Wednesday, 14 June 2017

To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before?

Time, Time, Time, what has become of me?' So the song goes. Ok  much light has streamed in through the old windows since I've posted my last entry. And now it's summer. Many of us are choosing the items that will make up our 20 kg baggage allowance; including our summer reading. So what will it be this year? A few summer romances? An intriguing thriller perhaps? Or something a bit heavier, something that deals with one of life's big questions? The existence of an afterlife perhaps? Eh????

One book that I've finished recently deals with just that subject.  The main character of Montefiore's novel  'The Italian Matchmaker', Luca, continually seems the spirit of an Italian woman's dead son, Francesco. And this is central of the story's plot. In this way the author uses her own personal experience to cause us to reflect on our own life's journey. She states that she has seen spirits on and off her whole life and has no doubt that the afterlife exists. I wonder what your thoughts are? In this post I will review some of the key arguments for and against the existence of the afterlife and share my own belief. I hope that, in turn, you will share your own views with me in the feedback.
So let's start with the arguments against. And what better place to start than with a website titled 'Common Sense Atheism' in which Sam Harris argues that belief in an afterlife in which our dead brain can recognise our predecessors speaking our own language is simply absurd. Let's call this argument one. You are the sum total of your thoughts, experiences and memories. Yet the brain dies when the heart stops pumping blood into it. The light goes out. We are no more.
The second argument seems to be  the well known fact that certain drugs such as Lithium
alter people's behaviour and personality. We are material- or chemical- beings.
The third argument would seem to be that the physical brain, therefore, is the mind. There are hundreds of cases where accidental damage to the brain has altered a person's perceptions, memories, emotions and personality- the whole self.
Finally how is it possible, therefore, to survive as a person when our brain's electricity current has been has shutdown?
Life is precious indeed. You only get one life as they say. Let's not waste it. As George Clooney stated that he wouldn't allow 'this life the only thing I know to exist to be wasted'. Anurag Kumar, Director of Science at Bangalore University, India, goes further and states 'I wish there was an afterlife, because the most frightening aspect of our lives is its impossibility'.
But is its existence really such an impossibility? Let's consider the case for its existence. Doctors have found brain activity 10 minutes AFTER 'death'. As many as a fifth of people who survived cardiac arrests reported having an other-wordly experience while 'clinically' dead. Scientists at the University of Southampton have spent 4 years  examining the cases of 2000 people who suffered cardiac arrests in 15 hospitals in the Uk, US and Austria and they found that nearly 40% of the people described some kind of 'awareness' during the time they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted. One man even recalled leaving his body entirely and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room. Despite being 'dead' for 3 minutes the 57 year old social worker from Southampton recounted the activities of nursing staff in detail and described the sound of the machines.
'We know that the brain can't function when the heart has stopped beating', said Dr Sam Parnia, a former research fellow at Southampton University, now the State University of New York, who led the study. 'but in this case conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to 3 minutes into the period when the heart wasn't beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped'.

These findings have been corroborated in a number of parallel investigations. One French anaesthetist of 25 years experience, Jean Jacques Charbonier, M.D. gathered hundreds of accounts of patients who had returned from clinical death. There were a number of striking similarities across these accounts, that came from patients from a wide number of social backgrounds. He found indisputable proof that these experiences were not hallucinations. With every experience that was recounted to him he found himself more and more convinced of the existence of life after death. So much so that he wrote a book 'Seven Reasons To Believe In The afterlife'. In this book he begins with the 60 million people worldwide who have reported having an afterlife experience. He states that by releasing our fear of death, we can properly prepare for 'the final journey'. He stated that those who have returned from death have shown us that it is merely a transition and its lessons enable us to live more fully, peacefully and happily in the present.

So there we have it: the case for and against the existence of the afterlife. The evidence for seems not only to be more plentiful but also much more intriguing. I leave you to choose your own summer reading.One thing's for sure. For our final journey there are no return tickets. Its space without the space rocket. There will be no coming back.

Death, like space, the final frontier. Like space travellers, our spirits, have a strange new world to explore. Hopefully we can now boldly go where no man has gone before.
For many the jury's still out. For me, the case was decided a long time ago. During the darkest period in my own life- a nightmare of 7 months duration- a number of remarkable coincidences occurred; the odds of even one of these naturally occurring would have been millions to one. If we can't explain all the events which take place in our own lives how can we possibly explain away the existence of a life hereafter? With this in mind I go boldly towards the place that no man has gone before.

                                   Do you? Please share your thoughts and experiences.