We published a story the other day by Ruth Graham of The New York Times in which she quoted Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble's view of death as an opportunity to reflect on our limited lives.
Headlined "'You are going to die': Nun finds comfort in knowing end is near," Graham's compelling piece tackled a subject many choose to avoid, as if even thinking of departing this world might hurry the process.
It was pleasing to see such a relevant article exploring the inevitable fate that awaits. While some view the topic as morbid, I see it as an honest look at the inevitability of our being here.
And in this naturally magnificent yet deeply troubled world of human interaction, it's a safe bet that simply living can be far more difficult and painful than our inevitable departure.
A member of the Daughters of St. Paul convent, Noble believes contemplating death is one method of appreciating the present while maintaining focus on the future. In that regard, as a constant reminder she keeps replicas of skulls nearby.
"We naturally tend to think of our lives as kind of continuing and continuing," she said, which is not only unrealistic but stifling when it comes to accepting reality.
I appreciated the article for two reasons. First, her message is an eye-opener for those who tend to sleepwalk through their lives, taking much of it for granted. Second, her observations should make us pause from so many irrelevant daily diversions to appreciate even the smallest aspects of beauty and fascination in such a perfectly balanced natural world that seems so deceptively solid.
Yet in another way, my perspectives differ from hers on the deeper nature of physical death.
More than anything, this story opened a door to discuss the indestructible subatomic particles of vibrating energy we call atoms, quarks and strings that form the basis of all we are and know. They underlie the fragile state of consciousness that accompanies our physical bodies and all we know around us.
When I contemplate life versus death at age 74, the difference between them boils down to being conscious of ourselves and our surroundings. Without such thoughtful awareness, reinforced by our limited senses, we'd exist primarily as indolent lumps of meat with no sense between good and evil, any sense of purpose, each other, morality or bonds of love that characterize human life and acknowledgement of God.
I'm obviously speaking more in terms of science than organized religion. However, I've made it no secret that, as a Christian, I'm firmly convinced a divine creator is responsible for the fantastic mysteries of existence we're able to perceive and share.
Simply being capable of recognizing this world of impossibly balanced perfections should be sufficient to acknowledge a creator's hand.
The fact that quantum physics reveals that all we perceive which appears unquestionably solid is actually vibrational frequencies of energy is assurance enough that my physical death merely marks a transition back into the mysterious universal energy and consciousness field, which cannot be destroyed.
That also would explain why some philosophers have compared physical death with our consciousness simply transferring from one room into another. There also are plenty of examples of unexplained acts of consciousness outside our constantly eroding bodies.
For instance, one quantum experiment shows a particle of light fired from a device against a blank screen incredibly chooses which of two slots to pass through.
This and much more, to me anyway, means our consciousness upon physical demise returns to the pervasive field of consciousness from which it sprang. Imagine a sea spread across the universe. Each wave arising from it becomes an individual consciousness. Upon our wave's inevitable demise, it fades back into the ocean it never left.
When this lifetime is completed, all we acted upon will remain stored as part of God's eternal field of knowledge where even scriptures imply we likely will know larger truths, that is if you believe the gospels of Luke 8:17 and Matthew 10:20.
This also may explain how our brains acted over our lifetime as receivers of the vast consciousness field rather than serving as originators of the phenomenon scientists still can't fully explain.
I'm equally persuaded by evidence of a higher consciousness, such as the so-called EGG global consciousness experiments at Princeton, the efficacy of prayer, documented near-death experiences, child prodigies, psychic links between twins, extrasensory perception, remote viewing, psychic connections with pets, lucid dreams and so much else that can't physically be explained.
(I'd also include the GodNods I'm fond of sharing as examples of nonverbal or physical connections that affect our lives in inexplicable ways.)
When our period of individual awareness is completed, what we have to show for having been here hopefully will be the sum of all we contributed to the eternal consciousness and energy field where we will realize larger truths behind the brief period we spent among each other.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.