Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I was talking with a neighbor who's a retired recovery therapist. She's into a number of things about life and death, and we talked about death itself. To that end I offered my idea of death, which isn't scientific or much beyond mine and simply what I think is a common sense view, or at least for me.

I think we're hardwared not just to die, as they're finding out what causes the cells to quit reproducing to sustain the body, but how we die. I mean evolution gave us the steps where and when the body actually dies. It's an observation thing, but here goes. This means there are three parts we're given.

First, the brain has the mechanism to be aware something is wrong and there is a probability the death is immenent. We know what and how the brain works with the body, so it seems logical it know when the body isn't working and most likely dying.

Second, the brain has a trigger to start the dying process. This is where I think people get their near-death experience. I say this reading about death and about the deaths in my family. I say this for several reasons.

People who die a natural death don't seem to feel pain, or very much, so, to me, the body must have a way to block all pain from the body sending pain from dying. This is the white light. This, to me, is white noise. The brain has to have a way to flood the other areas, especially the sensory and pain receptor areas, with noise to avoid sensing the reality and pain of dying.

People who come back or experience near-death from several injuries, talk about seeing one's life and talking with long-dead people. I think, and this is somewhat supported by the literature, the brain dumps the longerm memory into the active parts of the brain. In short, a "Here's your life in a snapshot." idea where you don't see or think about anything else but your life.

Third, the brain has a proces for dying. It has to do something to quit, tell the all the organs and especially the heart to stop and then the brain to quit. There has to be a point the brain innately knows it's time to quit, the last switch of life. The person never realizes it because without pain, seeing their life and such, everything suddenly and quietly stops.

I was reading an article about a man watching his wife of many years die. He said, as he sat by her side, she breathed a breath. And then another. And then no more. Gone in a heartbeat and breath. One instant here and another not. And she didn't change the time between life and death.

My father died quietly in his sleep. He went to bed after his 75th birthday and never woke up. All the next day he didn't respond to anyone or anything. He kept talking to people long dead from his life. All dead people and all past events. And then early the next day he quietly died.

I've argued he simply gave up on life and died, but during the process he didn't express any pain something was wrong or that he was dying. He was somewhere else from his body. The brain simply took control and followed a process to die. Like the woman above, he simply stopped breathing and died.

I imagine death like taking a nap. You lie down, slowly fall asleep. And hopefully you wake up, but in death, you don't. You never know because your brain is busy doing other things for you. Your brain never tells you you're dying, it's just stops sometime during the sleep. As evolution has given us.

Ok, it's just an idea, and just mine. And it's one will never know if it's right or true. Not even me telling you, "I told you so!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Death in hindsight

Ok, not so bright, but why do we like to express something we had to do or we would die? When is death an excuse or a reason for doing something else? And if the person didn't do or didn't say what they did, instead of death, would they have died? Obviously not because they certainly wouldn't have taken their own life or do something which makes someone else take their life.

So why is it used? In the end we still die from whatever condition, circumstances or situation, and we die whether or not we said or did what we felt we had to then. It won't matter in our death. It won't matter beyond that moment we made the decision or acted as we did. Yet, we like to say it wasn't a conscious choice, or it was but the choices were it or death. But it's always in hindsight.

We knew then before we decided or acted we wouldn't die. We knew it because we didn't think about it as either that or death. We simply decided and acted. But rather than say we made the best choice or took the best course of action because it was the best at the time from what we knew then. Death was the farthest thing in our mind.

So, why do some people like to use death as an excuse for not trusting and believing in themselves?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mark Twain

I don't think anyone can argue against common sense, and against folks who have made it a part of the lexicon of America, like Will Rodgers and Mark Twain. While much of what they said was said in jest or humor, and some would argue there's little if any difference between the two and often they're both about truth, it could be argued they also said a lot about the simplicity and complexity of the world and life in a spoken throught.

Take for example the beginning of Mark Twain's book, "Following the Equator" where there is a photo of him on the steamship above the inscription, "Be good and you will be lonesome." Well, Jimmy Buffett took it farther in a verse in the song "That's what living is to me", when he wrote,

Be good and you will be lonesome.
Be lonesome and you will be free.
Live a lie and you will live to regret it.
That's what living is to me,
That's what living is to me.

I'm not sure what this has to do with Taoism, and maybe why I'm not much good at understanding the depth of Taoism, but somehow it struck me as something of the essence of the Tao. It's about being and who you are, your personality and character. As Martin Luther King said, "Let them be judged by the content of their character."

How often do we sacrifice being good? How many times a day? And at the end of the day do we still consider ourselves to be a good person? Will others see us as a good person? Based on what we did today? Or what we did to or with them?

The reality is we can't. We can only try and do our best, and then hope it's good. And then learn from both what we did and what good we may have done, or not done. And hope people understand to judge us fairly, by our intentions, our decisions and our actions, all reflecting our character.

The truth is we don't think about being good when we're thinking, deciding and acting. We think about the issue, the problem or whatever is in front of us. We simply do and let hindsight judge us. Good is what it's called later.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Series

I've updated my Tao blog and am adding a series on my understanding and interpretation of Tao Te Ching. I've also added an introduction on my view and Mt. Rainier. I will occasionally reread and rewrite the essays as I read and learn the Tao Te Ching.

You're welcome to send me comments, suggestions. questions, etc.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tao Te Ching II

About two years ago I wrote about reading the Tao Te Ching. Well, two years later, I've read some of it, and forgotten most of it, so I will restart the conversation between the book and myself, most of which will be a dialog here about each of the 81 verses in the book, and what I think it means to me.

Yeah, I know I'm not a master or teacher of Tao. And I'm far from being more than just a casual, although I use the term lazy, Taoist, still it's about what it means to each of us individually and how we read, interpret, think and understand the Tao Te Ching, and then practice it with ourselves and in our life, with others and with the world.

In short, it's the personal journey we all make. I'll just express it as a series of posts about each verse. The essays won't be complete or necessarily correct. After all, there are many interpretations by the masters of the years, so mine is really amateurish at best, but still, it's mine, and as such is always open to questions, corrections, suggestions, whatever the reader finds in them.

So, that's it. I'll get back to the reading, thinking and feeling, and add the essays over time. Remember it took two years to get here, so 81 verses will take awhile. And isn't that the point of the time, to learn, grow and improve oneself?