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The Death Puzzle

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by sealchan, Aug 25, 2019.

  1. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    Is there in our shared human psychology a developmental phase, a crisis, where we need to confront the reality, the finality of death?

    Does this crisis occur typically sometime during one's adult life (prior to the "midlife crisis") after one has become independent and can now look forward to the rest of ones life as primarily a matter of ones own concern?

    Is this crisis the main psychological experience around which one forms their attitude toward their faith or lack thereof?

    Does any moment in your life, let's say between the years of 25 to 45 involve a crisis of mortality or fate and did that crisis bring finality to your current faith belief?

    Any and all responses to any one or all questions appreciated.
     
  2. Phaedrus

    Phaedrus Member

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    Youth is the time for feeling immortal. The young have less a concept of time and finality and worldly concerns, because they are simply too busy being young and enjoying life. Typically, though there are exceptions where some people are just born to be old codgers.

    It is usually only as we age that we begin to appreciate the time we have left to us and finally take notice of all that is happening around us.
     
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  3. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    When I was a child I had very severe asthma. I almost died several times before my teenage years. So my mortality was something I was very aware of even as a young child (eating the wrong cookies could put me in the hospital because of allergies).

    So, I never went through a mortality crisis as an adult. I am currently 56, so the age range of 25-45 is long past.

    So, yes, I know I will die. But I have known that since I was about 7 years old. It always surprises me a bit when people have a crisis on this as an adult. I have *never* felt 'immortal'.
     
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  4. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    Yes, my wife had to grow up, I think at an early age. My grandson, perhaps, has also been too close to death his whole life and now has been described as an "old soul".

    Perhaps there is not so much a time one ones life but the fact of a true encounter with mortality which has to occur.

    Let me add, however, an exception for those who have grown up, like the young Buddha, relatively safe from any direct confrontation with death and now they see their life ahead as critically in their own hands and a road which leads eventually to an end. And how satisfied one will be over that whole path, long or short, becomes ultimately ones own responsibility.

    One reason I ask this question is for reasons relating to my personal experience and the experience of other family members. Also I note that many prominent spiritual figures seem to have discovered their divine mandate during their early to mid adult life suggesting that many religions might be founded on a resolution to a crisis of this time of ones life.
     
  5. Howard Is

    Howard Is Lucky Mud

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    I think that is most likely to occur when someone close to you dies.

    It can also occur when a pet dies, although many people laugh at the idea of grieving over your cat or dog or horse. I have felt bereft over losing non-human friends, because of the jarring finality of it.

    I was intensely aware of death and very perplexed about it when I was quite young. Teenage. That was what drove me to seeking answers to the big questions.

    I almost drove myself crazy trying to work it out. I was never one who could just choose to believe in religion. I couldn’t see how someone would not realise they were playing a pretend game. So religion has never been an option for me. I did study and practice with Buddhist teachers in my late 30s into early 40s. But I never bought into the reincarnation thing. It always seemed like a deliberately manufactured belief. Although I have experienced what seemed to be previous life memories, I was always sceptical about my own experiences. I have experienced enough altered states, and enough errors of perception and judgement, to know that my mind can generate any kind of experience.

    I am now aware that I don’t have, and will likely never have, definite answers to the ‘big questions’.

    More importantly, I realise I don’t need them, and never did.
     
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  6. leov

    leov Well-Known Member
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    i was 8 when that crisis occurred.
     
  7. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for sharing this.

    In my own case I fought against an unacceptible fate by complaining to God, with whom I had not previously been in the habit of talking to, about reality not being good enough. I then proceeded to rewrite Chapter one of Genesis. That effort immediately lead to my recovery from a persistence, mild depression.

    Currently I see the stories, the myths, of religion as a sort of psychological medicine. Without taking things as literally as most of my fellow Christians I see the fantasy of the stories as an important part of my mental diet. I cant tak these stories literally any more than I take Star Trek literally bit both contribute to my need to meditate on my reality and my place in it.
     
