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28 March 2014

Friday Question Do you think any kind of afterlife exists? If so, please share.
I do, as I had an experience with my mom making herself known to me (via an overpowering perfume aroma visitation, no kidding) a few months after her death. But I have no idea what it is.
posted by bearwife 28 March | 12:31
Reincarnation is the only thing that explains why I can't stand having my belly touched. A past life regression showed that I was a Japanese warrior who was forced to kill himself.

Before OS tags were invented I had several pages going. When I brought up Google one day "hi" had been typed in the search box. I live by myself and hadn't had any visitors.
posted by brujita 28 March | 12:55
No, I don't think it exists.
posted by JanetLand 28 March | 13:02
My logical mind says no. But then I'll google 'ghost pictures' and give myself the heebie-jeebies. I also remember a report on TV probably 30 years ago about a family who had twin girls. The girls were killed in an accident. A couple of years later the family had another set of twin girls, who as they grew up had memories of things that had happened to the dead twins and they 'remembered' places the twins had been, including odd little hidden corners and a place where one of the dead twins had written her name that nobody could have known about.

So the answer is: I don't know. But I expect I'll find out one day.
posted by Senyar 28 March | 13:24
Here is the story. I got it slightly wrong - the two girls who died weren't twins.
posted by Senyar 28 March | 13:26
I HOPE not, because if any part of my human psyche survives beyond my body, the prospect of anything, even heavenly bliss, going on forever and ever, endlessly and unchanging, sounds to me like infinite torture. My mind can not function in an unchanging environment. Maybe a 'spirit presence' being able to observe the living world with no capability of interacting would not be as awful (in life, I'm more of an INPUT than OUTPUT device), but I really don't want to see how things go on without me - looking at potential futures, beyond a certain point, I no longer wish to witness it.

Before I committed myself to atheism, I developed an interpretation for the Afterlife and "Judgement Day": being released from the physical body would make my (and everyone's) spirit able to access all the Ultimate Truths of the Universe that human beings are incapable of knowing with our physical limitations, and to see how one's own life measured up on a truly objective scale, with no psychological defenses to protect oneself. That just got scary, even for the best of us, and a greater understanding of capital-S Science in regards to Infinity showed me it was no more likely than the archetypical Heaven with clouds, robes, wings, harps and pearly gates.

So, nope, when I die, I want to stay dead.
posted by oneswellfoop 28 March | 13:34
For the afterlife to be proven to exist, first life must be proven to exist.
posted by Eideteker 28 March | 13:53
No, except that I believe all time -- past, present, and future -- is one, existing simultaneously, for all eternity (I think I saw it in a show once about theoretical physics and space-time). So, in a sense, everything we do, think, feel, all of our existence is forever preserved in time, like a film reel in a vault. My friend, who's religious, and sometimes worries over my "non-beliefs," smiled when I told her about this, and said, "We call that God's memory."

bearwife: I had the same experience with cigar smoke after my father died. I was alone in the car, and I swear I smelled my father's cigar.

brujita: That's cool about the "hi" -- like a Google Ouija board. : )
posted by Pips 28 March | 14:10
Having been a fingertip away from passing into the white light, and to this day recalling the amazing feeling of it, I can't say there isn't something after death out there. What it might be, I have no idea.

And, then, there was that ghost in the house I grew up in. Which my mom also saw. And my wife.
posted by Thorzdad 28 March | 15:35
I'll settle for being part of the cosmic consciousness in whatever form it takes.
posted by Ardiril 28 March | 16:57
I do not know. My gut tells me that I will just go into a dreamless nothing sleep and that will be it.

But however the meme of an "afterlife" got started, it must be rooted in our genes, because it exists in every culture.

So, as I said, I do not know. The latest Metafilter thread on the GG Bridge got me to thinking what it must be like to die, or, specifically, to jump off that bridge. What would those four seconds on the way down be like, and would it just END, or would there be massive, slowly fading suffering?
posted by danf 28 March | 18:12
Having been a fingertip away from passing into the white light, and to this day recalling the amazing feeling of it, I can't say there isn't something after death out there. What it might be, I have no idea.

Yeah, those who have studied the subject say the white light and feeling of well-being are products of the brain shutting down during death and a massive release of endorphins. I had a similar sensation, I think, during a severe allergic reaction. My brother, who's a doctor, was driving me to the hospital, and when I said I felt all warm and relaxed (I had been shivering terribly), he drove really fast. It was a glorious feeling. In either case, it's comforting to know our bodies are equipped with a way to ease our passing.

