What would your mind think after death

The death? No reason to worry!

So-called over 80s like me have given more thought to dying these days than before. Why not, because it's never too late for that. One can do that quite cheerfully - and at times one comes to conciliatory insights.

The end of a life is called death. The end of a football game has no name. After the last referee's whistle, the game simply does not continue. The footballers are dispersing - and what about life?

Until a billion years ago, life only existed in the form of prokaryotes (single-cell organisms like bacteria). Since their genome is scattered in the cell, there is hardly any innovation. There is only cell division, and each cell is part of its predecessor. With that there are no individuals. Since the individual does not exist, death does not exist either - although prokaryotes are living beings.

Individuals only enter the universe with the eukaryotic cell. This is equipped with concentrated genetic material, which, when crossed with other genetic material, leads to new cells, i.e. individuals, that have never been there. These are exposed to competition in the ecological niche, the better adapted survive and pass on the gained fitness to their offspring. Judging from the warm bench from the stove, this is brutal - but individuality is associated with risk.

The beginning of innovation

The crossing of concentrated genetic material from eukaryotes is the beginning of all sexuality. The individual appears with sexuality - but so does death. Sexuality gives evolution a tremendous boost in innovation. The shorter the generation succession of a species, the higher the rate of innovation - but at the same time: the more unstable the blueprints. The genetically fixed age of people represents an optimum between paralysis and reorganization chaos and has developed over two or three million years.

Chimpanzees are only about half the age of humans, and there are no grandparents either with them or with other animals. Growing up takes a long time and is expensive - a large investment that requires a longer payback period. Additionally, accumulated wisdom available in the clan's council of elders or with the grandmother of the family promotes the survival of the species.

Humans have been conscious of their own end since they were conscious. Since it remained an eternal mystery to them, they brought it in connection with extraterrestrials, from which gigantic rituals and profound confessions were derived, which resonate prominently in the present. For today, death no longer has to be a mystery. They see themselves as beneficiaries because their ancestors made room for them, and as victims because they will one day have to make room for themselves. These are the inevitable rules of the game. There is no other game.

Grandmother's statement

The unique person grows up, educates himself, develops his talents, integrates himself into society, builds his convictions and relationships. If a life, if this life is really supposed to be life, it is a constant striving and endeavor and plugging in and enjoying - and now one day one should simply stop doing it. What do people say about it who have their end close in front of their eyes?

When I asked my mother shortly before her death at the age of 89: “Well, how was it?”, Her mouth twisted into a mischievous smile: “I lived,” and after a pause: “I know that I will continue to live - in you. " Werner Weber, famous feature editor and then professor of literary criticism, said to me a few months before his death at the age of 86: "I will lack nothing, I am in God's grace." Dürrenmatt in an interview: "Death is not a problem - but possibly dying."

His father, however, a trained theologian, feared death as hell. And Goethe wrote: "When I think of my death, I may, I can't think which organization is being destroyed." Fundamental Epicurus around 300 BC Chr .: "As long as we are there, death is not there, and when it is there, we are no longer there."

The idea of ​​disappearing as a personality contradicts all the laws of conservation on which not only physics but also common sense relies. But there are two classes of phenomena that obey the laws of physics and yet can disappear without a trace: information and processes.

If, for example, “The post is here” is written on the blackboard with chalk and wiped out with a sponge, the blackboard is still there, as is the chalk, albeit as wet dust - but the information is gone. If “The Post is here” had been spoken instead of written, the speaking process would first have turned into sound waves, from them warmth and these would have disappeared. Whoever accepts that his thinking is a process and his soul is an information process and memory, logically does not have to worry about their disappearance.

Then why all the fuss?

This logic cannot overrule the perception of loss, “My work on building up my personality is not for the cat”. Death under normal circumstances is radically unwelcome.

Not wanting to die without psychological or physical hardship is not a character defect, but arises from the nature of all life, which is characterized from the first cells by a fundamental striving for more life. Many a mind cannot suppress the expectation of a life after death - analogous to the logic of the Nobel laureate in physics, who, when asked about the horseshoe above the house entrance, declared that it works, even if one does not believe in it.

Believers expect from their religion answers not only to the question of the origin of all life, but also to what happens after death. The Old Testament also says, "You are made of dust, you return to dust" (Moses 1: 3), and Buddha refused to talk about it at all. Only subsequent generations of priests brought ideas such as reincarnation or resurrection.

Since they did not overestimate the spiritual powers of believers to be good, they linked their ideas with paradise as an incentive to be good and, mirror image, with hell as a punishment for all evil in their lives. However, the consequences were not only increased discipline on the part of the believers, but inevitably also fear of death. (A completely different fear is not spoken of here: the fear of suffering and suffering that death causes.)

The bottom line: life before death

Kant recognized that happiness cannot be a goal, but only positive work and work on oneself: "Only the worthiness of being happy is what a person can achieve." In fact, happiness comes with life-friendly success. How do you know that you are happy? Hormone releases put you in the right mood - from the smallest success in weeding in the garden to the great existence of life.

Analog: What is the point of playing football? - The football game! And the luck with it? - When someone plays well. That's all, but do it first, whatever, be it football or starting a business or charity, and you'll be lucky, and it'll gradually add up to bliss. A 500-year-old plaque is attached to the buttress on the buttress to the east of the Schultheissenpforte, on which it reads: "Do it."

There are good prospects for success if one's own talents are trained and put into practice; if at the same time all senses are awakened and warm relationships are established with other members of the species. External goals are only the training grounds for the constant endeavor to become who one could be: a self-determined, self-welcome personality - and from that benevolence and charity.

Preparing for death does not mean tossing over heavy thoughts, repentedly converting to something or pleading "Kyrie eleison" - but rather working on the good self every consciously lived day of his life. When looking at grandiose tombs in Milan, one thinks: If one or the other had worked more on themselves, they would now be able to get by with less marble. Humility is often whispered coquettishly - but the only real great humility lies in the recognition of one's own conditionality and finitude; and the only relevant preparation for death is to face life - even if the freedom and strength are very limited.

Etiquette for dealing with one's own death

Can you put together an etiquette from all of this for a better overview? Although the image of a lively person of the phenomenon of death should have solidified by no later than twenty years of age, these Corona days have certainly updated some of their thoughts:

1. Your death occurs because vital organs no longer function - then the brain no longer functions and with this thinking, self and soul. The study of nature admits of no other knowledge, and there is not the slightest cause for fear of death.

2. Your keen mind may allow your mind the freedom to expect an afterlife. And if your faith has given you love, confidence and joy for a lifetime, then this faith is also true.

3. Only the healthiest belief does not release your reason from the responsibility for the success of your existence. Beware of escapism: An afterlife as compensation or consolation for local failure puts your strength to sleep.

4. You then take your responsibility seriously when you develop your talents, which you have recognized, and develop them in the free space that you have worked out for yourself. It is not the size of the space or your strength that is decisive, but what you do with it.

5. Do not try to please a god, but your neighbors and second neighbors and all contemporaries around the globe and without any prejudice.

6. As long as you have strength, work, and when they decrease, your desires decrease too; your longings fade and you stand before death with desireless dignity.

7. Forgive yourself for your mistakes or make up for them - as long as you are not dead, you can still be a good person every day.

8. When you become a good person, you redeem yourself. Jesus said to Ruth: "You helped yourself" (Matthew 1: 5).

Hans Widmer, born 1940, is an entrepreneur and freelance author.