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  8. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    Care to share more and/or about how that experience shaped your current attitude toward faith?
     
  9. Mock Turtle

    Mock Turtle Compassion, understanding, and tolerance.
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    Same as a few others here - it was probably between ages 6 and 8 that I learnt about death, and it was quite a shock as far as I can recall. Don't know how I reconciled this with just carrying on regardless (too stubborn perhaps :rolleyes:), but I probably just accepted it and saw old age (and dying) as too far into the future to worry about. Not so now, but missing life (and not knowing how humanity will get on) is mostly the deficit of dying rather than anything else. :oops:
     
  10. Howard Is

    Howard Is Lucky Mud

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    Well said.
     
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  11. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    Yes I find it interesting that so many are looking back to an earlier age.

    Actually this reminds me also of another inner experience that I had in the range of my late, pre-teen childhood. I used to have problems falling asleep. I think it had to do with too much sugar or carbs in my diet. But I would close my eyes and be suffocated in an infinity of dark spheres. It was like being caught in a reality between an infinite, open space and a closet stuffed full but with no door.

    Sometimes I felt the presence of a menacing evil. It would vaguely take shape in the suffocating darkness. Then I might fall into that darkness, into the pit of evil and wake up suddenly. Eventually I learned to take on an aggressive, angry attitude in these visions and burst through the falling with a sort of mixture of fear and ecstasy. That seemed to mark the time when these fearful "falls" started to dissipate and become something that I occassionally tried to make happen as I fell asleep.

    But the thing that helped get rid of the suffocating infinities happened after i had seen the new movie Star Wars. This dates this whole experience to about the age of 9. In response to the oppressive vision, I imagined myself in an X-wing fighter, flying around and shooting up those spheres. That seemed to immediately stop that vision from happening again. I remember being so happy about the result that i got out of bed to tell my parents about it.

    Of course our inner development doesnt cause our outer reality so much but perhaps our inner state leaves us ready to be open to that which we might otherwise effectively shut out of ours lives.
     
  12. Mock Turtle

    Mock Turtle Compassion, understanding, and tolerance.
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    I had a room of my own as a kid - my two older brothers sharing a room - and I had quite a lot of the usual nightmares (indicating my insecurity no doubt since I was quite shy as a young child). But I did love my bed and seemed to sleep well (probably being quite active and hence tired) - and never have had that same feeling of cosiness that I had then. Not sure where my shyness came from.
     
  13. shmogie

    shmogie Well-Known Member
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    I am really old, 70 +, and I like to joke that my generation was simply never going to get old, we were just going to party on, too bad it didn´t work out that way.

    When I was young I didn´t think about death. I had sixty years to go ! Then forty, they started going by fast, then twenty, and now I am in the death zone. Any morning now I could wake up dead.

    6 years ago I did ¨die¨. A knee replacement surgery brought on a still unexplained reaction. When the physical therapists came to get me up right after surgery, I passed out, and had no blood pressure. The hospitals emergency response team was called, and while they worked on me I drifted in and out of consciousness. At one point it came into my mind that if I passed out again, I would die, no more waking up. I knew I was circling the drain.

    The interesting thing is that the prospect created no fear whatsoever in me. I felt as though I was in a warm, very comfortable cocoon, I was aware of all the scurrying going on around me, but I was separate, very hard to describe. I went over my will mentally along with my life insurance policies and reassured myself that my wife would be well provided for. I knew that if I lived, or died, I would be just fine, in that respect my faith helped immensely, I was in Gods hands, no worries.

    I comfortably waited to see what was next, after almost two hours, I lived. Then the hell began ! My kidneys failed, My bone marrow quit producing white blood cells, and all kinds of bodily systems went haywire.

    It all got fixed in 63 days in the hospital, half on ICU. I still am living.
     
