!! Book Review !! Confrontations with the Reaper – An Interesting Exploration of the Value of Death !
As you might have figured out, I recently finished reading several books as part of my Unschooled Master of Theology Program. You can check them all out here if you would like.
Unfortunately, the results were less than stellar on many of these titles. Most were quite disappointing. So, I guess my reviews make up a list of what not to read if you’re interested in what to avoid.
Though I’m chomping at the bit to really dig into and explore my research questions properly, I think it’s important to do my due diligence and document my progress, even the blind alleys and failures.
The book I’m now reviewing is much closer to my research subjects than the first several I’ve already reviewed thus far. This one, Confrontations with the Reaper by Fred Feldman, a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, was an interesting read, to say the least.
So, let’s jump in and see what this one is all about….
Lost in the Formulas
The book starts off rather intriguing, with some important questions being brought up. But, I would be remiss if I did not mention how the author seems rather fond (overly so) of formulas. He presents data in formulas. Discusses theories and examples in formula form. Provides answers with formulas. It was actually rather unnecessarily complicated.
An example of this is: D2: x dies at t =df. x is a living biological organism up to t, but at t, x is destroyed.
Brevity is really our friend. It is unnecessary to use formulaic format to describe what can be easily described with plain English. If X is the living organism, then just say so. If D2 is the theory, just used the word theory. If T is the moment that the organism dies, then state that which is obvious.
A living organism is destroyed at the moment it dies.
That was not too difficult to convey. It is clear and to the point and there is nothing redundant.
Unfortunately, the author was really in love with the formulaic ideas, and the book is littered with them. On nearly every page. It’s exhausting! Maybe he had a page number requirement from his publisher that he needed to meet. I’m not certain what’s going on. But, I do know it is unnecessary and distracted me frequently from the message he was trying to get across.
Asking the Questions
But, despite the formula frenzy, the author asked some really important questions. When I first found this book, I got really excited. It lies center lane to my research questions about death and asks many of the same questions I’ve had for years.
Can a person survive death? What is death? Are there different kinds of death? What do we mean when we say something is dying? What about when we say something has died?
The author does not typically provide answers in this book. He does quote others, presenting their theories and will often present arguments against those ideas.
One quote was, “death is the annihilation of a functioning biological organism” and another was, death is “the disintegration of a living organism.”
While death does contain both of these statements, meaning they are inherently true, it does not fully express the totality or universality of death. It does not address the criminality of death, either.
Death can, of course, be viewed as a natural process. But, it can also be viewed, as the bible claims, a curse upon not only humans but upon all of creation. They claim a great deal of evidence to support it being a natural process, but I have heard of no evidence to support it is caused by a curse.
Yet, countless profess the latter. Well, they claim to profess the latter, while quietly most fight and claw against death to the bitter end, all the while piling up the very vices and bad behaviors that will, in the end, be the likely culprit to do them in.
The book comes away with no definitive answers. Maybe that’s the cross to bear for taking on such a subject. Only when we step up to the plate will we have even the slightest shot at experiencing what might await us afterward. And, there’s a real possibility we won’t get to experience anything at all.
Whatever the origin of death – natural or otherwise – it is coming for us all. There is no fighting it. At best, we might be able to delay it for a few years. We certainly can’t outrun it, though the science community seems obsessed with eradicating it at some point in the future. But, as we know with all things human, death will only be cured for the rich and powerful. There’s no way they will grant immortality to the poor. Well, maybe so they can work longer.
At one point, the author shifts away from the direct questions and tackles a slightly different topic – suspended animation.
This is an intriguing question, given the advancement of science in our day and age, it is plausible this could be an actual issue in coming years.
At first, it is ridiculous. But, there is evidence, if only anecdotal at best, that people can freeze to death and be brought back.
Jean Hillard was rushed to the hospital after freezing in -22 degree weather. She made a full recovery, though at the time, her body temp was 88 degrees and her heart was only beating 12 beats a minute. (1)
Justin Smith was found after being in sub-zero temperatures for over 12 hours. He had no pulse and no blood pressure. He was blue. But, after being brought to the hospital, the doctors were able to bring him back by hooking him up to a machine that oxygenated his blood while slowly warming his body. Medical experts stated the body is preserved through freezing. (1)
A Canadian toddler wandered out into the dead of night and was out in the snow for over four hours. She was frozen stiff and had no signs of life. After they inserted an IV into her leg bone and circulated fluids through her bone marrow, and slow warming through a warming blanket, the baby’s hearts started beating again and eventually made a full recovery. (1)
The key, apparently, is for the cooling process to happen quickly enough to trap the oxygen in the vital areas of the body. By doing so, the body has a chance to slip into a kind of suspended animation, where the body can recover without damage later on.
