Monday, September 14, 2009

Death and Dying: Part 1

It’s time for another blog post! Despite the laziness, I fight hard to bring you this little insight into my mind. Today I want to talk about death. I will write it in two parts, and today I present part 1.

YES………death. The one constant thing that happens to all humans, and indeed, all life (some would argue taxes are also a part of that, but you can live without taxes- I’ll tell you in a later post [citation needed]). Why? Well, since I am taking a class on death and dying, I decided to tell you a bit of what I’ve learned, as well as some ideas that I have on the matter.

Death- what is it? It is the ending of life? Well then, what is life? Life is the process of existing, the state of being able to reproduce, eat, drink, move, feel, hate, love. To define life and death is a tricky thing, since biologically speaking, it is a bit more straightforward that explaining it in theological or philosophical terms. So, returning to life and death. Death is something powerful, able to reach both rich and poor, strong and weak, saint and sinner. But how exactly did death, the idea, develop? How exactly did people think about death and after death?

For the Jews, they envisioned death as almost a non-existence. When a person died, they went to Sheol, which is translated usually as “hell” in our Bibles. Sheol was where everyone went, no exceptions. And what happened there to you? Nothing. You were basically nothing. God could not hear you; it is like screaming and wailing at someone while in a soundproof room. The inhabitants of Sheol are just there, like shadows. However, this idea of “after-life” went along with a belief that the good get their rewards while alive, and the bad get their punishment. When their history was starting to become unbearable to the Jews, they began to question their ideas on the afterlife. However, they still held on to their idea of earthly reward/punishment Later on, the Jews began to be exiled and conqured over and over again. In this time period, the book of Job was written, which explained the story of Job and how his faith was tested, and how he was rewarded for his strong faith. However, the idea of death and afterlife was going to change soon.

By the time of the book of Daniel, a new image of afterlife was present. And a new concept of “resurrection” came about. For the Jews living in the time of Jesus, they would be able to hear about how there would be a resurrection at the end of days, that the loyal followers will go up in Heaven, body and spirit, into Heaven, uncorruptible. And that idea has persevered to this day. However, this evolution of death and afterlife has lead us to separate our concepts of “body” and “soul”, as almost being at odds with each other. This is an idea that the Jews and probably the Christians of the 1st century would not have had. The Jews believed that you lived not as a composite body-soul but just as a “person”, that what made you, you, was not contained in a “soul” but rather was a part of you, IN you. The idea of soul came from the Greeks, in particular from the writings of Plato and Socrates. From there, this idea spread to Christianity, and influenced how we consider the concept of resurrection. So what inevitably does get resurrected? Before today, I would say that the body and soul join again, and that the body becomes “better”, but now I’m not sure. This will lead me to reevaluate what I believe about resurrection.

Part 2 comes tomorrow!

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