What About the “Afterlife?”

Tim Flanagan…

Son House – Death Letter Blues

Here are selected opinions about great mysteries
which elude scientific confirmation and hover over us.


An even dozen people… address the question of an afterlife.

Opinions vary.  There is nothing I would like more than for there to be an afterlife
where people I have loved could be. I miss quite a few, but this seems far-fetched.

Lightnin’ Hopkins-Death Blues

We have five senses and our imagination. From what we know: when the brain stops, life ends. I can pretty much live with that. And as much as I savor each moment, as we move from past to future we barely surface in the present before it’s gone.

Skip James – Hard Times Killing Floor Blues,
American Folk and Blues Festival, Cologne Oct. 9, 1967

We are painfully finite creatures in an infinite universe and certain things
remain beyond our ken. But we can embrace both mystery and joy.

Here are ideas about life after death:

Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death–ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible for life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return.”

James Baldwin


You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness.  Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

Louise Erdrich

“The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.”

Carl Sagan


I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in the kindness of human beings.  I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels.”

Pearl S. Buck

I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.


…Basic scientific observation has determined that the physical part of the brain causes consciousness. We have five senses and our individual brains interpret these sensations. This is what we call consciousness.

…The hypothesis that the brain creates consciousness… has vastly more evidence for it than the hypothesis Einstein
that consciousness creates the brain.

… Thousands of experiments confirm the hypothesis that neurochemical processes produce subjective experiences. …Because we know for a fact that measurable consciousness dies when the brain dies, until proved otherwise, the default hypotheses must be that brains cause consciousness.

I am, therefore I think.

einstein (1)
…Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain.  One has to keep this constantly in mind if one wishes to understand spiritual movements and their development.

Feeling and longing are the motive force behind all human endeavor and human creation, in however exalted a guise the latter may present themselves to us.”

~ Albert Einstein

“Regardless of the staggering 150121154922-simone-de-beavoiur-exlarge-169dimensions of the world about us, the density of our ignorance, the risks of catastrophes to come, and our individual weakness within the immense collectivity, the fact remains that we are absolutely free today if we choose to will our existence in its finiteness, a finiteness which is open on the infinite.”

Simone de Beauvoir

Everybody dies. There’s nothing you can do about it. Whether or not you eat six almonds a day. Whether or not you believe in God. (Although there’s no question a belief in God would come in handy. It would be great to think there’s a plan, and that everything happens for a reason. I don’t happen to believe that. And every time one of my friends says to me, “Everything happens for a reason,” I would like to smack her.)”

Nora Ephron, I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections

“Death is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you
is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it.”

W. Somerset Maugham


“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night


The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.”

Rabindranath Tagore

Like the most of you, I was raised among people who knew – who were certain. They did not reason or investigate. They had no doubts…

ngersollWe can be as honest as we are ignorant. If we are, when asked what is beyond the horizon of the known, we must say that we do not know. We can tell the truth, and we can enjoy the blessed freedom that the brave have won. We can destroy the monsters of superstition, the hissing snakes of ignorance and fear. We can drive from our minds the frightful things that tear and wound with beak and fang. We can civilize our fellow-men. We can fill our lives with generous deeds, with loving words, with art and song, and all the ecstasies of love. We can flood our years with sunshine — with the divine climate of kindness, and we can drain to the last drop the golden cup of joy.”

Robert G. Ingersoll

~The poem below, I first heard in 1962 in a coffeehouse called The Exit, located in the basement of an old Victorian-style house on Gaslight Square in St. Louis, Missouri

Life is Fine

I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn’t,
So I jumped in and sank.langston-hughes

I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn’t a-been so cold
I might’ve sunk and died.

But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!

I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!

langsI stood there and I cried!
If it hadn’t a-been so high
I might’ve jumped and died.

But it was High up there! It was high!

So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.
I could’ve died for love—
But for livin’ I was born

Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry—
I’ll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.

Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!

by Langston Hughes, 1902 – 1967

Death Don’t Have No Mercy…

“I shall tell you a great secret my friend.  Do not wait for the last judgement, it takes place every day.”

Albert Camus

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