But, more directly applied to the pertinent questions, we have to ask if it is possible for there to be cessation of life without death?
The book takes this question on in a hypothetical case of twins who are both frozen at the same exact time and in the same way. Theoretically, they enter suspended animation. The first question asked is, have these two died? When did they die? Furthering the example, the twins remain frozen for 2 years. At the one year mark, the freezer keeping the second twin frozen malfunctions and renders the ability to thaw the second twin back to life impossible. So, with this new information, if the two twins ceased to live at the time they were frozen but have not yet died, when do they actually die? After the two years are over, the two twins are taken out of their frozen states, thawed and twin 1 is revived and goes on to live the rest of his life. But, twin 2 could not be revived because of the mechanical malfunction after year 1.
Obviously, twin 1 never died, right? In fact, twin 1 remained in a state of suspended animation for two years and then continued on with the rest of his life until he died of natural causes. But, when did twin 2 die? At the time of freezing? At the one year mark when the machinery malfunctioned? At the moment he was thawed and they could not revive him?
We can see from real world examples already mentioned above, the body and its systems are capable of being preserved by extreme cold. But, how long? It’s arguable the body cannot sustain the freezing temperatures for long durations without causing damage (the longest I’ve found reported is 24 days, and I’m not certain he was completely frozen, just in a state of hibernation).
There is something here in the human condition that is elusive. We don’t really know what death actually is. We can’t even agree on a firm definition. When does twin 2 die? At any point during the suspended animation should we consider twin 1 or 2 as being dead? Can we say neither were alive during their suspended animation?
One evening, I came out of my shelter at the Eden property, and found at the foot of the steps down to the main deck a recently deceased bat lying belly up. I scooped the little corpse up and put it on the table to examine it a little closer. I could see its tiny claws, it’s partially unfolded wings, its furry body. But, I could tell half of its face appeared to already be decomposing, or had been ripped off somehow?
I left the little creature there on the table with the intention of placing it somewhere so the corpse could finish decomposing and then maybe even put its skeleton back together again. But, after the night, I came back down the next morning and discovered the corpse was gone. It had been stolen away by some sort of wild animal, probably a rat or raccoon.
But, it was clearly dead when I found it the day before. And, I never thought for a single moment as I examined it, this little corpse would be to another living creature some possible food for survival. To the bat (if it was experiencing anything at all at this point) it was dead. To me, the bat was certainly dead. That’s all it was. It served no other purpose to me other than as a dead body for inquiry to satisfy my curiosity. But to the mysterious creature that stole away with the corpse after dark, the bat may have truly been dead to it, but it also considered it a fine meal. Maybe creature X had no concept of life and death. Maybe animals only think in terms of food and fear, risk and reward.
At what point do we die? What happens at death? What are we when (and more importantly) after we die?
In the book, the author brings up an interesting example of amoeba fission, where a single amoeba procreates not by any kind of recognizable sex, but by splitting apart and producing two amoeba.
The very idea of this is startling.
Go to Youtube and watch the actual process. It is unnerving. But, more importantly, the book asks the questions. At any point in this process is death present? Does the original amoeba die so that the other two can live? Does the first amoeba cease to live but not die? We know for the catepillar and the butterfly, these are not pertinent questions, since experiments have shown the butterfly is the caterpillar, just in mature form. The experiment taught the caterpillar to run from electrical shocks based on certain stimulus. When the same butterfly was presented with that stimulus, they ran just like the caterpillar was trained to do.
But, does this stand for the amoeba? In reality, they say the amoeba is biologically immortal and the amoeba today came from a few ancient cells. So, in this sense (perspective) the amoeba has never experienced actual death, at least not the same way humans and other living creatures do.
A Biblical Example
Another example of a living being not experiencing death, though the account is controversial, is the biblical story of Enoch.
