.) you can put yourself on a plane and — thanks to the miracle of aerodynamics and trained pilots — be taken thousands of miles in a few hours and deposited in a totally different reality, ready to have fun.
Now, as I was driving to the airport this last time, I realized that without some knowledge and life skills under your belt (such as how to make a reservation, where to get money to pay for the ticket, how to drive yourself to the airport, where to park your car, how to schedule your drive so you arrive at the airport on time, where the airport IS, for crissakes!) you would not be able to get to the plane. So, for example, there is no way in heaven, earth, or hell that a baby could get itself to an airport. It cannot even conceive of air travel. At least not in an airplane.
Now, an eleven-year-old might have an idea of going somewhere on an airplane, but like a baby, a child of this age cannot begin to make the arrangements or drive itself anywhere. It must rely on the protection and benevolence of others to move it along on such an elaborate and demanding journey.
So, how about a teenager? My fifteen-year-old son is learning to drive right now. In fact, he can drive pretty well around Sheboygan. However, he is still new at it. If I told him, get in the car, you have to go to the airport right NOW, he would not have a clue how to get there. At least, I don’t think he would. Maybe he would ask Siri* on his iPhone and she would tell him. (This is where my ignorance comes in. I had to ask Owen how to spell her name. I don’t even have a phone smart enough to allow me access to the font of knowledge that is Siri.)
But, even if he could manage to get some technology to direct him, he has never merged onto an interstate. He has never had to watch for exit ramps, he has never had to drive at 65 miles an hour with other fast moving vehicles on snow-slick highways. Even he if had the directions, would he have the wherewithal to do the complex kind of driving required to get to the airport on time in the dead of winter? Let me add, that although he is new at it now, in a few years time, he will be able to do all this and much, much more. This is what practice in life (and death?) affords you.
What is my point and how does all this relate to my paradigm about death? I’m not saying we should practice dying in a literal way. But, metaphorically? Maybe. Maybe death needs to be thought of in a way that has to do with knowledge, progression, and awareness. As we grow, we keep moving on to things that were incomprehensible to us previously. Eventually, we know enough to get on a plane to the next reality. My point is this: I am sure that on some level, I am still a baby in this consciousness that I inhabit. I am newly aware that there are, no doubt, many awarenesses that are so beyond me (like the baby’s lack of awareness of what an airplane is) that I don’t even know that I don’t know.
Then, I realize there are some endeavors in which I am like an eleven-year-old. Meaning, I know that something exists, but I can’t do it. (Speaking Chinese would be an example, or becoming a person who could walk on a tight rope stretched between tall buildings. I know this is possible, but I don’t have the ability, courage, or desire to do it.)
Finally, in some things, I think I must be at least a teenager. I think this is where my understanding of death comes in. I am unpracticed at this, but maybe I am learning more. I understand that we all die, but I have not done it yet myself (in conscious memory) and so I don’t know what happens afterwards. Frankly, I’m beginning to wonder if death isn’t a sort of graduation. You master what you need to master here, and then, you get to go to another plane of existence to learn even more. (Pun completely unexpected but totally appropriate.)
This “train of thought” is by no means a license to commit suicide or anything. Our little ego brains don’t know when we have learned enough to graduate. So, no. We don’t get to mandate our departure. We go when our consciousness knows we are ready. There is a huge difference.
I cannot begin to imagine what amazing awarenesses will come to me “on the next bardo” as the Tibetans and David Bowie would say. Well, now you see I am back to my infancy. Of these things, I know absolutely nothing at all. If I could even think of the right question to ask about all this, I wonder what Siri would say?**
*Just in case you have not been introduced to Siri, this is a feature of the Apple iPhone that supplies answers to all your burning questions, like, “what Italian restaurants are near me?” If you ask her how to get to the airport in Milwaukee, she will tell you. If you ask her about the weather, she will say “it is too cold to think straight.” (I’m putting words in her mouth.) If you ask her “Siri, do you love me?” she will say, “Does Apple make iPhones?”
**If you ask Siri what happens to us after death, she doesn’t answer, but bumps you into a Google search on the phrase, “what happens to us after death?” However, if you ask her what is the meaning of life, she says: “All evidence to date suggests it’s chocolate.” Smart girl, that Siri.
[References to Siri included in this blog post are courtesy of Owen, my fifteen-year-old, who may not know yet how to drive to an airport, but who knows way more about new technology than I do.]