|Subject:||How do you cope with death if you don't believe?|
|Date:||Sep 26 20:22 2003|
|I wrote my TBM friend, someone with whom I went to
high school, about my mother's death. Her mother died 20 years ago, so
she's been there. She answered, in part:
"I know that our religions are now different but we both believe in a loving God and know that we do live past this mortal life. I don't know how people that don't have that faith, cope."
In fact, she does not know what I believe about religion, god and an afterlife. I don't know what I believe in that regard. But she was at least respectful, did not try to guilt me or sneak in a lecture on the plan of salvation, for which let's give her credit.
However, what she said got me to thinking about the surety and safety to which mormons, as well as those in other (mainly) christian religions, cling. How does one cope, they ask, sure of their "truthfulness" of their beliefs, if one doesn't believe in the celestial kingdom and families forever and all the other twisted tripe perpetuated by a pair of Victorian-age con men.
Well, one copes by facing reality and doing what one can and staring into the void and feeling the pain (something mormons avoid assiduously) and sorting out a goal -- an individual personal goal -- with which to stamp our existence.
One copes by not clinging to assurances, remaining open to the possibility of change and new ways of seeing. One learns not to need to pin things down, to live without doubtful promises of things to come.
One copes by getting to know one's personal demons (something even more assiduously avoided by faithful mormons, who prefer to label their shadow selves The Adversary, Satan himself), staring down those demons and doing our best in spite of them. One does it one day at a time; we get up again the next day and do it again. And in doing it, sometimes we experience joy. Sometimes we can sit and feel the beauty that is in the natural world or in the human mind, and that becomes a reward for battling one's demons, for trying to be our best selves, for being honest with ourselves about who we are, and living with open eyes, open minds, even open hearts.
Something it would be hard to express to my friend, whom I suspect has had her second endowment and, having her "calling and election sure," does not have to worry herself about the inevitable ambiguities of life.
Just some thoughts.
|Subject:||Re: How do you cope with death if you don't believe?|
|Date:||Sep 26 20:30|
|I did the old disconnect to be able to handle the
many traumas involving death in my family over the years. I do not
believe that I ever got any help or solace from any imaginary deity, but
was helped by getting away from a stressful situation and living close
to nature for a number of years.
You do not have to think god is in charge to appreciate a sunrise or a birdsong, or the kindness of friends.
As you say, one gets up in the morning and does it all over again. Librarian
|Date:||Sep 26 20:39|
|I know you've had some tough losses, and I know you
are speaking from experience.
|Subject:||My mother says this to me all the time|
|Date:||Sep 26 20:47|
|She lost a child many moons ago. I asked her how she
ever deals with it, and she burst into tears, saying how my 'lack of
faith' is so troubling to her.
Back then I did have faith. I did think that I would see him again. But I thought it ridiculous that faith should keep us from grieving and loss.
Now that I'm pretty sure that death is the end, I feel much better about it all. There's no mystery to me anymore. I do not fear my own death, except if it comes at the expense of my young children. But once I see them safely to adulthood I will feel better.
I want to live as long as I can. I actually treasure life MORE now. I hold all life as more precious, more valuable. I see everyone as 'someone's little baby,' and it makes me more generous toward them. When I believed in god I felt superior to others. Now I feel honored to be among the living.
|Subject:||"Honored to be among the living."|
|Date:||Sep 26 20:50|
|Very nice thought. It hadn't occurred to me, but
I'll have to think about this.
I've recently learned that someone I value very, very much has had three heart attacks and is probably living on borrowed time.
It has made me think about these things differently.
Thanks for that Gracie.
|Subject:||Death is hell either way, síóg. . .|
|Date:||Sep 26 20:49|
|I've been there.
I've been there in varying stages of belief and lack thereof.
It's hell either way.
I don't care how strong a person's faith is at the time, or how strong they "claim" it is.
But a person's individual experiences shape them in that regard. Some might be somewhat disbelieving at the time of the death, but have unexplained and unusual experiences following it, which might change their state of belief somewhat, or raise questions.
For others, it might be just the opposite. The trauma of a death might be just the thing to tip the scales more in favor of disbelief for them.
Since losing my father all those many years ago in such horrible circumstances, I've never once said to anyone grieving subsequently, "Oh, it was a blessing," or "At least they're not suffering."
