Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Life Review

This morning, with the rain pattering outside and thunder grumbling in the cloudy sky, I found myself pondering the mystery of near-death experiences. I did some research …


When you have a panoramic life review, you literally relive your life, in 360 degrees panorama. You see everything that's ever happened. You even see how many leaves were on the tree when you were six years old playing in the dirt in the front yard. You literally re-live it. Next you watch your life from a second person's point of view. In this life we're taught to be sympathetic toward others. But from the second person's point of view, you'll feel empathy, not sympathy. After that, you literally will become every person that you've ever encountered. You will feel what it feels like to be that person and you will feel the direct results of your interaction between you and that person. You know the story of the Book of Judgment? Guess what? When you have your panoramic life review, you are the judger ... You do the judging. If you doubt me, believe this: you are the toughest judge you will ever have ... (READ MORE)

From Wikipedia:

The effect of a life review is by all accounts a strongly transformative experience. Experiencers describe them as extremely unpleasant from the perspective of the unhappiness they had inflicted on others, including feelings they had never dreamed of as resulting, and equally pleasant from the perspective of the good feeling they had brought to others' lives, extending to the littlest forgotten details. Almost without exception, in result, experiencers report a sharp drop in materialistic outlook (both acquisitive and philosophical), an intensified compassion for others and sense of interconnectedness, newfound altruistic activities, personality changes (though occasionally entailing divorce), a new interest in self-education and spirituality, and so on. Dannion Brinkley as one instance described himself as putting off previously deep-rooted sociopathic traits ingrained from a difficult childhood through his work as a sniper in the Vietnam War. A frequent comment by experiencers is that they later strongly avoided unethical or inconsiderate actions because they wanted to avoid painfully reliving the receiving end of the action which they knew would await them.

The transformative effect is in fact so statistically uniform in comparison with other areas of demographic study that some NDE investigators point to it as much as to experiencer accounts' detail as evidence for the empirical reality of the phenomenon itself. Kenneth Ring's book
Lessons from the Light also includes numerous accounts of an NDE permitting people hitherto blind, including cases from birth, as enabled to see (and interpret) the sight they had never before enjoyed. (READ MORE)

I'm not looking forward to my life review. Are you? No, I didn’t think so. We have all made mistakes and done things we're ashamed of. We have all inflicted hurt or failed in some other way to fulfill our potential as loving human beings. We don't like to be reminded of these failures, let alone re-experience them with the "3D" vividness of the panoramic life review, but there is no escaping the truth that we have sometimes failed. We are human, and if we did not make mistakes--well, we would not be human. Also, it is by making mistakes that we learn, and hopefully do better.

When the time comes for my life review, it won't be pleasant, but I'll try to be a man about it and face the ugliness the best I can. And maybe it won't be so bad. There were those times when I didn't screw up and instead contributed something positive to the world. Maybe it all balance out and I'll feel okay with my life. Maybe, in the end, the good and bad balance out for all of us. Maybe it even balances out for people like Dick Cheney, though I doubt it. My life review won't be a picnic, but at least I'm not Dick Cheney, or one of those other pro-torture, mass-murdering, freedom-trampling, joy-killing neo-cons. I wouldn't trade places with them on a bet. Their life reviews will be horrible, given all the pain they've caused. But I should not judge ...

Some scientists think the near-death experience is not a spiritual phenomena at all, but purely physical, a hallucination caused by chemical changes in the dying brain. But, assuming that is so, does it make the experience any less real? Of course not. If it feels real, it is real. Consciousness and reality are things that scientists have not even begun to quantify and explain, and never will. You can say pleasure is "only" due to the flow of endorphins, but that says nothing about the subjective experience of pleasure and its meaning. Endorphins, neurotransmitters, and so forth are the physical components of something that is beyond physical, they are not the thing itself. The thing itself is the experience, which cannot be defined in purely physical terms. Therefore, whether we view the near-death experience as a neurological phenomena, or spiritual, or both (my opinion), doesn't matter. It is still a genuine and profound experience.

I wonder if physical life is a game played by souls, something they do to become better souls, a test they must pass before they can ascend to a higher plane, the experience of the finite world being something the soul must know before it can truly embrace infinity. I don't know. I just wonder. But when I read about people's near-death experiences I am struck by how often they say that what they learned from the experience was the importance of love. Love, apparently, is the meaning of life. Learning to love, or perhaps re-learning.

We are born loving. That is our true nature, I think, but things happen to us along the way that cause us to forget our true nature, therefore we learn to hate. But the degree to which we do not forget and continue to love, or re-learn to love, is how we measure our success in this world.

At any rate, whether we believe or not in the reality of the near-death experience and the panoramic life review doesn't matter. It will happen anyway, even if it is "only" the rush of chemicals through the dying brain. We will review our lives, whether we want to or not, and we will feel both anguish and joy when it happens. How much joy, relative to how much anguish, is something we can decide right now while we still live in these physical bodies. We can do that by reviewing our lives now, not later, and if we see more inconsiderate acts or outright cruelty than we see acts of kindness and unconditional love, we can make the necessary adjustments now. Do it now and the life review will be a breeze.