Saturday, August 29, 2009

Copyright E. A. Benjamins aka Jaņdžs
23 Death Has No Bite?

Death is no more—so goes the message. Jesus, the Santa Claus of neo-Christians, has taken the sting out of death by taking himself up to heaven. Heretofore, this has been a sure-fire method to resurrection—by way of rhetoric. Today, the last day of days (spacecraft hovering over slums to make us note them ), is the result of believing in nonsense.

Incredibly, we make-believe we believe in the truth of priestly fiction. It is as when a child sees Santa Claus come through the door and is convinced that he is real and crawls under a chair. Still, we continue to tell our children the story. Why propagate such an obvious untruth?

The answer is that such practices set precedent for belief in similar, but more important fictions. For example, many make-believe—perhaps they are not 100% sure, but are sure nonetheless—that after Jesus died on the cross death was no more.

Each one of us persuades him-herself about our deathlessness in his-her own way. If truth is told, I see myself walking not on water, but on air. Though this seems incredible, there is logic to it. There was a time when I used to live in an apartment on the fifth floor. Then there came airplanes, dropped bombs, and the building collapsed. The spot where the building stood remains empty to this day. Every time when I walk past my former address, I see myself sitting on the floor there and playing with my electric train set.

It is also easy to walk on water. All we need is the ice on a pond with no snow cover. If I then skate a pebble across it, my cat will chase after it and appear to be walking on water (see photo at start of blog).

It is easy to walk over fire as well. You scatter over a path several sacks of charcoal and grind the charcoal down so it looks like dust. Then you stretch along one side of the path a hemp rope soaked in oil. You put a match to the rope. You have a friend take a photograph as you walk along the charcoal path, and then you send the photograph by mobile telephone to your friends. Rather than disbelieve their eyes or think you are a graduate student at the college of secret arts, your friends are gullible enough to believe that you have learned to hypnotize yourself and feel no pain. If you feel no pain, the logic goes you are fireproof.

By making of death a joke at the home and leaving the dying to far away wars—no matter how many photographs of that war you see—death will remain unreal. This is one reason why we succumb to soothsayers, aromatherapy, crystal therapy, and—most assuredly—money therapy. Money and gold can talk us out of believing death is real most convincingly.

If we believe anyone of the above rabbits to be real, we discount consciousness and believe that death comes to us as it does in nature, suddenly and unexpectedly. Our consciousness—its ability to make deductions and to reason—has little place in the lives of those who believe in miracles. Indeed, we then call consciously effected death of ourselves unnatural and unethical. Like monkeys in the trees, we prefer to think that we fall off the branch and disappear . As consumers of the “survivor of the fittest” theory, we continue to dip our potato chips in dill sauce, and the market economy keeps functioning as before—robbing the “unfit”.

Nevertheless, there are other ways of looking at life. If Jesus is John (one of the Johns certainly), then there are many Johns and Joans, even as each is a singular being and after their death never appears again. This singularity is why the Johns make an effort to die because of a decision to die. Such free will decisions makes Johns and Joans an inconvenience to the capitalist economy. By dying of their own choice, we become the opposition to supernaturalist permissiveness and the relativity of thought.

A conventional answer to the subjective fears that conscious death brings goes something like this: I did not ask to be born and, therefore, I am not responsible for the time of my death. Is it not enough that I have lived my life and obeyed my country’s laws? If the country asked me to defend it against its enemies (whether I am president or simple soldier), and I did so. I am sorry if the drones that I guided from a van in Texas killed and maimed the groom, the bride, and all the wedding guests of that Afghan village. If my finger on the remote button is the one that released the rocket, I am sorry that my enthusiasm as a child for airplanes led to my enlistment in the air force. It was my duty to push the button. My priest confirms that I did right when he tells me that God forgives me.

Even so, there are other ways of thinking about how one in possession of consciousness should live one’s life. Whatever the injunction of any moral law, the interpretation of what one does is up to the individual and no one else. If that individual accepts a priest or president as the interpreter of the moral law, he-she gives his-her singularity over to another human being. We become drones under the thumb of individuals who are more equal than we are to consume the Earth for their profit. Until the authorities save us by sending us to be consumed in a war (or retire us as no longer useful, or we all fall altogether caught up in a “natural” disaster), we keep our consciousness unencumbered by responsibilities.

There are strong indications that capricious individualism (all talk and no action) spawned by capitalism brings upon itself and the world a catastrophe. It is the responsibility of consciousness to avert the catastrophe. Only by living one’s life as a conscious singularity, one that permits no intermediary between it and its death, are we creating for our community a perpetual future.

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