Death rips out our hearts, even in situations where we have confused feelings about the deceased. And whatever is, is; our beliefs, or lack thereof, can't change that in the least.
Some people rage against God in these situations; some sink into despair that there is no God with whom to be angry.
I hope you find peace and comfort in your grieving. Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you feel, and know that many others have been there, and will be again.
|Subject:||It would be easier, perhaps, if it were ripping my heart out.|
|Date:||Sep 26 20:53|
|As it is, I'm feeling empty and not sure what to
make of it.
Thanks for your kind thoughts, though. I have had that grief that stopped me cold, that made my feel a literal pain in my heart. It wasn't easy. But at least I was honoring the dead person's memory.
This emptiness is disconcerting.
|Subject:||Well, this is a complicated situation. . .|
|Date:||Sep 26 20:57|
|. . .with your mother's passing.
It was an unusual relationship.
I'm not sure what you're feeling is atypical given the circumstances.
If you haven't talked to a professional regarding it, you might considering doing that.
|Subject:||As my beliefs and what I claimed I "knew" have changed, I have realized|
|Date:||Sep 26 21:52|
|that I do not have to have a belief in a here-after,
or a "living god" to "cope" with death.
I find solace in knowing that we really know nothing about an after-life. Imagining that I will "see" my loved ones at some future point when I die, does not help me "cope" with their death.
What helps me cope with their death, is appreciating their life and how it impacted me. And when it is done, it is done, and there is no concern on my part about what happens to them or me upon death. I am content knowing that whatever happens, if anything, is exactly the same for all people.
My emotional response to death is not negatively impacted because of not believing or "knowing" there is an afterlife.
In fact, since I have come to recognize that there is no reliable evidence of an after-life, I am much more comfortable with the deaths of those loved ones and friends that I have known.
I find coping with their deaths easier now than when I was a believer in an afterlife and a loving God.
For me, knowing that when we are done living, we are done and that is sufficient, is a welcome relief to all the claimed after-life beliefs. I do not need an after-life or god belief to cope with the death of my friends and loved ones.
If the "spirit" lives on, it is the essence of the individual; their personality and their impact on their family and society that continues to live on in the memory of those still living that learn about the individual or knew them personally.
The idea that one must have a belief or claim they know that there is an after life and a loving god to cope with death a myth.
|Subject:||Thanks. I think you've grasped what I was driving at.|
|Date:||Sep 26 21:59|
|I think what I was trying to say it that by feeling
that her belief helps her cope with the pain of death, she is not really
facing the pain.
I don't mean to offend people who do hold a belief in an afterlife. I'm not sure that I don't believe in an afterlife.
I think the point I'm trying to raise is that we must examine our experience, no matter what we finally choose to believe.
|Subject:||History is strewn with death and calamity. How do you cope with history?|
|Subject:||Re: Not sure if I get your point.|
|Date:||Sep 26 22:18|
|Are you saying that we ultimately have to deal with
death of those we know in the same way we deal with the tragedies and
injustices of history? That is the same thing expressed in different
As I said, I was just thinking how believing you have the "truth" might tend to limit one's examination of the pain and joy of life. That believing you have the answer to painful realities becomes a shortcut to dealing with the pain.
|Subject:||I agree with rafiki - death is one of two of the most common shared human experiences|
|Date:||Sep 26 22:33|
|and it is obvious that people have developed many
ways of coping with it. It is unreasonable to believe that everyone who
knows someone who dies believes in a christian-like afterlife, or even
an afterlife at all. But obviously they carry on with their lives.
It is myopic to believe that there are not ways of carrying on with life in the absence of a belief in the afterlife. History proves it.
|Subject:||I agree. I don't know what my point is.|
|Date:||Sep 26 22:50|
> Are you saying that we ultimately have to deal with death of those we know in the same way we deal with the tragedies and injustices of history? That is the same thing expressed in different magnitudes?
I hadn't thought of it like that, but I guess it is the same thing. Not that many people I know closely have died, and those that have have at least had a somewhat lucky life prior to death. So it is the tragedies and injustices of history that I can't see a way to cope with. Present history along with past.
> As I said, I was just thinking how believing you have the "truth" might tend to limit one's examination of the pain and joy of life. That believing you have the answer to painful realities becomes a shortcut to dealing with the pain.
