Wondering how advancing years and the accumulating evidence that decrepitude will move into our bodies more and more affects Christians differently than it might someone with a less settled outlook

I know, a very cheerful topic. :wink:

But today it finally dawned on me that aging will depend much less on how I look at it than I’d expected. It won’t all be in my mind though it is there too. But it’s undeniably in my hands and my back, my hearing and vision too. Considered hypothetically mortality doesn’t seem like such a bad deal. But when the terms cannot be negotiated you begin to realize that decrepitude is just going to go right on moving into more parts of your body and it doesn’t really care what of your projects that might interfere with. The last act has begun and the last act of the play will not allow for any final edits or rewrites.

When I was a wee tyke with an aborted Christian induction, I had a childish idea of what an afterlife would entail. But it sounded pretty cool, as though you’d get to go back stage after the last act and talk over your role with the powers that be, perhaps get some feedback on how you did and find out what’s next.

But given my secular prospects I tend to react by slowing down to savor the last few pages of the book, the final three truffles, a few walks with the dog as well as meals and card games with my wife.

Secularly speaking is anything next? Well I have been impressed with excerpts I’ve heard online from McGilchrist’s new book “The Matter With Things” which seems to settle on panpsychism as a big picture WV, the idea that consciousness is basic, at least as basic as matter. I’ve heard him suggest that cosmos’ main business may be individuation. Pirsig’s Lila already had me thinking about the seemingly unlikely arc of the cosmos which somehow is generating more complexity and greater freedom rather than winding down. But I am so used to arguing that consciousness can’t be a property of the cosmos or matter since it seems to be a bodily function of creatures with brains and among the inert bits of the cosmos, brains are rare to the point of nonexistence. Okay so what impact does any of that have on my impending mortality? If consciousness at low levels permeates everything then does that mean my consciousness slows back down to boulder speeds? Somehow I don’t think a lifetime of consciousness in the fast lane of human existence is going to go on in a disembodied state. Intuitively much of the quirks of my idiosyncratic individuality is of much use to future generations. They’d be better served with a blank slate fresh start.

Anyhow, I’m pretty sure my childhood Christian fantasy version of an afterlife is not what mature Christians, those filling up with decrepitude like me, must think about as they near the end of this life. I’d appreciate getting other views of how mature Christians think about the what’s next question as they reach the end of the line. Any takers?

5 Likes

No sir. Your childhood thoughts of the after life, which were pretty cool, are far more reliable a depiction of the next dimension, imho.
One big deficit of these times in which we live is the loss of cherished, childlike intuition about what is important in this life and what heaven will be. Children were very, very important to the Son of man.

We are all quite sophisticated these days, you know, and we don’t entertain silly, childish notions, thank you very much.
Isn’t it odd how even the bravest of men cry out for their mothers when the end comes unexpectedly and swiftly?

Great topic. Thanks for discussing your thoughts for I will not be around much longer.

1 Like

So has the weak link in your mortality been identified? Of course there is always the chance a simple fall or other accident will swoop in there to claim you instead. So I guess you’re saying you don’t see death as the end of you. I don’t see it as the end of everything but I do believe it is the end of what sets me apart and fortunately that isn’t my best. I don’t feel wistful about that. My idiosyncratic interests and tendencies have had their day. I don’t feel badly about that.

I don’t have a particular physiological condition which is likely to take me out yet. Tomorrow I’ll get my second test of my carotid arteries but those parts may not be the one to claim me. But I’m fortunate not to have other diseases circling in sight yet. I’m just complaining about painful mobility which has plagued me all this year since it became necessary to haul my paralyzed older dog’s hind quarters around for her before I put her down in April. Still doing exercises my PT recommended, walking, gardening and riding the stationary bike as well as taking Advil during the day and cyclobenzaprine at night trying to alleviate the symptoms. Part way into the third month since she died I’m wondering whether these muscle/nerve issues actually will ever completely go away. If not I’ll just have to chart some different more careful routines.

My wife on the other hand has a pack of known diseases circling her. She has a kidney doctor, heart doctor, infectious disease doctor and an autonomic system specialist tracking her and most recently has needed an operation on four of her cervical vertebrae. Fortunately for her she has me for live in nursing help. I’m sure I’ll attract my own pack of diseases in time but right now I’m just missing feeling good in my body and light on my feet. But I guess the final act in any of our plays will be filled with loses leading up to our own departure.

1 Like

I wonder if there’s a “not” in that sentence that’s missing.

And I wonder: Would “a fresh start” be you? or would it be “someone else”? The quantity of me that makes it to the other side of death, if any does, is itself, a question that looms larger, the older I am still able to become.

Obviously, or so it seems to me, if nothing of my current “self” exists beyond the grave, Post-Death “I” is unlikely to be the “consequence” of any aspect of Pre-death “Terry Sampson” and thoughts of “Heaven” and “Hell” become moot, don’t they? On the other hand, if aught of Pre-death “Terry Sampson” makes it through the recycle-bin, I’m definitely headed for a roller-coaster ride into the future.