There are several key elements to this account. First, Enoch was “well-pleasing” to God for two hundred years. That was after living for 165 years before having his son Methuselah. So, if taken literally, when Enoch was 365 years old, God μετέθηκεν “translated” him. This word literally means to transport, to transfer, remove. Hebrews 11:5 states emphatically, “by faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death.” Likewise, 1 Clement voices the same, “Enoch, who having been found righteous in obedience was translated, and death did not happen to him.” It was generally if not explicitly agreed by the ancient church that Enoch escaped death entirely (much in the way Elijah did in 2 Kings 2:11).
And this is the perpetual draw of religion, especially the biblical account, as it promises one day that not only will all who ever lived (and died) be resurrected, but those who are alive at the time of the second coming will likewise, like Enoch and Elijah, will not die, but will be, as Paul put it, “we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them (who were resurrected) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
If this is correct, death as a natural consequence of the curse is not universal, in it has no power over God, for he can choose whose life he will spare. In this case, he has chosen to spare two people in the Old Testament and a select group of people who will be alive at his second coming and directly after the resurrection of the saints. If so, then I have to ask the question why? If it is not a universal judgment upon all living beings, like an infection, then why does God allow death to reign at all? If Christ has purchased redemption for all who believe, why wait any longer? Why perpetuate the wickedness of this world? Why allow suffering to continue?
These questions remain as mysterious and confounding as what is death or what does it mean to die?
An Abortion Example
One argument in the book focuses on abortion, which I found quite interesting. The case used is one of a mugger who, in the process of mugging a pregnant woman, inadvertently causes her to miscarry. Subsequently, the mugger is caught, and tried for murder of the child.
Did the mugger really murder the unborn child?
If the same woman, having taken a cab home instead of walking avoided the mugging altogether, but the next day went to an abortion clinic and aborted the same unborn child, she would not only be innocent of murder, the abortion would be completely legal in the eyes of the law.
How is this possible? It is the same child undergoing the same result. The child no longer exists and is dead. The argument that an unborn child is not a human being, is not actually alive does not stand up, since the mugger in scenario one was tried for the unborn child’s murder.
But, this is how death is dealt with in society, and by humans. It is highly subjective, based entirely on perspective. The outcome is the same in the above example, but the perspective is much different, depending not on the outcome, but on the variables present.
This translates well into general ideas and views on death. We cannot ascribe to life universality because life and death are subjective based on the present underlining variables.
Taking that same example, the unborn child in question experiences the loss of life (and the potential of future living) by the hand of another (mugger or mother). But, say the mother took the cab (so no mugging) and likewise decided the next day to keep the child instead of getting an abortion. Now the child is born and grows up and theoretically has 75 years or more of a “good life” ahead of them.
This is one of the arguments the author puts forward. That life itself is unequivocally good. Being alive is ultimately and always better than being dead.
But, this is not always the case. If the unborn child was born to terrible physical and mental disabilities, or, come to find out, the mother was a drug-addicted prostitute living in the slums of the inner city, the argument could be made that the aborted has a good chance of being better off than the child born into persistent poverty and god-knows what kind of suffering and abuse at the hands of her strung-out mother, her mother’s boyfriends and johns, or any other plausible depravity.
In fact, there is an argument to be made that the mugger did a good thing by inadvertently causing the child to miscarry, given the knowledge we now have concerning the child’s future. Of course, no court on earth would see validity in such an argument. But, the reality is, the value of death is highly subjective.
Death does not always equal a loss.
A patient who is suffering under immense pain from disease can be seen as receiving a blessing in death. We see this in societal statements like, “Well, at least he’s no longer suffering” or “At last he’s now in a better place.”
If any of us really and truly thought a better place awaited us on the other side of death, suicide would be much more prevalent than it is and death would be celebrated as a victory rather than as a universal loss.
A Conscious Corpse
This leads us to other questions that surround death. One question brought up was the fundamental nature of a corpse.
First tackled was the relation of the corpse to the person. What is a corpse? Is it a person? It depends again on perspective. We can most certainly say a corpse used to be a person, before they died. But, after they are dead, our society, psychologically, still treats bodies as the people who once inhabited them. We have funerals and memorials for them. We have laws concerning how a corpse is treated. We require bodies to be put away and interred. Though we set aside large sloths of land for the dead to rest in peace. Headstones line the rows and rows of remains, all pointing to the person that once resided within each and every shell.
