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?