by Jon Sullivan - 2023-06-28 - Jonism

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The Solstice gathering in Montana was wonderful. But the topic of death came up a lot.

I remember the first time we did this sort of thing, back at the turn of the century. We were young then. Things were very different. But we then, as now, gathered around the fire while the sun set to share our hopes and dreams. I don't remember what we did or said, but it was a lot less formal, without candles and burning scraps of paper. Long before Facebook and Trump and MeToo, what did we even talk about? These days it seems more like desperate praying. Praying for things we took for granted then. This year I prayed for hope. Back in those olden times, how odd it would have seemed to think 22 years later we'd pray for something as fundamental and automatic as hope.

One of the other things that has changed is our age. We are now old. We are as old now as the elders at that first fire. And they have died. And we are dying. And many of the guests around the 20+ fires since have died, or are dying. So much of our lives now seems to inescapably involve death. Ours, that of love ones, dealing with crippling grief, trying to find the strength to do what we need to do. End of life. Life ending. Ended. It came up a lot this year.

My own death was a main motivation for my life changing. I didn't want to die alone in that dark room, where no one would even know, until I began to rot. I don't want to make the pain and grief of others about me. And I would never presume to understand the struggle or knowledge of others dealing with this. But it's my blog so....... Of course it's about me. Forgive me.

Wild trangent. One of the conversations around the fire was my intense love of the band BabyMetal. And specifically about their song, "The One", and how the song changed meaning when the band died. Seven years before we all knew what it was about - How we are all one now. The band, the song, the audience, the performance. All one, all inseparable. A magic we create together. It was the band embracing the fans as unity. With you we are idols. Without you we'd not be at all.

"We are the One. Together, we are the only One.
You are the One. Forever, you are the only One."

Then the band ended, and performed this song one last time. We realized we'd been wrong. Seven years before, the band had performed a song about it's own death, which was always the plan. They always knew that seven years later it would be over, and wrote a song about it. But it was still a song about unity. Though gone, they would always be with us, and we would always be with them.

My theology of death has always been a bit like that. There have been times people have asked me how I dealt with death and grieving. I've never answered. Never. Because I think many would find it upsetting, especially in the moment when tears of grief and despair and horror and loss flow. I think people need something less idiotic than my bullshit philosophy. But..... If I did answer...... It would be that I never feel grief, and I never fear death. My sister tells me I can't die. But to me I already have. Much like that song, I feel we are already dead. Our life guarantees our death. Our death guarantees our life. Life and death are one. Both always were and always will be.

My theology is grounded in science. I don't grieve, because I know we are fundamentally just unique collections of atoms and particles. No matter how religious or spiritual you are, it's still particles. Some particles will end up in black holes. Some will end up as photons. The ones that approach a black hole will enter a state where time is infinite, they will live forever. For them every "now" will be "always". The ones that become photons at the speed of light will not experience time at all. Their birth and life and death will be timeless. There will be no "now", only "always". Our particles, all of "us", popped into existence from nothing and proceeds to exist beyond time, to always. Because we are now, we will be always. Because we exist now, we have always existed. Subjectively, we live and die. Objectively, we always have been and always will be.

Of course..... That's all pop science nonsense. It's bullshit. But the gulf between science and dogma here is mostly semantics. And as a theology, compared to other theologies, it holds up pretty well. I could continue. My theology also reels in the nature of consciousness, and the limits of perception, and a big ol' dollop of rationalization over how any of it might say something about death and "existence". While I wouldn't suggest anyone else ever adopt my tortured and unreasonable solution for grief, it works for me.

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