The Powerful Play

What would it be like to not exist? A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend. She was making fun of me and I was making fun of her. We laughed and talked about music and movies. Today she is in a Ziploc bag on the bookshelf. But, where is she really?

I’ve always been confident that life goes on and that dying must be like falling asleep and dreaming. Even that small bit of continuity has always given me a sense of peace about death that some part of life as we have previously experienced it, will continue. The thought occurred to me today that I could be wrong. What if even my most fundamental assumption about death is wrong? What if death really is the end and just as you didn’t exist before birth, you also cease to exist after death? It’s no wonder that Walt Whitman said that, “the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Was Walt thinking this same thought over 100 years ago?

Some versions of this poem on the internet change the word “may” to “will”. Which is a major misreading of the poem. The endless trains of the faithless will probably not contribute much to the “powerful play.” Not everyone contributes … or, as William Wallace said in Braveheart, “every man dies, not every man really lives.” Will I really die? Have I really lived?

3 comments On The Powerful Play

  • The issues that matthew raises are fundamental to all humanity.

    The only real good answers that I have found come from Tibet Buddhism, with the very long history of guru’s who have found the internal answers. It recognizes our sense of continuity after death and rebirth if we so desire.

    The history of Tibet Buddahism shows a continuity from death to birth (cyclical existance). The long lineages and reincarnations show the choice that was made by the guru’s to “return” to benefit all sentient beings. It takes a great deal of spiritual effort and practice while we are alive to acheive that state that allows us to chose the rebirth path or not. Otherwise it will be beyond our control.

    In shaminism there is the understanding that certain shamans can choose rebirth to benefit others.

    Under hypnosis, some individuals can recall (verifyable) details of prior lives.

    Near death experiences of many people show a continuity beyond our understanding of “death” of a human body. The experience of passage through a “tunnel” is commonly reported.

    The evidence is there, it just is not easily explained.

    David Heiser

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