My daughter The Heir has what she calls "existential crises" when she starts thinking about the whole idea of mortality, our place in the universe, the fleeting nature of good health ... you know, all that heavy stuff. I must admit that these things bothered me more when I was younger than they do now, but it's impossible not to ponder the great intangibles.
What got me thinking about life and death was some things my cousin told me about my recently-departed uncle's last days. My uncle had a chaotic vision when he was near death. He was being harshly judged by some sort of tribunal, and the situation was terrifying. He returned from wherever that place was and reported this with no small amount of anxiety to his children.
There's no proof we have a soul, and there's no proof we don't. As for me, I say that we aren't using enough of our ape brains yet to be able to perceive the soul, except as a concept.
For the sake of argument, let's agree there is a soul in each person. Now, think about this. The population is exploding. Even if souls re-enter bodies pretty quickly, there are going to be more new people than there are souls. So some souls must be in a sort of infant state.
Sometimes you'll hear of someone who is described as an "old soul." To me this means that the person's soul has done the "mortal vale" thing a bunch of times and is getting better at handling the mess. New souls, on the other hand, would (to my way of thinking) be kind of juvenile and self-absorbed, even in adulthood. Do you know people like that? I do. And how long do you think it takes -- how many soul-rides through life -- before souls get their groove thing going? I feel like I'm kind of midway, like Dante as he blunders into Hell. Lots more to learn, but not just off the boat either.
Then there's the whole end-of-life visionary thing. My father and my husband's grandmother, nearing death, both saw diminutive people with red hair, standing in the doorway, beckoning. Call them faeries, call them angels, call them what you will -- I think these are portal beings, working the space between death and life. To my dad, the little Peter Pan he saw was amusing and intriguing. Husband's gran told the little girl she saw that she wasn't ready just yet.
If our species survives its own tendency to lash out at itself, we will some day understand all these mysteries. In the meantime, thinking about it too much makes me a tad anxious. Time to light some candles to the bored gods and hope that my uncle was a new soul who will get some seasoning, some day, in a good way. That tribunal sounded like Hell to me.