The corpse is an individual, belows to the individual, and will always be physiologically, genetically, and socially attached to the particular person that once resided within.
In fact, there is actually little we know about the corpse, other than the physical processes it goes through, as it returns back to the earth.
The bible classically ascribes this to the fall, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).
Yet, as already addressed, death is a temporary state of existence for all who have ever lived or will ever live. For, “it is appointed for men to die one, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). At the appointed time, the dead in Christ will rise and will join those who are still alive and will join the Lord in the sky. This is the first resurrection. The second resurrection will be at the Great White Throne of Judgment, where all the world will be judged and sentenced to the second death. Jesus makes it clear, the first death (the one from the curse, the one that is the subject of the book in question) should not be feared, but instead we should fear the one that can destroy both soul and body in γεέννῃ = “gehenna, hell, the lake of fire.”
So then, if the body is always associated with its inhabitant, even after death, does the inhabitant still reside within the body after death? How likely is it the corpse is conscious after death? If so, where does the person (or biblically the soul, whatever that is referring to exactly) reside once the body has decayed? The body goes through a predetermined process based on the environment it is found in. Typically it becomes rigid, then bloats, then actively decays, then skeletonizes, then, eventually even the bones break down into inorganic matter and are, as the bible states, return to the dirt from which they came.
But, still, where does the person the corpse used to be, or at least used to contain, reside while awaiting resurrection?
In the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19ff), we see the rich man, after death in torment in ᾅδῃ “hades” and Lazarus is in the company of Abraham. From this perspective we can see there is not only consciousness after death (rather than soul sleep where we remain unconscious or non existent) but also torment or paradise in the company of saints.
This, of course, in and of itself, should be terrifying! How is it determined which way each of us will experience the intermediate state between death and resurrection? We are told by Abraham, whatever destination we find ourselves in, there is no possible escape.
The moral, of course, in this account is, “if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
To avoid hades, one must take heed of Moses and the Prophets. And who does the Law and the Prophets point to? Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39; Luke 24:44).
So, from a biblical perspective, we can only assume the person who resided in the corpse before death is contained within or persists somehow within the soul (since it is not destroyed at provincial death (which only destroys the body). It is not the spirit, which the bible says returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7), so, if it is to align with the account of Lazarus and the Rich Man, the person who once existed in the body no longer remains in the body, but departs via the soul to either Hades or Paradise to await the resurrection.
The Pain of Death
So, then, death (at least the first death) is nothing to fear in and of itself. It is simply the natural result of the fall, a consequence of sin. But, more significant is the pain so often associated with death that is of concern.
Why is there pain in death? Why are some deaths without pain, while others seem to carry with it excruciating pain?
A story was recounted to me by a person once of his brother who died after his car swerved off the road and over an embankment. There was no guardrail and the embankment was heavily wooded by trees and underbrush, so both the car and its exit from the road was concealed. It took several days before the car and the body of this person’s brother was discovered.
It was determined the brother, upon impact of hitting a tree, suffered internal injury, though was unable to move from the driver’s seat of the car. Over the course of a day and a night, the person’s brother drown to death as his own blood slowly filled up his lungs.
Countless stories abound of truly horrific deaths. Many by accident. Others from malefic motivations.
One woman, hiking alone on the Appalachian Trail, got turned around, lost, and spent over a month slowly starving to death. She made several attempts to hike out, tried to light signal fires. But to no avail. Her body was found over a year later still huddled in her sleeping back, zipped up inside her tent. Her camp was less than 30 minutes from the nearest road.
Pain seems neither universal in death nor equitable. It strikes the good and bad alike. It will skip both the righteous and the evil without partiality.
It is, of course, varied in its approach, manifestation, and severity. Some pain in life is considered by people as good. The pain of child birth for instance has been deemed by society (and many mothers) as a positive. The pain of exercise is another type that is considered an overall good for the development of the human physique.
Of course, there are many types of pain we avoid at all cost. The pain of illness, disease, the emotional pain associated with intimate relationships (though people seem kind of addicted to this kind of pain, despite their verbal protests to the contrary).
It is often assumed the dead no longer experience any kind of pain at all. But, this is only perpetuated to support the belief (and it is only a belief) that we as individuals cease to exist after our death. In reality, we have no idea what is in store for us after we take our final breath.
