• Tag Archives Easter
  • Is there life after birth?

    Spring                                            Awakening Moon

    Resurrection makes sense on a day like today; as it happens, Easter Sunday.  66 degrees, green popping out all over, pachysandra continuing its green invasion (planned) of the third tier of our perennial gardens, daffodils in bloom and many, many throwing up their green spears toward the sun.  Tulips and garlic and parsnips.  Buzzing bees.  Dogs running and jumping.  The air moved around with light, warm breezes.  Who says the dead don’t come to life?

    In spite of the easter bonnets, the died eggs, chocolate bunnies and marshmallow ducks this is the key event in the Christian liturgical calendar.  With no resurrection the other claims are nothing more than interesting two-millennia old ethics and culture.  With resurrection all the other claims take on a sacred aura, through them you too can participate in the life after death.

    This is such an odd thought, once you step outside the hermeneutical circle.  Not so much that a God could bring the dead back to life, I mean, God, right?  Not so much that people could believe it, many strange things are known with or without philosophy, after all.  No, for me, the strange thing, in retrospect, is that the club has so many convoluted rules.

    A loving God who retrieves his own son from the ferry and returns him to life.  OK.  A loving God who promises the same thing to others.  OK.  A loving God who seems convinced that many won’t make it and end up either vanished or in gehenna, the burning waste dump outside the city walls?  Geez.  Of course, His game, His rules.  Yeah. But why go through the motions for only a few, a select few. That’s not only weird, it seems perverse.  We can’t understand God’s logic?  Boy, is that true.

    Anyhow, enough about Him.  Me, I’m in for the resurrection that comes from mixing my essential elements back into the soil, providing a little food for the fungi and micro-organisms in the soil, the soul?  What if that’s what the after life really is, our souls collected in the mass grave that is this earth to become food for the worms?  Works for me.

    It’s possible, of course, and I like to entertain the idea that death is a process like the cocoon, a time of incubation when our cells become, like the butterflies, imaginal.  They reshape themselves into a new think altogether, a Swallowtail from a caterpillar.  It happens here.  I’ve seen it.  Or, maybe we’re like water, in this shape in this state, but in a gas or a  solid, something related but different.  Or, and this  one seems the most plausible to me, the many worlds hypothesis turns out to be true and we pass from world to world, inhabiting this body, perhaps another, on and on and on until last syllable of reported time.

    Resurrection is so important a possibility, is my point, that it shouldn’t have a morals clause or be dependent on what we believe.  If it is, it just is and we will be swept up into something new, something different and have another go.  I like that idea.

  • Imaginal Cells and the Afterlife

    37  bar steady 29.86 k0mph WNW windchill 37  melting.  it’s melting!

         Waxing Gibbous Moon of Winds

    At times the days go by with little more than random patterns, but in these days after my return from Hawai’i there has been purpose in each one.  Today I worked with Transcendentalism and finished a brief summary using annotated links and edited my presentation, Transcendent Thinking, for this Sunday at Groveland. 

    This Sunday happens to be Easter.  Imagine my surprise as I edited this piece and noticed that it ended with an image entirely appropiate to the Easter concept.  I say surprise because I wrote Transcendent back in mid-January before my trip to Hawai’i and only recently learned this was to be Easter Sunday.  This is as early as Easter can be or within a day or two, so I hadn’t tumbled to it.  Here are the closing paragraphs:

    Death, though, is not the only truth, or perhaps better, it’s not the whole truth.  All faith traditions wrestle with the question of an after-life, not surprising since most anthropologists and historians of religion peg the development of spirituality-the inner world of faith and wonder-and religion-the outer, institutionalized world of beliefs and rituals-to questions about death. What was it?  What happened?  What did it mean?

    The mythopoetic stories of dying and rising gods like Osiris in Egypt, Jesus in the Middle East, Mithras and Attis represent a grappling with the question of life and after-life in terms of vegetative symbolism.  

