July 6, 2011

What If

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What if I told you that a dead man has spoken to me? That he gave specific guidance, and it all came true? Would you believe me? Let’s say you would. Now what? What are the implications in knowing that there is a dimension where the past can speak to the present about the future? For me, it’s overwhelming. Should I live differently? Should I find ways to speak to the dead? Do they have wisdom, clairvoyance? When I am dead will I try to speak to the living? Will they be receptive? Can I prepare them now to be open to my communication? Some days this line of questioning is crazy making, on others, it all seems possible, even exciting.

What if I told you that there was no life, in any form, after death? What if I proved it, and you accepted my proof? What are the implications in knowing that there is only the here and now? For me, the implication is overwhelming. If this is all there is, should I live differently than I do now? Embrace the modern skepticism of Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins? Will this enable me to live more in the moment, for the moment, and not for some future incarnation or reward? Some days this line of questioning is crazy making, on others, it all seems possible, even exciting.

The not knowing is like living in the subjunctive, a tense that is nearly extinct in American English. Webster’s describes this vanishing:

“The subjunctive is used to express situations that are hypothetical or not yet realized and is typically used for what is imagined, hoped for, demanded, or expected. In English, the subjunctive mood is fairly uncommon, mainly because most of the functions of the subjunctive are covered by modal verbs such as ‘might’, ‘could’, and ‘should’.”

If I could choose one belief system, I might experience more certainty. That is unlikely to happen, even if it should. I know I can’t know what happens when I die. There is wisdom in both perspectives. I just can’t get to one. I spent a good deal of time in college, as a philosophy major, working to get there. So now I live life as it comes to me, between mystery and certainty.

In this blog, I project a subjunctive life, explore possibilities, and in doing so hope to diminish fear around death. I do attempt to find meaning in the ‘what is’ though for me the ‘what ifs’ are equally present. Here intentions, hypothesizing and expressing purpose are alive.

Living in the ethers of the two perspectives does not create cognitive dissonance. There is little anxiety in holding two opposing thoughts. It is an everyday experience. I do things that I know aren’t good for me. I admire people who I don’t always agree with. I can love and be angry with the same person. I see beauty and ugliness out of the same window. I can imagine that there is an afterlife, and live as if there may not be one.

Einstein, who certainly understood more than I do about the fourth dimension, where past, present and future exist simultaneously, wrote about not knowing in the essay The World As I See It:

“I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”

Cy Twombly who died yesterday embraced the unintelligibility of life, expressing the “devoted striving” in his art. In fact, every one of his obituaries notes the difficulty in understanding his work. In his painting above, the meaning of the calligraphy is questionable, never forming a specific word, or language. The work, “III Notes from Salalah” refers to a verdant desert oasis, guiding us to the richness in expressing uncertainty. Abstraction is the subjunctive form of art, expressing past, present and future in one moment, or as Twombly said more simply, “It’s more like I’m having an experience than making a picture.”

This dead man speaks to me.

Comments (2)

  1. July 7, 2011
    aftert11 said...
  2. July 11, 2011

    i enjoyed your entry about Cy Twombly and your afterlife thoughts…i followed the breadcrumb trail from your entry at the WSJournal. much more interesting read than that particular article.

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