The relevance of my speculations is greater today, given the aortic-valve replacement and the 2nd aortic aneurysm repair that doctors tell me are on my to-do list in July and August. And so “old Terry” finds himself thinking: if an exceptionally ripened fruit on a branch could think and feel as it realizes that it’s going to fall to the ground any moment, that’s exactly what I’d be thinking and feeling as I sit here now.

1 Like

I believe in a spiritual existence not governed by mathematical space-time laws, but where things are what they are by their own nature alone rather than by their part in this mathematical space-time structure of the physical universe. This includes a God who created the physical universe and the spirits of physical living things created by the choices they make in life (and more tentatively also the spirits of those we call angels created directly by divine design).

Thus while our experience in physical life is largely forced upon us by these mathematical laws of nature, our experience after physical life is a product of our own choices. Naturally this makes relationships difficult since the only relationships are going to be those we made a part of us by our own choices (in short, by love). But existence and life are two different things. Life is growth and learning requiring the experience of new things. Thus being limited to our own choices in life isn’t a promising prospect for a continuation of life. Every relationship we have with others is a doorway into another universe we can be part of. But the most promising relationship is with the infinite creator of the universe we call God.

From these basic principles there are many conclusions which you can come to about such things as heaven, hell, and what you can expect hereafter. But I will leave those for a later post.

1 Like

What a cheery subject! Truthfully, I also spend time contemplating these issues. It is interesting as we age, death becomes less an enemy, and moves more to the reality of being phase. I think as the struggles of life increase, it then becomes more a friend and a welcome relief. I think that is pretty true regardless of your religious outlook, but interesting to think about. As I find the annihilationist view of the afterlife attractive, the time after death for non-believers is actually something we can agree with.

2 Likes

Indeed. I also welcome the prospect of oblivion and nonexistence. And the idea that fear motivates my belief in a spiritual existence afterwards is just laughable. Nonexistence just seems too easy to me – wishful thinking frankly.

2 Likes

I’m sorry about your wife. It is great that you are helping her. What a wonderful thing to do! God is in helping the infirmed. That thrills him. We look at the outward, big kinds of things that attract publicity and money and earthly rewards. He’s the opposite. He appreciates the smallest deed that helps others in need.
I was sorry to hear about your dog, too. You were there for her, too, which speaks of your character. I bet you loved her much. Someone said that God graces the world with our pets. No act of kindness is overlooked, imo. Mark, that is what God is all about. The glass of cold water, the two mites, taking care of our aging parents or the sick. God is in that. He is in kindness and forgiveness and going the extra mile for those who are in need. When we debate religious issues, we never mention those things about God, at least I don’t. They are so important to him, but no one wants to hear about stuff like that when trying to prove God is real, or whatever. You know?
The greatest commandment is to love God thoroughly and others as Jesus loves us, right? How are we supposed to love an invisible entity we don’t know? We can’t, and obviously He must know that. So, why would he expect anyone to love him? How? Based on what? I never met him.
I said that to say that that is why I love God; his heart is with the broken and the sick and little children who can’t fend for themselves. I really think that is the greatest thing. God is good and He cares for the downcast.

2 Likes

Yes indeed. Using these forums via my cell phone isn’t as smooth as it used to be. I can only see a very little of what I write without posting it. As a result I’ll need to reply to the rest of your post separately as I’m waiting for Lia to give some blood iso I can drive us home.

I wonder if there is an app of some sort that could help this work better.

1 Like

I haven’t noticed my consciousness slowing down, not even an iota. I haven’t noticed any decrepitude worth speaking of, but then I am only 72 years old. I don’t know if that counts for aging years. Indeed I have an army of inhumane people, many half my age, warring against me now for more than 20 years and they are crying “we can’t take this much anxiety!” Maybe being an activist is keeping my physical garment in good nick.

I don’t think it is consciousness that you are experiencing slowing down. It might be your embodiment that has become a bit worn. Consciousness is eternal and ever present. It can’t slow down.

For that matter, right here and now I wonder if I’m the right “you” or have I so gone off my path as to count as someone else? “Self” is pretty squishy to define. As a matter of fact when I was 25 I was a passenger in my six years younger protege brother’s little Fiat Spider when it was hit head on by an alcoholic passed out at the wheel, killing my brother and busting me up pretty good. I ended up quitting my job when my disability ran out and being divorced by my first wife and, just to make sure I was paying attention, my first dog was struck near a bar and killed while we were out walking late at night visiting the crash site. I was depressed for the first and - knock on wood - only time in my life. I holed up reading Jung and Pirsig and Watts and all manner of subjects pertaining to what we hoping to find a clue to get back to where/what I had been before. I don’t think I ever did and I will always be grateful. Before, I was an anonymous hobbit of the Shire; afterwords, I’d had adventures. I don’t think there is much intrinsic to what makes me different from others worth keeping around. The human spirit can find a way in most any circumstance and no one needs to consult my personal experience to find their way; they need to do that for themselves and already have everything they need.