As stated above, the bible claims we do not cease after death, but only our physical bodies are destroyed (return to the earth). Our spirit (or the life force, or breath of life) returns to God, and our soul (which must contain our identity, our personality, and our memories) is transitioned to a temporary residence. In the account of Lazarus, Jesus states he was “carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22).
Did the angels come for the rich man, too? What a horrendous image that must have been for him, after having just endured death. Did he wait long before they came for him? Did he know at their arrival of his destination? Is the full and brutal truth revealed to us at the moment of death? Or does God instead ease us into it?
What a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).
Deprivation of Death is Too Simplistic
Another argument used by the author is deprivation caused by death (meaning, death causes the one who died to lose out on what they would have had or experienced if they had lived) is universally negative and, thus, death is never good.
This again makes plea to the universality of an intrinsic value in life. That all life is sacred, any life is better than no life.
But, as already countered above, there is no intrinsic value in virtually anything. The only value is that which we assign. The value of the bat corpse I found at the foot of my steps was, to me, only worth as much as my curiosity was captured by it. To the mysterious creature that stole it away in the middle of the night, it assigned much more value to it, presumably as food. That is life sustaining value.
Value is a construct invented on the fly, in comparison to other things around it. I deemed the bat corpse interesting, more so than the fern growing next to the bottom step. The mysterious creature viewed the bat carcass of much more value than the food I had securely stored in my dry box in my shelter (most likely it either didn’t know my food was even there, or, possibly it weighed the odds of being able to get to my food with me there over the free and easy to get to meal of the dead bat further away from me).
The value of life is completely relative to the observer in question. My life is of more value to me than it might be to someone else. The value of the unborn child is of less value to the mother who aborts her child than to the mother who chooses to keep her child. But, as in all things, details matter. It is possible the mother keeping the child is only doing so because she knows, as an unwed mother living in the slums, she will get food stamps and a housing voucher, whereas the mother who aborts her child may realize she is in a horrible marriage with a man who has already molested their first child and knows if she tries to run the husband will kill them all. She may love her baby, but is doing the only thing she can think of to protect her child from a most probable future of molestation and abuse and a lifetime of suffering.
Which mother loves their baby more?
One example used in the book is of a rich man in need of a new heart. Because the donor list is long and he doesn’t have much time, he uses his influence and has a young man murdered and the heart of the young man is transplanted. The rich man will certainly live much longer now, but at the expense of the young man, who had his life stolen from him.
Likewise, a robber murders a store clerk. The robber may not value the life of the store clerk, but he might also know the store clerk, and the clerk may have been terrorizing the robber in the neighborhood for years.
Who is right and who is wrong? The robber? The rich man who now has a new heart?
Value is relative, both contingent on the variables in each situation, but also on the perspective of the observer in question. Each situation is right and wrong. It is wrong for the rich man to murder the young man and steal his heart, but to the rich man, it may be just a part of life. He might be of the world view that the rich are destined to survive and thrive and the poor are not. That he deserves the heart more than the young man because, if the rich man dies, how many livelihoods will suffer with his absence? How many people will suffer from the death of the young man? Few, if any. If you find out later the young man was a homeless person strung out on crack who regularly beats his mother, would that change your view on if the rich man was right or wrong? What if you found out the rich man was a philanthropist, and over the years, he’d given over half of his networth to good causes and bailed people out of poverty and helped his neighbors and the other half of his wealth, if he were to die, would go to his spoiled children who only partied and would spend through his money like it was nothing? Would those changed variables alter the effect? Now, if the rich man stays alive countless more people will be helped and their suffering eased or erased altogether.
But, degree and deservedness play no role in pain or death (or life for that matter). Credit it to evolutionary biology or to the fallen nature of humanity, it is a harsh and unforgiving reality we live in. For all but a slim few, it is mostly but a few brief moments of fleeting happiness interspersed amongst prolonged misery and pain and misfortune.
For many, death is a welcomed sight to behold.
The Degrees of Deserving
Do some, then, deserve to live while others deserve to die? The wealthy and the elite in our society would say yes. Their actions read like a script, stating unequivocally they deserve everything while the masses deserve to be oppressed, to be stolen from, to be abused, to be swindled.
After all, it will be the rich and the well connected who have set Western society in their favor. It is they who will inherit the earth, not the poor or the meek. They will be the first to receive immortality from the scientific community. They will be the first to venture out into space to escape the travesty they’ve wrought on this earth.
