Re: Life and death
Thank you very much for your reply.
I am so sorry to hear about your health-problems. Hopefully, though, it will be a very long time before you reach the days "when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them". Certainly, I have noticed that age brings with it some challenges, and my heart condition and rheumatoid arthritis certainly means that the physical aspects of my aikido training are associated with some little "troubles". Better technique helps a bit and certainly the mental and spiritual aspects provide avenues that did not interest me so much in my youth.
You are right, of course; I cannot know if a death that appears peaceful is truly peaceful or not and I most definitely know nothing about a potential "afterlife" or what the hell (or heaven) "nonexistence" may be. The experiences of the dying and dead, of course, are described in a myriad of ways, from the "Tibetan book of the dead" and the adventures of the Bardo to "new age style" descriptions of near-death experiences. Not all deaths appear peaceful, but it seems there is a possibility that the brain (or whatever), at some stage though, alters sensation and cognition from the external/physical to something else. I have observed -- in the dying -- some sort of "rapture" combined with serenity and I have heard statements that seem unreasonable unless there was some sort of "increased awareness" on behalf of the dying person. Do I know any of this is so? No, it's all observation together with speculation and fantasy I'm afraid. I am very sorry to hear about your mother's alzheimer's. Paradoxically my own wonderful mother (93) is in the late stages of alzheimer's - and she is having the best years of her life, but I suppose that is another story...
As to whether there is an afterlife or -- "something", my own spontaneous beliefs go mostly in the direction of some sort of "essence" which carries on as a part of everything -- individual or not, conscious or not. My hopes go more in the direction of epicurean nonexistence, which seems very restful 😊. Reincarnation seems exhausting and I am certainly not fit for any angelic or demonic duty in heaven or hell. I like to observe nature, was a total geek and originally studied geology/paleontology/biology and I have noticed that many have used nature as a model to speculate on death and the thereafter, death representing an integral part of nature and certainly being the dualistic necessity for life. A plant grows up from its root, later to return to it in true taoistic fashion, only to return to growing upwards and outwards from the root again in the spring. From this we come to the Yins and the Yangs and all the other fundamentals in the belief systems underlying the Asian martial arts, hereunder Aikido. Whether these observations/models of nature are truly applicable to what is beyond is an open question. Thinking about what it could be like, though, seems to me a worthwhile endeavor, indeed in terms of death as the perspective on life, death being the potential distiller and judge of the meaning of life and the moral standards of the living.
In Aikido there is so much yin/yang (life/death) symbolism. A wonderful example is irimi nage -- the involutionary spiral being replaced by the throw of the subsequent evolutionary spiral. The involutionary spiral may start high and move towards the earth, while the evolutionary spiral may end in a throw at a higher level. This, then, is an image of the self-perpetuating vortex, the classic and archetypical model of nature, of life and death -- at least if you want it to be 😊.
Life and death together truly is a miracle. If there is a God and a heaven that is a fantastic miracle. If there is nothing, "just" nonexistence after a moment of random life in a universe that just came out of nothing, then that is a miracle too. I try to ponder the miracle while struggling with the technique and my old body, laughing and joking and developing together with my dearest friends in the dojo. Thankfully there are so many depths in Aikido, sometimes it's about the (very enjoyable!!!) physical aspects of technique -- right and left -- and sometimes it's about life and death, both as meditation/reflection and sometimes, at least to me, it's about the deeper individual meaning of life -- and death.
I wish you all the best, thank you very much for your input!