Yeah. It can be a bad shortcut, imo, because it dulls us to reality. I can learn whatever I want about the world, but it won't necessarily hit me with the same force if I believe that the truth is nothing in this life can really harm someone in the long run, aside from disobedience and rebellion.
If this life is it, there is no anesthesia from history.
What I would like to be the case is for there to be life after death, and God. Since believing God will solve things seems to be something that could be a bad idea if there is no God to do the solving, I think it would be better for me to assume that people are responsible for their own destiny, not God. I am not at all sure that there exists a solving God. I don't think that such a God exists, I must admit. I still want some part of people to continue on after death, though (not body, not soul, not memory, but *something*, like will to live), and cannot let go of that. I think that is because I can't cope with history, or think I can't. I admire anyone who can.
|Subject:||Re: Your posts have intrigued me.|
|Date:||Sep 26 23:07|
|Clearly you are a thoughtful person trying to come
to grips with life.
I agree, I'd like to believe in god and an afterlife. As I say, I don't know that I don't. I just can't affirm it as a certainty.
You get my point, that the shortcut of certainty is a way of avoiding the smack-in-the-face pain that is part of life.
My TBM friend was saying, in essence, that she can cope with the pain of death because she "knows with every fiber of her being" that she will be reunited with her mother or whomever in the CK. Therefore, looking into the void of loss can be set aside.
Many of us have to look into that void and come to grips with our parents and their ultimate absence and what that means to who we are and how we carry on without that absolute faith that we will be reunited.
Frankly, with all due respect to my friend, she is quoting what she has been taught from the cradle. I wonder if she has had to examine the way loss feels. It is reassuring to believe that there will be a reunion in heaven, but . . . .
Does it become a substitute for working through the pain of life? An "anesthesia from history" and from life as you put it?
As for a "solving god," well, my dear, another can of worms!
|Subject:||I agree with the things you've said.|
|Date:||Sep 27 01:28|
> My TBM friend was saying, in essence, that she can cope with the pain of death because she "knows with every fiber of her being" that she will be reunited with her mother or whomever in the CK. Therefore, looking into the void of loss can be set aside.
Yeah. And I can't blame her for that.
> Does it become a substitute for working through the pain of life? An "anesthesia from history" and from life as you put it?
Well... pain in and of itself isn't good in my book. So I think to some degree whatever brings someone comfort is probably good - but maybe there is a balance between going without any comforting beliefs (which really are only comforting if you can buy into them deep down) and doping up to the degree that there is no feeling or connection with reality such that people can act and respond to things which happen.
I guess I would have no way of knowing if your friend is balanced. I'm looking for a balance I can buy into, myself. Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts.
|Subject:||The essence of death|
|Date:||Sep 26 22:34|
|There are so many little dyings....it's hard to know
which one of them is death.
For me, the feeling of belonging to the universe is the only way I get by on the issue of death. As an atheist, with a keen eye on pantheism, I strive to stay in the "flow" of the universe. That "flow" for me is what I can only call spirituality, which I define as follows: Spirituality allows meaning to flow into my daily life.
My belief tells me that the soul, or essence, of the dead returns from whence it came: the universe. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust leaves out one very important aspect: matter to matter. Our souls and intelligence, our essence if you will, is made up from the very matter which makes up the universe. These things belong to the universe in ways that differ to how they belong to us. Our essence allows for this interconnectedness because it is connected to everything else in the universe.
I believe each of us has the ability to tune into that flow of matter...that flow of essence, which allows the dead to live on in a way far more meaningful than living on some planet far, far away, making babies, converting non-believers, performing silly ceremonies, and continuing to live the same bland, vanilla life that was lived (or not as the case may be) here.
I guess in the end, the only solace I have in death is that when I return to the universe, my soul and my intelligence will both be free to share the wonders of the universe not only with the souls and intelligence of those that have gone on ahead of me, but also with those still here, if they're willing to discover the powerful flow of meaning that's out there...waiting for all of us to tap if we so desire.
I don't need a god to have this belief. I don't need a religion to tell me what the afterlife is. I don't need anyone at all telling me how it will all be when we're dead and gone. I only need to be at ease with MY belief on the subject.
|Subject:||Re: Very interesting.|
|Date:||Sep 26 22:46|
|I think you've expressed, John, something I'm trying
to come to terms with in my own experience. Only I have but inchoate
thoughts and a patchwork experience.
