A body, when you knew it alive, is a strange thing. It is so much like, or so close to, the being we knew. It is so like what was, but is nothing the same. When a life dies in your arms it's as though the person has invisibly left. There is only a body left to hold. What was muscular and its own self, stops. So much like and yet far removed from the one who was, it has become "it", a body.
It doesn't seem to me like a motor stopping, or a computer when the power goes off. It will never start again. Something has gone. The muscles collapse and the limbs flop, the person is not there.
I imagine the Greek concept of the "soul" and the Hebrew sense of the "spirit" came from seeing death happen. It's as though some spark has gone. The breath of life* stops.... goes... the person is not there. We speak of "Emma's body" but it is not Emma. "Emma is not there."
Something rebels at the notion that the machine has simply stopped. I cannot imagine how myself, my consciousness, "me" could survive apart from the chemical reactions and electric currents that make my body work. But I don't see how they are all that I am. Reducing my being and consciousness to chemical reactions explains nothing. It may say something about how life and consciousness are supported, but it says nothing about why they "are."
Another reductionism also tries to explain much of our notion of goodness away with the 'basic chemicals' of selfishness and the need to survive: Altruism and high ideals are simply a very well developed evolutionary response that has progressed beyond brute force, through tribalism to something better at ensuring survival. (Perhaps some altruism is not good, and will be selected against.) Survival is really about ensuring your genetic material gets passed on.
If that is all we are- a brief interlude of reproduction- I wish to make a value judgement. I wish to rebel. I have seen enough of goodness to think it is worthwhile. With what little life I have I will work for goodness.
I cannot believe that we are just seeking to pass on genetic material. There is Value somewhere, something ontologically good at the back of things. If I can honour that in a small way, my life will have been worthwhile. Perhaps when my body stops I will not stop. How could I not be? How could whatever has love enough to give me myself let me go?
I will not waste what I have been given now, waiting for what may come or may not. I will live for the good now and enjoy it as I can. And if Rosemary and Shane and Reg, and all the others are simply not, then one day I will be not. But I have tasted life and I have been. I am, and I am glad.
Would you like to comment?
I have turned off the feedback module due to constant spamming. However, if you would like to comment, or discuss a post, you are welcome to email me using the link at the bottom of this page, and I may include your comments at the bottom of this article.