Have you ever carved your name onto a tree or scratched it onto some rock? Have you wondered how long it would remain there even after you are gone? I suppose we all have. And I suppose we are all fated never to know the answer to that question. A book I read recently expressed that “It is man’s destiny to be forgotten”.
Is that true? I don’t see how this can be anything but truest of all statements. Everyone living today will be gone in a hundred years or so to make way for others. Every single person alive right now will disappear. How many of them will move forward in time after they are gone? How many of them will make it in to the minds and memories of the next generation? Not many. Not me.
Endless number of people surround us as we travel through life. Some we meet only briefly and soon forget. Others we form connections that will last us for the rest of our days. But most will be people who just happen to be alive at the same time we are. Folks paying a short visit to this planet at a time that just happens to overlap with ours. I sometimes think I would have liked to meet more of them than I did. I think that would have been a good thing.
I read somewhere that there have only ever been about 108 billion people on our planet. Ever. If you subtract the approximately 7.5 alive today we know that somewhere around 100.5 billion people have died. All dead. Most of them long dead and forgotten. All of them gone somewhere, or nowhere if you prefer that. But they are gone. Separated from the rest of us in a way that no one really understands. I don’t. But like the rest of us that are still alive, it is a mystery we have to live with. A mystery that plagues us with doubt about our own existence.
Of the 100.5 billion that have gone before us, I have met a few. Children struck with cancer, parents gone too early, men strapped down in death chambers. There are a million ways to die it seems. But what has the death of over 100 billion people taught us? What have we learned from those that have been dead for so long, other than we will be dead too someday? And when we are dead what will we have learned? Would the 50-years- dead me know any more about death than the 10-years-dead me? Or is it that when we die there is simply nothing else left for any part of us to go on? Even the physical part of us moves on into other physical parts, why not the other parts of us?
What happens to us after we die? I don’t know. But 100.5 billlion people do know the answer to that question in one way or another. They have experienced it, or are experiencing it, but so far refused to offer up any hints to what it might be like. (selfish little bastards)
Do we go to a heaven or a hell? Can heaven and hell fit the 100.5 billion gone so far? Is there room for you? Or are they just gone? A friend of mine in college once said “Do you remember anything about how it was before you came to be? Well, that’s exactly what it will be like after you are gone. Nothing.” But he was a scientist and prone to not believing anything he couldn’t measure. He died several years ago and now knows the real answer to his own question.
An author I respect wrote back in 1973 something to the effect that by just spitting into the ocean you can gain all the eternity you can possibly gain. Forty years later he admitted to still believing the same thing. He died that year. He also now knows if he was wrong or right.
I think he was wrong.
I think what we know about death is provisional. What we know about it today will be replaced with what we know about it tomorrow. Every year we learn more about the process of dying and how to prolong our life.
But we can’t say the same thing about love. Or at least I can’t. What I know about love is what I have always known about love. From the time I was little I have experienced love in the same unbreakable way. It never changes. Time and space have no effect on it. My love for those that have gone before me is not affected by the fact that they are gone.
Love makes me feel that death is just a small bruise in our existence. A pause, the same way a comma is a pause in this sentence. There is always something after the comma, bruises always heal, and life goes on.
Love all you can. You just might see eternity.