There was a thread the other day in which I mentioned current thinking among string theory thinkers that everything is literally connected. I think this tends toward the same kind of thinking you're expressing.
Thanks for posting that. I'd like to get a better understanding of what you're saying.
Ultimately, I reiterate, I just don't know and am open to experience. I'm just trying to be honest with myself as I live my life.
Oh -- and one thing -- it makes it make sense to scatter the ashes of someone to the universe.
|Subject:||I don't know either...|
|Date:||Sep 26 23:39|
|...which I think, if I haven't missed the salient
point, IS the point.
I have been a student of Systems Theory for a long time. I have some very well thought out opinions and speculations on the interconnected nature of the universe. I not only believe all the matter of the universe came into existence at the moment of the Big Bang, I also believe all the intelligence in the universe came into existence at the same time. That would suggest that I believe my essence, and your essence, and the essence of every other person - past, present, future - also came into existence at the same time.
It would also mean we have not only all been around since the moment of the Big Bang, but will be for the entire duration of eternity (I do not believe in the shrinking universe theory). In what manner, capacity, or form I'm not certain, but I think our intelligence and our souls do know because they have been doing so for roughly 15 billion years.
I believe intelligence is matter, made up of sub-atomic particles, and it literally flows through the universe, like blood coursing through our veins. If I am correct, this flow of matter has simply got to be something we can tap into, if we so desire, because our souls and our intelligence know how to do it. Unfortunately, most of us do not trust things like meditation and other thought-clearing methods.
I have written copious amounts on this subject, and if I can round it up I'd be very happy to share it with you. In the meantime I can recommend to you some various items to read and/or watch:
The Nature of the Universe - Lucretius. Lucretius, who lived roughly 2500 years ago, was the very definition of pantheism. He was a very eloquent writer and this book, which flows more like poetry than prose, is one of the finest looks at the soul, intelligence, and interconnectedness ever written. At times you feel like weeping because it's so beautifully written. Some of his views by today's scientific standards might seem laughable, but the writer in you will overlook all of that in favor of what Lucretius was really saying. Very much worth the time and effort to read.
Belonging to the Universe - Frijtof Capra, David Steindl-Rast, Thomas Matus. This book may have a little more religion in it than you care for (Rast is a Benedictine Monk), but these are three heavyweight intellectuals (Capra in particular) who talk about the universe, connectedness, and spirituality in some very deep and meaningful ways. I read this book because I am familiar with all the works of Capra. He is a brilliant physicist and systems theorist and appeals to my intellect on this subject. Also worth the read.
Mindwalk. Mindwalk is a movie from around 1990 starring Liv Ullmann, Sam Waterston, and John Heard. Set at a castle in Mt. Saint Michel, France, Ullmann is a systems theorist physicist on vacation who runs into Heard (a poet) and his friend Waterston (a politician) at this castle. For 90 minutes they basically have a discussion on the very interconnected nature of the universe, interlaced with some real world politics and some beautiful Pablo Neruda poetry. Very much worth the time, and the setting is so beautiful as to lend to the mood being set by the conversation. Mindwalk can usually be found at any sizable rental store, and for certain can be purchased online. Available only on VHS (much to my displeasure) but so very much worth the watch.
When I round up some of my old writings on this subject, I'll let you know.
|Subject:||Re: Systems theory|
|Date:||Sep 26 23:52|
|I'd be interested in reading what you've written on
this. I'm interested in Systems Theory -- not that I know anything about
it but generalities.
My therpist helped me get through the thicket that surrounded my family and my husband's family through her understanding of systems, so it is dear to my heart.
Please keep me posted.
|Subject:||Re: I don't know either...|
|Date:||Sep 27 01:45|
|So do you think that your essence continues as a
distinct entity, or do you think the finer (can I say
"spiritual"?) essence which is currently existing as you
becomes dispersed and continues in scattered places (in which case your
essence would have come from various other essences in the past which
were also not distinct)?
Or, is this not a question which arises, because I have misunderstood the explanation?
Another question: which option would you find more comforting? I would find the scattered option more comforting.
