“There’s nothing past this” -Really!?!?

Photo by Dom Henry

“That when our hearts stop ticking
This is the end
And there’s nothing past this”

On the outside valley walls surrounding the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, through my iPod headphones, on a morning jog, I heard those lyrics and was immediately  shot into an internal conversation of voices, thoughts, doubts, prayers, and inklings.  The trail I traversed provided the perfect space for the existential-yet-urgently-practical debate I had with my brain as my feet shuffled on the earth that I came from, and will one day return to, and my skin embraced the sun’s life giving heat.

Let me start by citing the lyric.  It comes off of Death Cab For Cutie’s latest album Codes and Keys. I really like DCFC.  They’re not my favorite band by any stretch, but I’ve always just enjoyed their stuff.  Benjamen Gibbard’s lyrics and writing have been the soundtrack to many moments in my life, not limited to Death Cab For Cutie, plus he’s married to Zooey Deschanel, how awesome is that!?  Like I said, I really enjoy their stuff, but that lyric got me thinking.

“There’s nothing past this”

How can we know there is nothing past this life?  Isn’t that just as arrogant as suggesting for certain that you know EXACTLY what happens after death?

It’s been extra apparent in recent months that it’s hard to make claims about the afterlife, that no one really knows what remains when our bodies give out, but as I see it, for that reason, every opinion about this is a decision to believe something you can’t immediately know.  All we have is a “best guess”.  After we come to terms with our own inability to be certain, and humility takes it’s rightful place, the question that remains is what will you choose to believe? Or will we even dare ask the question in the first place?

Maybe you can honestly look around at life, existence, and reality and decide. “Yep, this is it.  There is in fact nothing past this.”  Once this decision is made, it seems like morality, beauty, tragedy, and love all become relative, and it gets harder and harder to draw true meaning out of life, because there is no reason, intention, or purpose to anything.  We’re just dust particles floating around space – but hey, that’s just the way it feels to me.  Here’s the weird thing about this decision.  There are just as many logical reasons to believe that there is nothing past this, as there are to believe there IS something past this.  Ultimately, it’s a faith decision so to speak.

Or maybe you’re too fearful to commit to that camp so you don’t dive into it it.  Instead you take the “On the fence” perspective and relinquish the pursuit of asking the big questions and decide, “I just don’t know, so I’m not going to worry.  Let me just have a drink and enjoy life while I can!”.  To be honest there is a HUGE part of me that is tempted to side with this perspective, because it sounds so good!  If you just play the naivety card, you’re not accountable to anything!  Life can just be a series of random experiences and fumbling occurrences that don’t really matter.  But what happens when the darkness of death looms over a loved one?  How can we play dumb in the face of our bodies impending expiration?  Or what answer will we bring to the table when suffering surfaces through, disaster, violence, or disease?  While somewhat convenient, this perspective does not satisfy life in any meaningful way, like an out of balance equation, we still thirst for resolution.

Or maybe we decide that there is something more -we go against the grain of culture that offers it’s excuses not to investigate our being alive and decide, “There, MUST be something past this! This can’t be one unbelievably huge accident!”.  We begin to listen to our hearts, and notice the beauty all around us, and accept them as clues to the Great Mystery.

I know that I cannot prove what lay beyond life, or what/how life started in the first place, but something inside me compels me to look around at the world we find ourselves in and disagree with Mr. Gibbard.  I still really like the song btw.

There is nothing past this?  Really? Prove it.

“St. Peter’s Cathedral”

St. Peter’s cathedral
Built of granite
Ever fearful of the answer
When the candle in the tunnel
Is flickering and sputters
And fading faster
It’s only then that you will know
What lies above or down below
Or if these fictions only prove
How much you’ve really got to lose

At St. Peter’s cathedral
There is stained glass
There’s a steeple that is reaching
Up towards the heavens
Such ambition never failing to amaze me
It’s either quite a master plan
Or just chemicals that help us understand
That when our hearts stop ticking
This is the end
And there’s nothing past this

There’s nothing past this
There’s nothing past this
There’s nothing past this
There’s nothing past this
There’s nothing past this
There’s nothing past this
There’s nothing past this

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