    During the winter, more than once my thoughts turn to the daffodil bulbs, the tulips, the iris, the hemerocallis, the true lilies, the bug-bane, hosta, maidenhair fern and lady fern, peonies and bleeding hearts as they rest, buried beneath soil and snow.  Some, the garlic in particular this year, lie also beneath six inches of straw.  All this life adapted to winters during which the air temperature drops to -18, even -38 (three or four years ago). 

    There are so many miracles.  The sun shines, our heart beats and these hardy plants pull themselves in for a season.  Instead of wasting the cold months by feverishly working to stay warm or hunting for shelter outside themselves, they cast aside their above ground parts: stem, leaves, flowers and seed pods, leaving them withered in the face of harsh conditions. 

    The plants retreat inside their own, individual root cellars.  In them they have laid by sufficient nourishment to catch the wave of warm air when the soil around them rises in temperature enough to wake them from their slumber.

    When I think of this my heart goes out to the bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes.  As I often feel for my own sons and grandchildren, I feel a fondness for them that radiates joy in the durability of my offspring.  This is not some spring nostalgia at work; no, this is simple appreciation for the millions of years of evolutionary work that has preceded this winter and adapted these wonderful, colorful livelinessess to grace our land.

    It is not a stretch to consider death in the same way.  We wither and cast aside our above ground parts, the body, then go to some unknown equivalent of the soil to rest for a period, to wait until conditions are right for our return.

    If the advocates of string theory have it right, there are multiverses, multiple branching realities based on alternative outcomes to our daily lives.  It is possible that one of those multiverses is the metaphysical realm, literally a realm beyond our physics, beyond the reach of our senses, where the seed of our life goes, where it may blossom and grow and live in a form quite different from the one we now know.

    Here’s another way to think about it.  Go out into your garden this fall and find a wriggly caterpillar happily consuming your favorite flower or vegetable.  Watch that caterpillar over the next few weeks as it spins a cocoon.  What goes on inside?

    Here’s an explanation:

    The Imaginal Cell Story

    The caterpillar’s new cells are called ‘imaginal cells.’
    They are so totally different from the caterpillar cells
    that his immune system thinks they are enemies… and gobbles them up.

    But these new imaginal cells continue to appear. More and more of them!
    Pretty soon, the caterpillar’s immune system
    cannot destroy them fast enough.
    More and more of the imaginal cells survive.
    And then an amazing thing happens!

    The little tiny lonely imaginal cells start to clump together
    into friendly little groups.
    They all resonate together at the same frequency,
    passing information from one to another.
    Then, after awhile, another amazing thing happens!

    The clumps of imaginal cells start to cluster together!
    A long string of clumping and clustering imaginal cells,
    all resonating at the same frequency,
    all passing information from one to another there inside the chrysalis.

    Then at some point,
    the entire long string of imaginal cells
    suddenly realizes all together
    that it is something different from the caterpillar.
    Something new! Something wonderful!
    …and in that realization
    is the shout of the birth of the butterfly!

    Since the butterfly now “knows” that it is a butterfly,
    the little tiny imaginal cells
    no longer have to do all those things individual cells must do.
    Now they are part of a multi-celled organism-
    A FAMILY who can share the work.

    Each new butterfly cell can take on a different job-
    There is something for everyone to do.
    And everyone is important.
    And each cell begins to do just that very thing it is most drawn to do.
    And every other cell encourages it to do just that.

    A great way to organize a butterfly!”

    *Adapted Version of Nori Huddle’s story from her book, Butterfly

    These considerations lead me to an agnostic position when it comes to the afterlife.  The ancients may have known something we find difficult to approach with our highly rational, often scientistic take on such matters.  They knew the miracle of the grain that falls on the soil and springs to life, birthing a plant quite unlike its size and appearance.  And what a miracle!

    The ancients did not have string theory to propose multiverses, but we do.  It does not have to answer questions about the after-life, but it could.

    The ancients did not know about imaginal cells, but we do.  What if death is a process to ignite our imaginal cells, creating a flame version of  ourselves burning bright in another time and place?