Thanks for the book recommendations. I think I might be going way, way overboard (obsessed? addicted? just plain weird, maybe?) with reading recently, but it's better to have too long a list of things I want to read and enjoy reading (am often riveted) than no list at all, and be bored. "Belonging to the Universe" and "Nature of the Universe" sound good.
|Subject:||Actually, being egocentric as I am|
|Date:||Sep 27 01:51|
|I prefer the idea of the survival of the distinct
individual soul. But I don't know. I know nothing, in fact.
David Lodge, an English novelist I enjoy, has a novel called, I think, Paradise News, a twist on the Percival legend and a spoof of English departments, that ends with a vision of souls mingling in a dispersed and unified way, what you describe. I didn't like the idea of losing one's identity when I first read it, but it was perhaps my insularity.
I don't know. What can we say but that?
|Subject:||Siog my love, I didn't know you'd been seeing a therapist.|
|Date:||Sep 27 00:20|
|I knew you'd been seeing a therapist for a long time
but had no idea you'd gotten into therapy. Wow, that's wonderful! Good
And on a more serious note, I like the concepts that John's talking about. This idea of interconnectedness and intelligence being matter that continues indefinitely, really seems to be the only concept that works at all for me anymore.
I've had experiences that make it clear that something continues after the body dies. I don't know what it is but my experiences have made it clear that something goes on. Why not intelligence?
Like you, I've been struggling a lot with all of these concepts for the past several years. I honestly don't know what to think anymore. I feel like I'm in a state of transition where my spiritual paradigm is concerned and have sort of mostly made peace with that.
One of my all-time favorite books is called The Way of Transition by William Bridges. In it I learned that we often go through periods in our life when we're not who we used to be but we're not yet that new person either - somewhere between the old and the new - not one and not the other either. It's in these states of transition that we often find ourselves wandering about the universe of possibilities feeling uncertain and lost and sometimes very alone.
Making peace with being in transition is what Bridges talks about. His experiences and thoughts on this changed my life. You might find the book really interesting Siog. I know it deeply affected me. I keep it by my bed even though I don't read it often. Just seeing it once in awhile reminds me that it's OK to be in a state of transition where my spiritual and emotional feelings are concerned.
Here's the link to it on Amazon:
How does this relate to coping with the death of someone we love? I have no idea girl. I'm in transition and can't be held responsible for my thoughts and feelings at the moment.
[insert smiley face]
|Subject:||Re: Tom, my love, are you making fun of my spelling?|
|Date:||Sep 27 01:26|
|If you are, I'll come down to OC and jump into your
bed and read the books on your bedside table and scare your boyfriend
As for the concepts of soul and essence and matter we are discussing here tonight, interconnectness and the essence of being, yes, it is of interest of me and is more or less where I am now.
And since you have an inkling of my secret, deep, deep secret affair, it is operating more or less in this plane.
As for the pain in facing death, I've faced it before, many times. This is not the worst just, perhaps, the most bewildering.
kisses, my love,
|Date:||Sep 27 00:34|
|whoa! how was I a tbm for over twenty years and
never learn of this? they never taught in in yw, I guess. so how many of
you knew of this and what is the ratio of utah/nonutah mormons who do
it? are there extra special requirements?
On another note, I love your thoughts. I've been struggling with the death thing ever since I left. It's become almost a phobia but I'm learning to deal just the way you described. thank you for your thoughts. :-)
|Subject:||Re: There are others more qualified to speak of the second endowment|
|Date:||Sep 27 01:34|
|Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad my thoughts
on this are reaching you. It's a lifelong struggle I think -- no easy
answers, but worth exploring.
As to the second endowment, there is, apparently, a super secret ritual for the really, really in-club that involves an endowment in the upper room. My friend, referred to above, is the daughter of a GA. She presumably was then in line to receive this with her husband.
Now, note, I don't know for a fact that she did, because she wouldn't have been able to tell me. But she dropped a broad hint. At the time, I didn't know what she meant, but since I've been here, I've come to understand that there is this "special" ordinance.
You could do a search on it or you could post a query. There are others who have more information. It is an open secret that the inner circle have access to this ritual that is supposedly supposed to ensure them entry into the kingdom or whatever.
If you didn't hear about it as a TBM, that's because it's supposed to be a secret.
Recovery from Mormonism - The Mormon Church - www.exmormon.org