Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Great Peace

I miss Zach.

That sentence sounds trite.  There are days when I am pummeled by loss.  I know the need to communicate with him.  I want him to talk to me in some way.  I want to know that he is all right.  I want to tell him I love him.  I want to tell him I am sorry.  I want him to tell me he is sorry.  I want to comfort him in death in the way I couldn't in life.  I want to be with him.  I want to feel his presence with me.   I am filled with desire for him.

I know why mediums are popular. 

In my view they help provide the illusion that these desires can be met.  I also know that those who use mediums or other ways to communicate with the deceased believe that they are communicating with the departed.   I do not distrust mediums.  I have no reason to think they are being deceptive.  In fact, I think they can be helpful.  They can be good therapists.   They help with the desire.  The desire is so intense that it must be fulfilled.  Belief is as powerful a force as desire.

Different people need different kinds of therapy.  The reason I am so "close-minded" regarding consciousness is not due to my materialistic world-view alone.   It is true that in my view of the universe, consciousness is a natural by-product of brain evolution.   Daniel Dennett's view seems reasonable.   When we die our brains cease functioning and with the end of brain function is the end of consciousness.

But that is not the main reason I don't think Zach's consciousness survived his death.  Nor do I think he is "sleeping" and will awaken either in another material form (Indian spirituality) or at the final resurrection (monotheism).

The main reason I don't want his consciousness to survive death is for his sake (and mine).  I don't want that for him.

I want him to be at peace.   That peace is the cessation of consciousness.  That is what he wanted.  Do we really think he would be happy watching us and worrying over us as we grieve him?   That would be hell for him.   He worried about us enough.  He worried about everything.   His worry was so intense it was painful to death.  

Then of course there is the judgment thing.  Karma (Indian spirituality) or Resurrection to eternal life or eternal punishment (monotheism) are the options that the classical religions give us.   I think those doctrines are control mechanisms for the living.  They serve as lures and sticks to control behavior.  They have no objective reality to them as I see it.

Here is the bottom line:  I do not want my boy to suffer any more.  When I am dead, I don't want to suffer either by going through another life or waiting for judgment or by haunting houses or through traveling to ethereal realms as offered by various supernatural theorists.   When I die, I am finished and I prefer to enter The Great Peace.

Now just because I want it, it doesn't make it so, of course.  I suppose I could be wrong and there is some divine supernatural force intent on torturing me (or pleasuring me) for eternity, but I see no reason for any of these world views to be more true than my materialistic one.  More importantly, I find all of them undesirable and not worthy of my belief.  If they are true, they would be in my view a cause of greater suffering as opposed to relief. 

The whole point of Indian spirituality as well as monotheistic spirituality is ultimately to get off the wheel of death and rebirth and to enter a universal consciousness or union with Being.  That to me is a poetic way of saying what I affirm in the first place.   I call it The Great Peace

I choose to believe in The Great Peace.  If it sounds better (and I think it does) by symbolizing The Great Peace as a banquet table or the new Jerusalem or the resurrection to eternal life, that is all the same to me.   Those are symbols for cessation of consciousness.   Michael Dowd calls these symbols, night language.

The Great Peace is immediate.  No waiting.  No lights to follow or spirit guides to chase.  No judgment thrones to face.  No karma to set right.  No sin that requires payment. The evil and righteous alike enter it upon their deaths.   That is ultimate justification by grace through faith.

Here is the faith part.  I trust The Great Peace is true.  I can't know for sure because I haven't died.  I also have faith that my desires for forgiveness and for the completion of unfinished business will fade or be transformed into meaningful work and I will take all that was beautiful and good about Zach and honor it as I live my life while I have life.

I know he is all right.  He is at peace.  I love him and I know he loved me.  I know I did what I could within my human limitations.  I know that he did what he could with his limitations.  I feel his presence as I remember him both alone and with family and friends.  If I feel the need to talk to him, I can do that.  I know what I am doing.  It can be healthy to speak to him or to write a letter (or a blog) and imagine him to be reading it.  It is a way to express feelings of grief and to keep his memory close.

I do miss him.  The loss is so intense at times.  Yet I don't ever want to stop missing him.  It is a sign to me of how much I love him.

One day, I, too, will enter The Great Peace.   Until that time, I will try to treasure what I can, work for that which I feel is important, and love life and those who come into my life as fully as possible.  I hope to transform my pain and grief into compassion and healing.   That to me is resurrection as I explained in my Easter sermon

I also recognize that my religion is not for everyone.  I don't insist on my view.  I just believe it.



  1. This was a beautifully written entry John. Thank you for sharing your faith journey with us throughout such unbelievable loss for your family. Your words to me ring of truth, but to everyone should at least ring of unflinching honesty. I too share your faith in The Great Peace. May your process of transformation continue unabated.

    1. Thank you, Bob. That means a lot! With much appreciation...

  2. John,
    This bearing of your soul is a Mitzvah, both to those suffering similarly and to those who wish to learn how to be with the bereaved in compassion.

    Still, I would rather you had your boy back and the rest of us to take our lessons elsewhere.

    Do be well, my friend.