But, despite their opinion to the affirmative, the question remains. Do we deserve life? Do we deserve to die? Do we deserve some level of support? Do we deserve some standard of living by right? Do we have a right to life? If so, where does this right originate? There are countless who are denied this right from abortion. Many are denied life from nature (miscarriage, complications, etc). Around 30,000 per year in the US are deprived the right of life from vehicle accidents.
There seems to be no clear mandate from either society or nature from which life is preserved or aided. In fact, from all appearances both human and mother nature seem hell bent on our collective destruction.
But, if I am born, if I happen to escape all the challenges set against me from being born in the first place, once alive, am I deserving of life? Am I owed a full life?
Many people are born and die in childhood. In fact, until recently, this was rather normal.
It is, on the other hand (at least thus far) a 100% guarantee – if I am born, I will die. Do I deserve death? Do I deserve death because I was born? Why (or how) is death linked to life?
From the biblical perspective, death is not at all a natural process. It is not causally linked to life, that we die because we lived. Rather, the bible states we die because of sin, more specifically, because of Adam’s sin.
Death is the consequence of sin. Sin entered the world through one man, and death entered the world through sin (Romans 5:12). If we did not sin, we would not die. Sin reigns through the power of death. This is why Christ’s death could serve as a payment for the sin of the world, Jesus had not sinned. He died to sin, once for all (Romans 6;10).
The wages of sin is death.
In one sense we do not deserve death. It is simply the natural, instinctual effect of sin. But, because we commit the sin in question, we are guilty, and thus, the natural consequence is deserved. We are paid rightful compensation for our sin: death. It is transactional. It balances the books.
Jesus can die for all of us because he had no wage of sin.
We do not deserve salvation. We do not deserve redemption. This was something Jesus did on behalf of the Father for our sakes.
If we were wiped from the earth tomorrow by an asteroid strike, there would be no judgment, no indictment. If we were to unleash nuclear Armageddon, there would be no guilty plea from any of our leaders as to their wrong doing.
In the book, the author points out, society by and large would agree, the death of a younger person is worse than the death of an elderly person. Of course, as discussed already, this is just too over simplistic.
If a child dies it is grievous. If an elderly person dies, it is often a mercy. But, what if the child was a sadist and spent his free time torturing innocent animals, lighting them on fire, and had already murdered three of his classmates? Would that child’s death be considered worse than the death of an elderly person who had spent their life helping the less fortunate, feeding the hungry, healing the sick?
Certainly not. We would say the world is better off without that child in it. Generalities are not useful, for they ignore the important aspects of the case and render the hypothetical unrealistic.
The Case of Suicide
Suicide, though, is a topic I find very interesting. If we do not deserve the life we are each given (which is proved with the legality of abortion), then why is it against the law to commit suicide (or, at least, attempt suicide)?
What volitive value is placed on life where we are not deserving of it, yet are not able to remove it? Why are deterrents used to prevent an individual from taking their own life? Since no one deserves a life, this would mean there is no value inherent in life from which the one committing suicide is subtracting from the accumulated life value found on earth. No one really deserves life and no one really deserves death. They are equal sides of the equation.
Yet, society deems it necessary for a person who is attempting or might attempt suicide to be stopped, counseled and even involuntarily incarcerated, “for their own good.” But, what good is there in preventing suicide?
Another facet of the argument pertains to possession. If we, as the individual determined by the distinct collection of conscious experiences and memories, and attachment to our particular body, have “possession” of this individual life we are given (regardless of our merit or lack thereof), then wouldn’t we merit independent volition in what we do with that life given? After all, if this life we possess inflicts bodily harm to another individual, we are held responsible for our actions in causing that harm. Why do we limit our volition when the harm we cause is limited to ourselves only?
The predominate argument against possession is no one in their right mind would inflict self-harm, especially to the extinction of ourselves, as in suicide. But, this is not so simple. After all, if we are truly honest with ourselves, the Western culture is nothing but a corrupt and tyrannical influence on the entire world. The US in particular is a lying, thieving, and corrupt institution at its core. Add to this the insanity experienced in social dynamics of relationships and familial obligations, it is a wonder suicide is not a more acute problem than it is. There are many justifiable reasons for ending one’s life. If not justifiable, then rational at the very least.