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  14. leov

    leov Well-Known Member
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    there was a funeral in apartment downstairs, lots of people, band and music, loud. By the end of the day i was in my bed and it dropped on me without warning - realisation of my own mortality, i was very scared. Periodically that sensation would come to me and go leaving me feeling sick for sometime. i think that unconsciously it made me look for answers . Until some 40 years later i understood that there is no death of my consciousness. That was welcome liberation.
     
    #14 leov, Aug 25, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2019
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  15. ideogenous_mover

    ideogenous_mover Well-Known Member

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    I don't know about a specific time in particular, but it does seem like 'initiations' of all kinds have been part of the human story for the past several hundred thousand years. In a book I read on cave art a long time ago, (can't remember title) it was speculated that people climbed and crawled to the hardest spots in the cave to make art, alone and in the dark, and that this sensory deprivation caused fearful visions. It seems to me that if someone could get through that, it would probably aid them in a Pleistocene style world.

    There is a greater awareness of mortality through the gradual death of family members, friends, and pets. Some of it I don't like to recall, thinking of it all this moment. And there is the fact of one's own aging. In not too long I will already be 34, and may have specs of grey in my beard in a few short years. I can't drink a six pack of soda and have my gut still feel good like I was 20. I have done plenty of things that were dangerous, and sometimes still take on jobs with danger in them, though I'm never totally comfortable with it. Sometimes I like to go hiking around where a mountain lion was sighted last summer, but I've come to grips with being cat food for the sake of enjoying myself. I've been in car wrecks, been yards from 600 pound bears, and have been in fights unfortunately. Thinking about it all is a bit much, I wonder / think I'd be better off without a lot of those experiences in a sense. Some of those things you don't grow from.
     
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  16. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    Death, in my culture, is very much the elephant in the room. I know that I have had to contemplate the meaning of my life and how the eventuality of death is an influence whether I wanted to think of it or not. I guess taking some sort of conscious ownership of one's mortality is the challenge and if you can engage with that consciously it definitely has the power to establish important principles in one's life, whatever those principles may be.

    Certainly many times of transition have become institutionalized for better or worse as "initiations". Joseph Campbell used to bemoan the fact that modern life involved no significant ritual. There is no formal community ceremony aimed at helping us to transition through certain parts of life as we grow and mature. I think that we are hopefully going to become aware of the natural developmental cycles of our minds and bodies and learn how to engage those cycles proactively and effectively.

    I suspect that the following are transitional moments in our development based on my readings and personal experiences:

    Childhood (?4 to 8) - Development of significant self-awareness and fear of loosing one's existence; a phase of nightmares is encountered, how does the child encounter and overcome self-created fears? monsters in the closet?
    Adolescence (10 to 13) - Add in the hormones and sexual maturation of the body and the mind has a whole new context to adapt to, with procreative powers comes great responsibility and a whole new sense of impending independence
    Early Adulthood (25 to 40) - This thread proposes that the world's most recent religions often speak to a need to realize, post-adulthood, that one's life is more or less a known quantity and that whatsoever one has become will impact how one will encounter one's end
    Mid-Life Crisis (30 to 64) - Perhaps another transition similar to the above (I'm just entering that age zone
    Retirement - The obvious transition from career to a much more open-ended experience. Obviously this time depends on whether you are economically able to stop work

    There are undoubtedly many developmental cycles in early childhood as well. Understanding these transitions and how to assist individuals to move consciously through them is an important aspect of our experience.
     
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  17. columbus

    columbus Conservative Catholic from Hell

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    I can tell you when it happened to me.

    I came out of the closet as gay in the early 80s, just as the AIDS crisis exploded.

    I was in my 20s at the time. Most of my straight friends had a problem with that. I met gay men who didn't, obviously, but they started dropping like flies. From a mysterious illness that nobody actually understood, except for the Christians who knew that it was God smiting people like me. Because I am evil and hate God and all that sort of thing.

    Over time, I developed a personal "religion" that had nothing to do with the ugliness that Christians were busy screeching at the top of their lungs.

    Dealing with that much death and ugly religionists did change my attitude about a lot of things.
    Tom
     
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