Not Now

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The million dollar question: what the hell happens after we die? I don't want to sound all philosophical or anything - philosophy was actually the subject I hated most at school - but it's a topic I've been thinking about a lot lately.

A song that partly inspired me to write this post is "Not Now" by Blink-182. From the show two weeks ago I have yet to recover from my Blink obsession! The song talkes about a man who dies and is trapped in death. He is devastated that he can't see or kiss the girl he loves anymore, but he tells her he'll always be waiting for her on the other side. In the end he has to accept that he can't do anything to change his situation, because it's all part of God's greater plan.

A couple of weeks ago the actor Robin Williams passed away. I have always admired him as a person and as an artist: being born in the 90's films like Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook or Jumanji were staples in my ever-growing VHS collection. Recently though I had the chance to catch on TV one of his least famous movies: "What Dreams May Come". The title comes from Hamlet's monologue: to be or not to be, that is the question, whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune... (yes, I know Hamlet's monologue off by heart! Such a #nerd). Robin plays Chris, a doctor, who is married to Annie, a painter. Their two children unfortunately die in a car crash and the couple have to face extremely difficult moments; while eventually Chris seems to cope quite well, Annie breaks down and is sent to a mental institute. Chris then dies in a car crash too, and Annie has to face her hardest loss yet.

Chris awakens in an idyllic place, let's call it Heaven. He created this beautiful afterworld with his own imagination, it's his "locus amoenus", his safe place. Every single person that dies is able to draw his or her own Heaven. The peculiarity of it though it's that Chris's Heaven is really similar to one of his wife's paintings, so similar in fact that when Annie paints a beautiful lilac tree Chris sees it blossom before his very eyes. Chris then sets off to try and find his children. In the meantime though Annie can't take the suffering any longer and she takes her life. Initially Chris, when he finds out the news, is elated: when can I see my wife again!? Then he discovers that people who commit suicide don't end up in Heaven, but in Hell: not because of anyone judging them, but Hell is simply their emotions, their sufferings amplified a thousand times. In the end Chris, despite the many warnings and dangers, decides to go into Hell to try and save his wife. And I'm not going to spoil the end!

I am really not an emotional/romantic kind of person, I have only legit cried for a movie when Jean Valjean dies in "Les Miserables". This is understandable, because Jean Valjean is my favourite literary figure, he is such a genuine, good man and role model (I could talk about him and Mr. Darcy for ages!)  and, oh well, everyone has to die I guess. While this particular film wasn't the ultimate tear-jerker for me, I'm sure I can place it in the box of my all-time favourites. For the scenery, the colours, the acting and ultimately (and most importantly) the meaning, this film is really worth the watch.

Chris' vision of life really opened my eyes to what afterlife might be like, or what I personally want it to be like. Religion wise, I believe that there is someone (I don't know who or what) out there that made the Big Bang happen and that oversees all the stuff that happens in the world on a daily basis, some kind of benevolent Big Brother. After I die I would love to live in a place where my imagination and creativity could run free and at the same time find all the people I love again. I may be asking a little too much.

But what my scientific, pragmatic, and Cristina Yang part of me says is that there is nothing after death, just black, flavourless nothingness.  I have always kind of seen the human body as a machine, with all of its components perfectly engineered to work together and when the engine breaks, the whole car dies. This vision has greatly influenced my wanting to study medicine (and my wanting to get into surgery afterwards, hopefully). When your heart stops, your brain dies and you cease to be. It's as simple and as logical as that.

But what about the soul? While I can easily distinguish my body from my mind, there always seems to be that something more that makes up a person. The psyche, the soul, whatever it is. Some say it can't exist and other say that after we die we reincarnate ourselves into other people... The most plausible and the interpretation I personally believe in I found in Philip Pullman's "Amber Spyglass", the third and last instalment of the brilliant "His Dark Materials" trilogy. Lyra and Will, the main characters, after a perilous journey to the underworld, are on a mission to free all the spirits of the dead, held captive by the cruel harpies. Once they cut an opening into the real world with Will's magic knife, the spirits fly through the window and immediately disintegrate into a million particles, their soul becoming part of the wind, the stars, the grass.

At the end of the day, to finally find out what really lies ahead, we just have to wait and see it for ourselves. In the meantime it's wise to enjoy life to the fullest, with no regrets. And then, in Dumbledore's words: "to the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure".

I see, a light it feels good
And I'll come back soon just like you would
It's useless, my name has made the list
And I wish, I gave you one last kiss

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