My father, telling of his own near-death experience (stomach hemorrhage/CPR for fifteen minutes/life support), used to like to say in his best 80-year-old crotchety they-don't-know-what-they're-talking-about voice, "Nothin'. You don't see nothin'."

Like a light switch: Alive. Not alive. Nothing more to it.

(Sorry, Thorzdad... I seem to be following you.)

On preview: danf -- they've interviewed people who've survived bridge suicide attempts and, apparently, every one of them changed their minds the instant they jumped. Food for thought.
posted by Pips 28 March | 18:19
(Why do I suddenly feel like Cliff from Cheers?)
posted by Pips 28 March | 18:21
Non believer here.
posted by arse_hat 28 March | 18:49
I don't know. I do know that I haven't felt my mom's presence since she died, but maybe she's off somewhere else enjoying herself.
posted by amro 28 March | 19:22
I didn't feel my mom but that one time. I vaguely felt she was around for the year after she died, but the only clear time was the great perfume caper.

My dad (and my grandmother, when she went) never "visited" -- but then again, we were very close and had no unfinished business.
posted by bearwife 28 March | 19:37
Just the idea of an "afterlife" sort of presumes there's something important about this current experience we're having as a "life," such that something comes "after" it, as a kind of second act, rather than its being embedded in something far larger. I think actually it's this "life" that's the anomaly. And of course there's a larger canvas to this universe than the thin, weak line of our "lives."
posted by Miko 28 March | 22:12
Whenever I'm asked that question I immediately think about all the animals and if there's an afterlife for them; because they're not that different from us, yet do they have an afterlife?

Because if they don't, then I don't.
posted by mightshould 29 March | 03:33
Can we distinguish between consciousness and its "contents?" Because I think the contents, like the body, eventually has to be surrendered, and then, who is having the afterlife?
posted by Obscure Reference 29 March | 09:32
I think of it more as an energy that moves around & takes different shapes. So the energy that is me right now might become a bird, a prevailing wind pattern, or a termite colony. I think it's like high school grads going to college: different energies end up in the same vessel for awhile & when the vessel expires, they scatter off again.
posted by chewatadistance 29 March | 12:51
I'm a believer is the resurrection of the body but more along the lines of Paul's letters in Corinthians than what typically passes for Christian discourse on the afterlife in pop culture.
posted by stynxno 29 March | 12:56
No. I was clinically dead for 2 minutes during brain surgery to remove bone fragments. Nothing. As well, I have no memory of all the time before I existed. Why should the time after I stop existing be any different?
posted by Splunge 29 March | 13:56
No, I think death is the end. Our consciousness, our energy, maybe it joins some cosmic thing, probably not. Kind of weird, to be a vibrant, thinking, feeling human being one moment, then gone, though most deaths seem to be more of a slipping away. I think I try to live as if I'll be judged, but I don't expect to meet St. Peter. I have to say, I'd like to have a chance to see what happens; the world is so interesting.
posted by theora55 29 March | 15:08
I don't.

It's been interesting, now that the kiddo has been starting to ask about death and dying, not to mention we had her goldfish die in quick succession. I feel like talking about an afterlife would be (in some ways) so much easier and more reassuring for her, but ethically I feel like I can't feed her something that I consider to be false.

Happily, not long before her fishes died, we'd had a big talk about atoms and nature and everything in nature shares atoms and is part of nature blah blah. So she essentially got the "we are all star stuff" talk, about how when people die, their atoms just go back to nature and join back in with the rest of the universe.

I find it quite a reassuring thought, myself.
posted by gaspode 29 March | 17:32
when people die, their atoms just go back to nature and join back in with the rest of the universe

Why would this not be termed "afterlife?"

I mean, I know why most people don't think of it that way. And yet, I think it legitimately is an after-life.
posted by Miko 29 March | 20:16
Oh, I guess if you want to think about it in a certain way, sure it's an afterlife.

I just don't really think that's what most ppl think of when they talk about an afterlife. Maybe I'm wrong?
posted by gaspode 29 March | 22:44
Francie's chemistry prof in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn tells his class that nothing is ever truly destroyed but transformed into gasses, liquids and powders. She muses that chemistry should be a religion.
posted by brujita 30 March | 00:25
I had a friend who suffered from multiple identity syndrom. What used to be called a split personality.
She used to be a rather rational person. But one time we suddenly had different kind of conversation; much more affective and social.
So I realised she had switched to her major other personality. After our talk I felt out of balance for about 45 mins. And during that time I realised that we understand people around us using the hypothesis of continuity. If people acted one way in the past they'll act that way now.
My feelings of discombulation came from having that very fundamental assumption violated.
From that experience I realised that our brains are made for the continuity of people around us. We have reflections of people we know in the patterns of our brains. And conversely reflections of ourselves exist in the brains of people around us. So when we die those reflections still exist and have some momentum left. And that's when we feel that there's an afterlife. It's basically an afterimage.

