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The Biology of Death [Feb. 18th, 2007|06:20 pm]
[Current Mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

Last night we were watching the History Channel. During commercial break a broadcast showed a sudden glimpse of human remains...nothing more left than decaying sinew over a skeleton. And then, it occurred to me in one huge moment:

That was once a person, and that person had thoughts and feelings and life experiences that we, looking on its dead corpse, can only begin to fathom. Once we die, everything that makes us unique is erased. Our skeletons look just like any other. Those in the future will not know who we loved, what our favorite color was, what made us laugh, or how it looked when we smiled. All they will see are a set of bones just like that one. All they will see is: human. A woman, a man, a child, a senior citizen. They died in this century or this milennium. The wear on the teeth suggests they may have eaten this frequently, or this.
All else is lost to the ages.
Then I began to think...where did that person go? I don't mean the bones or flesh...I mean the actual person, the one with the life like no other...the life that once made their bundle of organic matter the most unique thing in creation, along with the zillion other most unique things in creation that have lived and died since the beginning of life itself? The night person or day person, the one that liked certain foods and had a life of experiences shared by no one else. Where did it go? SOMETHING must have happened to it.

I remember holding countless pets in my arms moments after their deaths, but they all felt the same after that. Always they felt lighter...hollow somehow, devoid of the very things I had loved about them. Even though their bodies were far from buried, they were gone. What they had left behind were nothing but clumps of dead cells that once formed their likenesses...that's all, so simple. But where did THEY go? Where did the memories go that they took with them? How can it be so simple...here one day, gone the next? So finite. Their memories of me are gone yet mine remain of them, at least until I, myself, die. It's like part of myself dies every time because they have lost their memories of me; wherever those memories have gone is the same place mine will go when I die. Just like them...because now all that is left on earth of them is...dead cat. Dead rabbit. Cells. Nothing more. From those remains, one can no longer tell why I loved them.

I feel like Hamlet with that man's skull. They are shocking in a way, these realizations, yet they also ring with beauty. This is the natural way of things. We can unravel every secret the world has to offer except this, and because of that our roots will always be the same. We will always find ourselves unified with every single species we've tried to understand or control. We cannot separate ourselves from them because we all share the same fates.
This is beautiful, yet this is death. We must never forget to celebrate ourselves, for we are the true mysteries of life.

[User Picture]From: fourcorners
2007-02-19 02:21 am (UTC)
Great, thoughtful post
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[User Picture]From: minuetcat
2007-02-19 02:26 am (UTC)
Thank you! :)
It's the best thing I've written in months, I think.
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From: ex_la_foret689
2007-02-19 05:27 am (UTC)
Lovely post. It shows your significant intelligence. You will make a great teacher. Hell, you're making the world a better place right now just by thinking these things.
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[User Picture]From: stevefarrell
2007-02-19 02:37 pm (UTC)
I don't think that 'when we die, everything that makes us unique is erased'. Everything that made our bodies unique is erased; but we are not our bodies. Okay, sometimes the shape of our bodies defines certain parts of our personality, and there may be defects in our bodies that affect the kinds of foods we can or can't eat; and so forth. But we are not our bodies. There's a wonderful (and not coincidental) similarity between the words 'anima' (meaning soul) and 'animal' (meaning living creature). To me, this says that an animal is a thing with a soul - we are animals, and we have souls. Our souls are the most unique thing about us, yet at the same time they are what connects us more than anything else; when you put your arms around the person you love, and you feel right and at home, that's not because their body is shaped perfectly for you; it's because their soul is.

Nothing is finite, except the physical body.

I know my beliefs are very 'new age'y and weird sometimes, but I'm very comfortable with them.
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[User Picture]From: tetrakatus
2007-02-22 03:17 am (UTC)
I think some of those questions, have been the questions we have asked for eternity... I don't know about a soul or not, but no matter what, the past is eternal. History does not change as far as we can tell, so that is our immortality, each moment is our immortality. And every choice, affects the future, which is also our immortality. So we live as best as we can, and touch this world as best as we are able, and whatever comes after, will come.
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