Typically, when someone commits suicide, they are opting out of something, rather than opting in. On a few occasions (such as in mass suicide events in cults) there were objectives for suicide, such as afterlife theologies, etc. Most of the time, though, someone opts for suicide to end what is perceived to be wrong in their life and this most commonly is to end some sort of physical or emotional, psychological pain.
Rarely if ever do people end their lives from boredom.
Many do so because of pride, of loss, of shame, guilt. Some do so because of unabated sadness. A young woman in England petitioned the courts to euthanize her because of her many psychological problems. She had the view that her life growing up had been miserable. She was plagued by a variety of psychological and behavior disorders, to the point that daily existence was misery. (cite)
Obviously, this young woman is capable of taking her own life. I can only imagine she wanted euthanasia because of the difficulty and unreliability inherent in self suicide. Popular culture is replete with fanciful ideas of how easy and painless suicide is. But, the actual reality is much, much different.
Having worked in the medical community for several years now, I can tell you the reality is far different. When people attempt to kill themselves, the body and the mind always rebel. Patients who swallow their medication often involuntarily throw up the medications or family or friends find them in time and rush them to the hospital where their stomachs are pumped and are “saved” leaving the patients worse off and yet still alive and often in severe pain.
Hanging, guns, jumping from high places, most suicide attempts can be effective, yet they pose great risks of something going horribly, horribly wrong. Too many people attempt to shoot themselves only to miss a fatal target, usually grazing off bone, disfiguring the person, maybe even causing physical disability, but now the person is all the more worse off than they were before the attempt.
But, the question remains. If someone has made the decision, as in the case of the young woman, that her life is simply too much to endure going forward, why are they not allowed to safely and effectively end it?
The Nagging Unknown
Let’s take a look at one example used in the book. If a friend dies, you might decide to reflect on the nature and value of their death. You would like to understand why death had destroyed your friend. Why was it death had stolen your friend from you. You might reassure yourself that your friend is now in a better place, a safer place, a comforting place. You might tell yourself that your friend is now at peace.
But, there were no actual facts asserted in the given example. The only fact that is, indeed, true is your friend is dead. You have no idea where your friend is, if they are even anywhere at all. You have no idea what death has done to the person you called a friend. You have no evidence as to what occurred to the collection of conscious experiences and memories you called your friend, other than those collections no longer seem to reside in your friend’s body (which is now a corpse and has most likely been buried or cremated). As far as you (or any of us can tell) the death of your friend is final. They will never come back. They will never reanimate the body they had indwelt while they were alive. In fact, within a few years (if not cremated), that body that used to be your friend, will break down to its base components and will join the rest of the inanimate matter on earth.
In fact, the only things that remain now of your friend are your memories of them, other peoples’ memories of them, photos, audios, and videos of your friend, maybe other artifacts such as creative items they may have produced while they were alive. Possessions likewise remain behind that were once owned by your friend. But, that’s it.
Within 100 years, your friend (and you, too) will be forgotten. Within 200 years your entire generation and the generations immediately surrounding you will be forgotten. There will be nothing left. Your friend will not even be a blip on the cosmic history of human affair.
Not only your friend, but you, your entire family, friends, any associates, anyone you’ve happened to pass on the street or in a crowded subway car, or happened upon on in a grocery store isle, all will live and die and be buried and will be utterly forgotten in less than 500 years.
It is possible the entirety of your society will be wiped out. In fact, it is feasible future events will render life on planet earth extinct. Not just human life, but all life. It is possible there will be nothing left on the planet but inert mass, like Mars is today.
The reality is, we don’t know what, if anything, lays beyond the single life we are each given in the course of human existence. There are attempts to explain the afterlife. There is a concerted effort to put forth an entirely naturalistic afterlife, in which there is nothing beyond what we have now, nothing beyond the consciousness of human existence. Once we die, that is all. We cease to be, cease to exist. It is argued we are accidental, inconsequential.
But, the reality is, the fundamental truth is, we have no idea what lays beyond this that we are experiencing right now. There is no explanation for why things occur as they do. There is no justification for suffering that adequately explains or gives real or substantive meaning to why things occur. Tragedy. Triumph. They are all equally mysterious.
There is no evidence for what death is. It is simply a universal truth that appears to have influence – rules over – all living things on earth, save a few specific examples (such as amoeba).
