And you do too.
We experienced what it was like last night and, you know, it really wasn’t too bad.
We entered, at some point, a deep, dreamless sleep (we dream for only a quarter of the time we’re asleep and even then often can’t remember what we’ve dreamt about) and the rest of the time we were, as far as subjective experience was concerned, dead to the world. During that deep sleep, our conscious mind was completely switched off; we did not experience anything while we were in this state and as far as awareness is concerned, we did not exist. And when we woke this morning we were none the worse for our period of non-existence. We booted up reasonably satisfactorily and the memories we had yesterday, before our deep sleep, were restored and the entity we call our self began to interact with the day.
This period of deep sleep, this unconscious oblivion, is precisely what it is like to be dead. Of course, in death we switch off permanently; there’s with no reboot afterwards, either in our beds, our graves or in heaven. The oblivion that is death is permanent. But, and this is my point, being dead is no more painful or unendurable, and no more to be feared, than the deep sleep you had last night and that you will enjoy tonight. We might not much like the idea that once we fall into the ultimate sleep there will be no waking up, but that is only a concern, if it’s a concern at all, of the living. I guarantee that it does not cross the minds of those who are already dead. They have no minds, the same as you didn’t last night, for it to cross.
Being dead, to paraphrase Mark Twain, does not trouble us at all. Its prospect, while we remain on this side of it, should encourage us to enjoy life and live it to the full. It shouldn’t cause us to worry about being dead, because there’s nothing we can do about it and, in any case, it’s no worse than being in deep sleep. Nor should we be concerned about whether we’ve subscribed to the right incantation, appeased the right God in the right way or lived a good enough life, in order to avoid death. There’s no avoiding death and the promises of religions that we can if only we believe the right magic, are utterly false. Understandable perhaps, but false.
Oh death, where is thy sting, says Paul in 1 Corinthians 15.55. Well, death still has its sting. It has it in its inevitability – every organic creature, of which we are one, must die – and it has it, depending on your perspective, in our individual obliteration. (Though, frankly, why anyone should think their own personal bundle of thoughts, impulses and prejudices merits everlasting existence is a mystery). Most significantly, however, it has it in the dying process, which for many of us can be debilitating and painful. This is the way of it for all of us, including those who believe religions’ false promises. They are not spared the suffering, even though modern medicine can help alleviate much of it. Christians, Muslims and Hindus, despite their belief that a deity smiles benevolently upon them, are not guaranteed a comfortable passage from this life to non-existence.
Death is the great leveller; we all experience dying in much the same way and we none of us experience anything after it. One of these – maybe both if we’re lucky – isn’t too bad. Just like deep sleep in fact.
Until then, we should make the most of life while we still have it.
I’m not sure that deep sleep is comparable to death. There’s some measure of awareness still, for instance we react to a light or a noise during that time. And when we wake up, we are aware that time has passed, and usually have some idea of how much.
BUT – if you have ever been under surgical anesthesia, then I think that’s comparable to being dead. No alertness at all. No reaction to sound or light. From when you go under to when you wake up it is as if no time had passed, and you have no sense of how long you were under. Your brain was just off.
And of course, there’s what it was like during all those billions of years before you were born! We all share that comman non-experience of not being here.
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You’re right, though I was trying (unsuccessfully it would seem!) to convey something of the inner state during deep sleep, when we have no consciousness of anything at all. I wanted something analogous that we all experience. I do like your comparison with being under anasthesia though.
Either way, the real big sleep’s nothing to worry about.
I find it funny how we have been in a state of non-existence for an eternity, and then we are born and spend a lifetime worrying what it would be like to be in that state of non-existence again.
Sorry, R.E., I missed your comment arriving two months back! You’re right; as Mark Twain said (I may not be quoting him verbatim), ‘not exisitng before I was born inconvenienced me not at all. Why should it be any different after I die?’
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No with worries! Comments are always hard to monitor. And thankfully that is the case!