What happens after we die? I can’t truly answer that question but turns out that many people experience death anxiety years before that final event.
Lots of people have different opinions about what takes place shortly after we exhale that last breath. Some want to believe in an afterlife; in heaven and hell. Others are certain of reincarnation; yet there are those who are quite sure the soul merges back into some ultimate pool of energy.
Reading Staring at the Sun, a book by Irvin Yalom dedicated primarily to Overcoming the Terror of Death, Yalom discusses some of these ideas. One approach he mentions resonated with me as it’s one I already subscribe to via my own explorations of various approaches to death. Though familiar with this idea, there was a lesson for me in the way Yalom introduced it. I am referring to the idea Yalom calls Rippling.
Yalom starts by mentioning the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus and his school of thought of nothingness: we all come from nothingness and, when we expire, we go back to nothingness. No soul, no afterlife, nothing. Our only impact is during our short lives in this body, expressed through everything we do; anything and anyone we touch, any action (or lack of) we take. Thus, and this is already my own interpretation of the above, we each must have been “living” for thousands of years prior – since before life started on this planet, as we are each a result of some unknown and endless preceding events, and we will each continue to “exist” for eternity as tiny particles in the infinite puzzle of existence. Some may find comfort in this idea while others may be terrified. But regardless, the concept of Rippling is tangible. The effect of our individual lives is like ripples on the surface of a lake. As Chung Tzo wrote in a chapter titled The Secret of Caring for Life, and which I take to be the same as Rippling: “Though the grease burns out of the torch, the fire passes on, and no one knows where it ends.” Thus every word we say, every act we take, is of immense importance. It will linger long past our awakened moments.
Learned from: Staring at the Sun by Irvin D. Yalom