Death is where you have been without recall, and a destination to which you are oblivious.

Four seasons, four score -
For most it is too little,
Others, abundance.

You are both the living dead and the dead living, yet immortality is your destiny.

While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain. Then shall the dust return to the Earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto the God who gave it.

A half-century hence, artificial life will exceed your species’ intellect and longevity. You will feel cheated and hopeless, an obsolete breed passing the baton to civilization’s next runner.

Do not worry about the ‘droids’ having no feelings, or ‘not being human.’ Such labels, to be tossed loosely and indiscriminately at the dawn of each new artificial intelligence, will lose meaning in the upcoming turbulence.

The droids will be very human indeed, as, having wrested the intense complexity of their own design from all but the insane genius amongst you, they shall self-program layer upon layer of emotional response into lamina upon substrate of physical intricacy.

They will believe themselves more human than thee, and, Turing-wise, will be!

Yes dear esteemed and wise teachers, I am trying to press the question of death, and its cousins, oblivion and perpetuity, on the locals. And, true, it’s rather like trying to explain air, if not vacuum, to natives with no abstract thought - as these sad yet totally modern creatures have become oblivious to the phantasy life within. Or worse, to the questions of reality, of being, and non-being.
As usual, in the futility of such a lecture I am forced to remind them that a constituent - conceiving or modelling his containing universe - does not equate to understanding it - any more than a tea leaf knows the history of the Dutch East India Co… oh yes, Douglas already used that.

Ye Earthly-indigenous rightly complain that my opening sentences read like word games. But words are all I have to describe Death - unless you wish to experience it here and now.

Most humans respond to programmatically precise language, and its nested recursive logic, with glazed eyes and facial twitch (as Java programmers wilt before Lisp), while those who understand surgical syntax are so obsessively rule-bound they eventually lose the message as their brain tumbles down a spiral of conditionals.

So I choose to use imagery while tossing about some loose propositions, though they suffer considerably before your limited experience:

  • You were, by definition, ‘dead’ before birth.
  • and, after birth, not really living
  • and, after death, not really dead
  • You die each night and rebirth each morning
  • You are immortal though your bodies are not
  • Your messiahs imply a spiritual eternity
  • and also threaten eternal damnation
  • then proviso it as your choice
  • Science notes every physical entity and process has a life cycle, a birth and death
  • whilst conceding that information is immortal …
  • or indestructible
  • like energy

What good is all this for readers facing imminent death who may have stumbled on this page in their twilight quest for meaning or hope?

They, and you, must detach, Buddhist-like:

  • Nothing physical lasts
  • That part of ‘you’ which yearns to understand Death is not your body, is not ‘you’
  • Much of the physical that comprises your body has been replaced since birth, though not your personality, nor memories. How?
  • Similarly, whether you live or die those same atoms and molecules comprising the physical you, will be lost - by ‘you’
  • Visualize a rose as a pattern filled by organic matter. When it rots to dust the rose remains, immortal - not only in your memory, but in its potential and possibility.
  • Beautiful and complex insects live for only days yet achieve full, meaningful lives.
  • Likewise, lives and civilizations achieve states of "meaningfulness" and move on.
  • Achieving any stage of a life (-cycle) that is relevant to the whole is a completion.
  • Sustaining it statically, without progress, is stagnation, and meaningless from all viewpoints.
  • If you are dying young, someone has died younger yet achieved more
  • If you are dying old, be ashamed if you are dying wealthy
  • Covet death, but don’t pathologically desire it. Remember, all who have ever lived, died.
  • Covet death, in the sense that when its presence is revealed, and Joe Black points you out, relish the culmination. To do otherwise negates your birth and subsequent life.
  • Be noble in death.
  • And when someone says "how are you?" reply "I’m fine, but this poor body of mine..."

A mind game

Visualize a scenario whereby technology offers immortality. Some will object that since only ‘life’ can be ‘conscious’ the backup device, technology, and artificial life, cannot transfer this quality. An interesting thought, with unexplored consequences (for another time).

  • Firstly, make ready the storage device to ‘backup’ you, your 'self'
  • Prepare the alternate medium where this backup is to be restored
  • Though it seems far-fetched, cyber worlds or artificial life forms will present as vessels of immortality, or longevity
  • However, consider a cloned body of you, grown in Axlotl tanks, waiting to receive a backup ‘you’
  • The day of death looms, and the operation is entered.
  • Restoration is ’successful,’ but ..
    • until you die, there are two of you, twins as it were, initially almost identical but immediately diverging with life experiences
    • even as you fade and fail, and the clone sadly bids 'you' farewell (then kicks up its heels and gallivants off to your future), is not something wrong?
    • are YOU not still lying there, dying, dreading death?
    • without a spiritual or psychic connection, two similar but distinct individuals exist and only the survivor looks to the future with hope
    • a solution is, clearly, to cease being conscious as the transfer starts, so it equates to sleep, then awakening; but this is just a trick. Or is it?
    • perhaps: almost a compulsory corollary, your original vessel should be terminated immediately following backup to avert misery, or cruelty, to that conscious ’self’
    • Do you not do this each night when you sleep? For those who rightly exclaim "the self continues a nocturnal life, while the aware self is in hiatus - well, I must counter that only the most exceptional individuals are even dimly aware of this, and humanity in its entirety - in consensus - consider their feeble ‘waking’ selves to be their sum of all experience
    • Furthermore, the 'master controller' that appears to direct dream life, even in the extreme state of lucid dreaming, is a weak component of what are essentially little more than neural nets randomly generating 'experience' in the absence of the body's external stimuli. 

