What does it feel like when we die?

So, I’m normally somewhat underqualified to answer these questions, but for reasons that should be fairly obvious, this one takes the biscuit.

I do not know what it feels like when we die.

I have fears, I have hopes, and I there’s even one thing I suspect to be true. There are myths, there are lies and there are guesses.

The truth is, of course, that they are all guesses.

There’s a reason it remains an undiscovered country. A reason it is so scary and fascinating.

It is utterly unknown to us.

And there’s no road back, at least not without supping on the waters of lethe. (Mythology has a great tendency to provide complex and romantic explanations to things that are quite simple and straightforward, that’s kind of what it’s there for. So some people (the Greeks?) posited that someone could only come back from the land of the dead by drinking from a river that made you forget all about it. Hence nobody knows what it is like to die, because when they come back from the dead (!) the can’t remember. Very necessary story that.)

Anyway. What probably happens is that you stop existing and have no ability to feel.

Even if some other mystical occurence happens, it probably doesn’t ‘feel’ like anything, as no material nerve endings would be involved. But then, there I am, trying to provide a scientific rationale to a mystical experience.

I don’t know. Anything’s possible.

I imagine dying to be a little horrible.

I’ve had experiences, fueled by hallucinogens and drug abuse, that I have imagined felt like a death of sorts. The world faded away, but actually rippled into a recurring pattern of throbbing waves. In those waves I could see all past moments in my life as a reflection of that instant then. The moment now was overlaid with everything else, and it was all the same.

And it slowed down. Pulsing to a halt, becoming more distant and lost. Everything froze and wound down, like a record player with the power turned down. The repetition continued, but slowed and distorted and damaged. Everything was far away.

And it slowly faded back in. And I wasn’t dead.

So it was fine.

But that’s probably just going crazy for a little bit. Dying may not be like that (though lots of my more pharmo-friendly psychonaut friends insist that a substance analagous to DMT, an incredibly powerful hallucinogen is released into the brain as it dies…so perhaps there is some truth).

I don’t know. And nor do you. Or anyone else.

That’s scary. Especially when certain types of people like to make up dramatic, judgemental stories about it for the purpose of controlling people.

I prefer imagery to reality or belief. The Mayan’s have a tradition of planting a seed in the grave of those they bury (possibly in the heart) so that a tree made of that person grows out.

Their creation myth has this playing out writ large.

That’s pretty.

Illustration by Adam.


About Alabaster Crippens

Joiner of Dots. Player of Games. Unreliable Narrator. Dancing Fool.
This entry was posted in Illustrations by Adam, Questions by Jen. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to What does it feel like when we die?

  1. flyingrowan says:

    Since taking MDMA that propelled me into the sky it was so incredibly strong, (though I have no other experience to compare it to) I’ve been unable to get rid of a nagging ‘thought’ that occurred to me during the experience.

    It was that when I die, I will feel this incredibly open warm high and it will be absolutely beautiful and absolutely heart wrenching at the same time.

    It sounds ridiculous and I know that there’s a chance I’ll die in pain, but after the pain has gone this is what I think will happen to my non physical self.

    Physically I’d like to have a tree grow out of me like the Mayans say, and I’d like you all to come and sit under it, (or your children, as trees are slow to grow)

  2. purplesapho says:

    I love the idea about the tree. It is going to grow out with your molecules in it anyway. Your brain is gone so it’s basically nothing to you but the idea is very cute and now I want this for myself.

  3. Patrick says:

    I like your writing. What is interesting to contemplate is….what happens when a highly educated and erudite learned scholar dies. Well, on his deathbed, he realizes….this is where science and knowledge and all of the accomplishents of mankind hit a wall. This is where truth, axioms, premises, theories, therums, postulates, etc. all come to an abrupt end. This is the end of any shred of arrogance or pride.
    So, what can we postulate? We will all eventually learn humility.

    • I think I’ve become enamoured with the erudite Montaigne’s point of view:

      “If you don’t know how to die, don’t worry; Nature will tell you what to do on the spot, fully and adequately. She will do this job perfectly for you; don’t bother your head about it.”

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