When it comes to redistribution of our atoms being compared to an afterlife: I think that I'm attached to my parents as people. Not to their matter. When they're dead and cremated the atoms will still exist. But nothing will remain of the configuration of those atoms that talked to me, nagged me, loved me etc.
So to me that doesn't constitute and afterlife as it's generally meant: a place where the person we loved continues to exist.
posted by jouke 30 March | 09:48
It can't be an afterlife if it doesn't die. Reorganizing isn't dying.
posted by chewatadistance 30 March | 14:35
I tend to think of what's commonly thought of as an afterlife involves some sort of consciousness?
posted by gaspode 30 March | 15:46
I would agree that most people are imagining some sort of consciousness when they're being asked about "the afterlife". I do believe in one, but I don't spend a lot of time thinking about what it might be like because I think/hope it is bigger than my earthly mind can comprehend. Hermitosis once wrote a great comment expressing that exact opinion; wish I could find it to share with you all. I'll keep looking.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 30 March | 16:10
My mom is birds now.
posted by Hugh Janus 30 March | 19:38
tend to think of what's commonly thought of as an afterlife involves some sort of consciousness?

Yeah, I don't know. For me, this raises the questions:

1. Does what most people think matter? Are my ideas about life/afterlife/existence/meaning dependent on the thoughts of others? Can I work toward my own understandings of what is meant by these terms? If "most people" have some understanding of the word "afterlife," does that have to determine what my understanding is? If most people think a consistent identity-based self-consciousness is the basis of an afterlife, must I think so too? Or can I not resort to the fundamental senses of "after" + "life" to try to think about the kinds and forms of 'life' that may come after the death of my physical body, and propose my own speculations about what may come "after 'life'" ?
2. What is 'consciousness?'
3. On what basis do we assume that reorganized atomic material isn't 'conscious'?
4. As TPS brings up, do our 'earthly minds' have even the most basic grasp of what our current state of being means, let alone what any future or past state of being means?
5. How important is 'identity' - that sense of a particular organization of material and self-consciousness as a unique, subjective entity in time and space - to our sense of 'life' or 'afterlife'? Do we only consider ourselves 'alive' if we have a coherent identity both asserted and recognized by ourselves and by others at the same time? If that's our definition of 'identity,' then what do we do with people who do not recognize their own identity [mentally challenged and memory-impaired people] or who do not have an identity recognized by others [transgender, unknown, isolated/withdrawn people, anyone who does not receive affirmation/recognition by others]? Are they not 'alive'? And if they are, then is another entity not capable of or interested in recognizing/claiming his/her own identity as assigned by others not also alive?
6. Why do we separate out 'life' as the experience of an individual identity from the whole scope of things that happen in the universe? If we take in the whole scope, 'afterlife' doesn't make sense -- but 'life' doesn't either. We simply are in different states at different times - discrete points upon a 4D grid where time, physical being, thoughts and ideas, and surrounding events and additional perspectives come together. Who determines what particular set of those coordinates 'life' is - and/or what falls outside the combination of qualities we call 'life' and so might potentially be called 'afterlife' -- or 'unlife' or 'before-life' or 'all-life?'?
posted by Miko 30 March | 23:21
I think we are all pebbles dropped into a still lake, and our lives span the time it takes for us to reach the bottom. The depth of the lake varies, as do the lengths of our lives. The stones pass from the surface into the depths, rippling and swirling the water.

These fluid dynamics are the echoes of our passage: this is the afterlife.

Considering the sheer number of lives, you'd think the lake would fill with pebbles, or that any individual effervescence might be subsumed into the greater tumult. The moon might pass above and pull the lake with it, its gravity wiping the lake flat again. Life itself might emerge from the depths, squirting and kicking and effacing our passage.

I believe a lot of things. The water quivers. Possibilities abound.
posted by Hugh Janus 31 March | 09:16
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 31 March | 09:57
Hermitosis just got a new favorite!
posted by Obscure Reference 31 March | 12:53
Ha, that's a wonderful image Hugh. Maybe you should become a guru. :-)

TPS, I'm not religious. But the idea of something bigger than oneself that defies comprehension is nice.
posted by jouke 31 March | 13:02
Dreams of crashing aircraft || Carrot Casserole recipe.