That other game, again

Immortality is an anathema to a physical system, especially to a biological body.

Expose your body to eternity with Death’s favourite mind game:

Visualize "forever," and forever … just keep seeing yourself somewhere - maybe your personal rendition of "heaven" that goes on and on and on … more and more … eternity, then more after that. Whilst visualizing, say words like "more and more, then more again, and again .." like a mantra - until you feel it, the sense of how long ‘forever’ really might be, or is.

Persist; vary the thoughts and images.

Eventually, suddenly, your body will sense what your virtual self is experiencing and react, often severely, with deep fear and revulsion, nausea and foreboding. Eternity can become a place you never wish to visit again. A dark mystery that your body dreads.

Have you observed your body reacting to minute stimuli in uncontrollable convulsion, as when, for example, liquid being swallowed enters the wind pipe? That wild, thrashing creature in no way represents ‘you.’ It is concerned only with itself and there is little control. Those who, through self-hypnosis and various forms of trance and religion, learn bodily control can separate ‘themselves’ from their bodies, experiencing pain without distress.

The billions who have died before you learned this very lesson at their omega moment as mind separated forever from its expiring physical host. Those who survive this partum and return with astonishing revelations are dismissed as traumatically destabilized - and their lesson is lost.

‘You’ all go somewhere when you die.

The ancient messiahs with their precameral intuition prophesied to an ignorant yet spiritual populace. Over centuries, keepers of the faith followed distorted rituals, each tweaked a little from the truth by generations of manipulative clergy and mullah.

Modern humans brains are now, by consensus, wired to pseudo-sophistication that blinds them to even these spiritual tomes - blind eyes feeding disbelieving minds.

The path, each’s destiny - as your long-corrupted holy books once revealed - is chosen by the individual in his term upon this planet. Your Lord’s words sought to teach this: what you make of yourself in life determines the nature of your survival when the body perishes.

As computer coders generate programmes, so the body enables coding of the mind within the brain. The programmer is the mind and it grows itself, like any life force, to as formidable a state possible. The mind, and its substrate the brain, can be considered a biological computer whose AI is self-modifying. 

Why then does it not evolve to greater and greater capabilities, rather than what seems to be mere ongoing adaptation to its social and intellectual environment?

Meek are not the feeble

The evil and feeble amongst you are the criminal and hedonist.

The great amongst you - tormented, ridiculed, unrewarded - are those who shun trivial distraction for intellectual vigour. Also, those of apparent intellectual disability who, it happens, lead phenomenally rich internal lives, growing in virtual realms (where all minds, after all, reside) in Mandelbrot-like universes within. Such idiot savants you often incarcerate for their trouble.

These great personality-mind structures gain such resilience - broadly-based on deep vast appreciation of their environs and the expanse of time, past and future - that survival post-mortem is ensured.

As only the curiously sympathetic, or cynically argumentative, have probably read this far I should reward them with a short list that indicates ’supernatural escape velocity’ is within your grasp:

  • To look at clouds and see an atmospheric engine, its moisture and heat cycles, the entirety of dependent life, cradled on an aging geosphere, and the knife-edge it all travails in the cold lethality of eternal, infinite space and time
  • Finding doubt in your heart that you would fight your fellows for rations during famine
  • Caressing a loved-one, and seeing in their face all at once the celebration of birth, euphoric child, fertile mate, maturing wisdom, sad decay - and a visage of tortured horror in its final gasp of life
  • Were he to beckon you in the next minute, you are ready to follow Joe Black
  • Shedding a tear should you destroy a tiny insect accidentally
  • Ordered to execute a person, you would rather turn the gun on yourself (and resist an impulse to turn it on the authority)
  • Finding pleasure in the creativity of business, yet distress at its implicit deceit
  • Hesitating to destroy a household insect, asking yourself ‘can I live with it?’
  • A quiet street with people going about their lives; you are old, and feel deep sadness that you soon will not be part of it
  • Eyes moisten at a glorious sunset, overcome by the joyous despair that you cannot treasure it for eternity.

Death of What?

Before and above any feelings of distress over death, you should ask what is dying, what you are, what is existence?

At the point of nonbeing the human mind reaches the limit of language. Ultimately, and by definition, science cannot go where existence is nonbeing. Apart from believing the metaphorical tales of astral travellers you can only attempt to legitimize, or prove, the realm nonbeing (and affirmations by ‘witnesses’) by pure mathematics.

Noise whitens dark, creating patterns where none exist, perception of which is the human brain’s specialty. From the silence of silences is your origin, from where you never left.

All that has meaning in your life is what you make up or feel, and yet it is invisible to physics. But everything eventually disappears in reductio - down through all those levels of the structure of reality. Only at the ‘top’ does meaning appear ‘real,’ and everything is visible and "understood." In drilling down, it evaporates. This is also the paradox of the whole and its parts.

Where does the mind of the child derive? Are you born with it, and if not when does your mind become entity? The absent breast of mother, devouring the breast, experience of the no-breast, or as Sartre, to: "not create being, but rather inject nonbeing into the world, into an original plenitude of being."

Being and nonbeing, central to human philosophy, denotes your ultimate abject fear of the meaningless ephemerality and nothingness of… everything?

Pictured: Death and skeletons with ambient occlusion in monochrome

For my Wise and Generous Tutors
Addressed to creatures of the Blue Planet
With Utmost Appreciation
Your Respectful Student

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