1 Like

I wouldn’t phrase it that way but if there is some sense in which consciousness is a truly basic aspect of the cosmos, irreducible to anything else then perhaps that is a way to ground a “spiritual existence”. If so I would say it is also inseparable from the material world. I believe there are some (many?) physicists who think along these lines. As to "

I would prefer to say the cosmos is mathematically modelable for fear of giving the idea that its actual essence is mathematical. I’ve got no settled position on the ontological nature of mathematics but but I don’t think it shows up in the cosmos except in the mental frames of subjects.

Thanks for sharing the way you see it. Personally I find deciding what aspect of us makes experience “ours” problematic. We make a lot of choices in life but not all of them are made in a totally focused way. Would all the choices which take place during our lifetime count or only those in which we get deeply involved in a focused way?

I have no sense of the architecture the cosmos both in terms of matter and consciousness, but I do believe there is something to the notion that some acts/paths are more authentic to us than others. I’m not following you here, do you think this comment of mine have anything to do with what I quoted from you?

Wait, are you saying that you yourself don’t anticipate a personal afterlife? Even under panpsychism there seems to me to be a question whether the increased rapidity of human consciousness somehow gets conserved in the generally dilute soup of consciousness that exists in conjunction with the cosmos generally.

If so, is that a very common Christian understanding?

Ralphie, I’m not as conversant in the Christian mythos as many here. I think I’ll have to leave off for now but look forward to getting back soon for @Ani99 and others who share on this thread. Right now we are preparing to host our primary social group for English tea in the garden on Saturday, our first such meeting since the pandemic. Summer is tough on a garden, especially in a climate noted for its mildness when we get out occasional heat wave … which of course is right on schedule. Its peak will be on Saturday with many places in the bay area hitting triple digits. I’m hoping our nearness to the bay will keep us under 80. If so it will be a relief for those coming from other places.

I believe in an afterlife, but am not sure what the nature of that will be. It seems it will be quite different that the concept of heaven in popular culture. I do think that eternal conscience torment is not going to be the case.

1 Like

You were given a chance to make the correct inference and didn’t?

 

(Was it an 850 or a 124? :slightly_smiling_face:)

I think many of us would like to play a country song backwards and get it all back.

1 Like

Ah, that feeling you get when you realize your body parts are no longer under warranty…

4 Likes

Whereas I think that consciousness is reducible to a process of life which can be mathematically modeled.

Now we are touching on one of the reasons I believe in any of this spiritual stuff, because I cannot believe that reality is reducible to mathematics, but as a physicist I know the measurable universe is very much reducible to mathematics apart from any particular conception of mathematics by intelligent species residing therein. This is established by the unmatched success of mathematics in predicting and uncovering new things about the measurable universe. Apart from our mathematical conceptions there are still the irrefutable way in which things are governed by fixed rules that care nothing for what we may want or believe.

OH, ALL OF THEM! Definitely! I include even those choices from before the existence of our nervous system involved in deciding our physical appearance. I simply accept the fact that MANY of our choices are not conscious deliberative ones, and I don’t see why that would make them any less ours. From a certain perspective you might think some of our free will is just a matter of owning those things which are not determined by pre-existing conditions. But I think we only loose if we refuse to own them – making ourselves into a vague and formless shadow. I don’t think it pays to make too much of the conscious-deliberative part of our experience.

But I like the way you put this difficulty, because I think it explains a lot in what I have seen in the thinking of many people.

Interesting… Perhaps part of the explanation for the above differences in our thinking come from my being a physicist and equating the physical universe with the mathematical and the measurable, where you are perhaps using the word “cosmos” to describe an extension of reality beyond the understanding by us physicist and possibly including in some sense some of what I call the spiritual.

As you can see I made connections between your comment and very different things I said. So perhaps it is best that I explain my comment more. I think one problem here may be your attempt to restrict my meaning to your own context which still seeks to embrace some sort of naturalism. Whereas I am speaking completely of something beyond our life experiences to a time afterwards when our existence is based only upon our own choices alone. This was in response to your request, after all, that we explain our understanding of what comes next. The problem is if we are confined to our choices in life alone, then how can we have a continued experience of life which requires new experiences. So the point is that in order to have a continued experience of life we must have forged a connection with others by which we can continue to experience new things. There is no eternal life to be found in isolation.

1 Like

As Christianity is no longer settled for me and I know excellently settled atheists, better, more functional than any Christian I have known in five congregations in this city (I always go… went to the nearest), I’ll continue to decrepitate with the best of care by our awesome health system, my family, my neighbours and try and do them proud.

1 Like

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.