Why is death so pernicious? Why is it so unequivocal? Why is there no explanation to its ferocity?
Unless usurped by the scientific community in the future, or Christ fulfills the Enochian claim, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds” (Jude 1:14) and brings an end to this current age, then we will not have insight or knowledge into the definition, the fundamental nature, or opacity of death. We know what we now know. We know the death’s seeming universality. We know it’s inarguable brutality toward life itself.
But, unless there is a great and fundamental revelation, death will remain another mystery the human mind is unable to overcome and a phenomenon that remains inescapable.
Until my next review….
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Excerpt from Our Daughter:
“Okay, mom,” Randy said.
“You behave yourself and be nice. You’re lucky to have company while you wait for the doctors.”
The woman turned and started back the way she came.
“The nurse said it would be twenty or thirty more minutes, so we’ll eat quick and be back up here before they take you in, okay?”
“Sorry for him,” the woman said to Katie as she walked by.
As the woman left, Katie noticed the boy moving around again on the bed. Before she realized what was happening, the tiny lump disappeared and she could hear the faint sound of bare hands and feet on the tile floor.
He was low crawling under the beds toward her.
A moment later, Randy popped his head out from under the nearest hospital bed, craning his neck around to look up at her.
“Hello, there,” Katie said.
Randy disappeared back under the bed, the bed sheet draping down almost to the floor. Katie could still see three little fingers pressed to the tile.
“What are you here for?” Katie asked, readjusting her seat in the chair, trying to get the ache in her chest to lessen.
For whatever reason, the wheelchair was really uncomfortable.
“Why are – ”
Randy’s voice trailed off for a moment as he looked around.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m getting my leg fixed,” Katie said. “See?”
Randy poked his head back out from under the bed and looked at the leg she was pointing to.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“The doctor said it’s broken,” Katie said. “Shattered.”
“Can you feel it?” Randy asked, able to stay out from his hiding place.
“I can feel it, but it’s not too bad,” Katie said, then tapped the IV in her arm. “This thing is giving me medicine of some kind for the pain. At least that’s what the nurses said.”
“Why are you – ”
Randy stopped mid-sentence.
He scooted out from under the bed entirely and slowly crept over to her on all fours.
“What are you, some kind of spider?” Katie asked, giggling a little.
“What are you?” Randy echoed.
He was now only about a foot away from her chair and sat there, his legs folded up under him, gawking up at her.
“What are you staring at me for?”
“I’ve never – ”
Randy put out a hesitant hand and ever so gently touched her arm.
“Are you some kind of ghost?”
He looked around again.
“Are you – ”
He leaned in, talking in a whisper.
“Are you dead?”
A nurse came around the corner and stopped abruptly, spotting the empty bed in the far corner where Randy should have been.
“Randy Andrews,” the nurse said, her hands now on her hips. “You get right back into the bed and you stop playing around, please. They are ready for you in surgery.”
Katie watched as Randy scrambled on all fours under the beds and back up onto his, pulling the sheet back over top of himself again.
She started to ask him about his question, but couldn’t get the words out before his parents appeared at the door.
Katie sat there quietly, watching Randy stare back at her from under his sheet. She glanced over at his parents and the nurse, noticed Randy’s dad had no hair on the top of his head.
Are you dead?
What kind of question was that?
The snap of the wheel locks being disengaged on Randy’s hospital bed jarred Katie out of the confusion she was in.
The doctor she’d first seen was now at the door, waiting for Randy.
He was his surgeon.
They wheeled Randy out of the room, his parents following right behind, disappearing to the left, heading for his operating room.
The pre-op room was empty again.
Are you dead?
What kind of crazy question was that?
The nurse came back through the double doors.
“It won’t be long now,” she said.
Katie tried not to think about the dull ache growing just behind her sternum.
The nurse disappeared around the corner as Katie watched the double doors to the operating rooms slowly shut.
Buy my book Our Daughter and begin the adventure of a lifetime, as you uncover the mysteries behind Katie Cadora’s new life after the horrible accident that stole her mother away from her. Will she find sure footing again? Will the pain ever stop? Will she discover the secrets her new foster family are keeping from her? Is the boy’s question right? Is Katie Cadora actually dead?
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But, trust me when I tell you, there are deceivers in our midsts! Get started in this bone chilling suspense novel right away and find out why….sometimes….you’re just better off DEAD!