Tag Archives: dying

Friday in Five: the Ideas Edition

30 Sep


I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. Partly because the act and consequences of death are propelling a novel I’m working on in my When-I-Get-Time Life. Partly because I’m anticipating it in my Where-Did-That-Time-Go Life, prompted by the very visible deterioration of souls close to me which in turn is reminding me I’m not going to live forever either.

I got excited by this idea:

“If the body generates consciousness, then consciousness dies when the body dies. But if the body receives consciousness in the same way that a cable box receives satellite signals, then of course consciousness does not end at the death of the physical vehicle. In fact, consciousness exists outside of constraints of time and space. It is able to be anywhere: in the human body and outside of it. In other words, it is non-local in the same sense that quantum objects are non-local.”

It’s from an article, Quantum Theory Proves Consciousness Moves to Another Universe After Death, which is making the rounds on social media. The article and the ideas it contains have plenty of critics. Here’s another article that sets out – and probably succeeds – to debunk the major points of the first.

I’m not a physicist, and neither is the scientist, Dr Robert Lanza, proposing this “biocentrism” theory. Lanza’s expertise – and it’s significant and peer-recognised – is in stem cell research. In 2014, Time included him in its list of Top 100 Most Influential People. So while he’s not a physicist, he’s not a complete numpty, either.

I don’t pretend to understand the science. I’ve read these and other articles trying to develop a definitive sense of what I should think or understand or believe. Maybe it doesn’t even matter. In any case, I’m enchanted by the idea. Not, I think, because I feel any need for myself to live forever. More in the sense that no one is ever lost.

My elderly father and elderly dogs are travelling the roads which will end in their bodies ending, but this idea presents a chance the universe will retain their gentle, wise, mischievous souls. Their consciousness. Their energy.

It follows that the universe will never be free of some of the more regrettable souls I’ve encountered, either, but that’s okay.

Around a year ago I read this idea in another form and found it equally enchanting from a creative perspective. Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear writes:

“I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.”

It all sounds a bit woo-woo, doesn’t it? And I’m decidedly not anti-science. The anti-vaccination campaign enrages me. Climate change deniers drive me insane. Intelligent creation makes me squirm, and not in a good way.

And yet…

I remain enchanted, by Lanza and by Liz and by their ideas. Go figure. I’m probably just getting old.

Which brings me to this other idea of oncologist Ezekiel J. Emanuel that keeps playing and playing and playing in my head, and which is strengthened, for me, by the enchantment of the possibility of consciousness enduring and ideas always finding themselves an outlet. At what age do I want to die?

Not when should I die, or when might I die, but at what age do I want to die?

I find very compelling Emanuel’s proposition that 75 years is about the right kind of lifespan. To be clear, he is not advocating euthanasia. He is not suggesting people who live beyond 75 have nothing to contribute. He has thoughtfully examined his own life and circumstances, considered humbly and sincerely the contribution he makes in the world, and has decided 75 is about right:

“…75 defines a clear point in time: for me, 2032. It removes the fuzziness of trying to live as long as possible. Its specificity forces us to think about the end of our lives and engage with the deepest existential questions and ponder what we want to leave our children and grandchildren, our community, our fellow…s, the world.”

The idea of deciding for myself that 75 is about right establishes for me a neat time horizon to work towards, to live towards. To write towards. I might not make it to 75. That would be okay, too. In my Where-Does-the-Time-Go Life, I’ve been in the habit of asking new team members to imagine themselves at 80, looking back, to identify what they’ll most regret not having done.

life-is-what-happens-to-you-jpgI’d asked myself that and came up with a vaguely satisfactory set of answers. Knocking five years off the question, though, somehow brings the answers into sharper focus.



I’m going off to write. See you on the other side.

Gracie x

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