Hitchin’ a ride; or, Brief Thoughts on Art, Self, and Death

A friend asked at lunch one day something along the lines of “What happens to the “me” of me when I die?”

This seems a question better posed over dinner and too much wine, but anyway.

I had been thinking about that very thing before she posed the question, and continue to do so, and have been reading about the mind and consciousness, the mind-body question — is the mind or consciousness the brain in its materiality and chemistry, or is it something else? Here are some other writers’ thoughts that resonate around this.

Christian Wiman quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who just before his execution by the Nazis claimed: “I want my life. I demand my/own life back. My past. You!” Wiman writes, “It’s not the future that Bonhoeffer feels slipping from him, but the past, not some totality of existence he fears losing — he still believes in salvation–but its molecular singularity, all the minute perceptions and sensations, retained by the body if not the mind, that comprise one particular human consciousness.”

In 1956, William Faulkner, who hated interviews, took time to describe this impulse to the Paris Review:
“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist’s way of scribbling ‘Kilroy was here’ on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.”

Khalil Gibran wrote this, which seems relevant: 
“But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.”

But perhaps Pokey Lafarge answers it best. He sings: “I’m singing la la la.”

6 thoughts on “Hitchin’ a ride; or, Brief Thoughts on Art, Self, and Death

  1. So, in the middle of the afternoon (without wine): My understanding of God/the Eternal One is as the universal energy of Divine Love. My understanding of my soul/consciousness/identity – or the me of me – is that it is also an energy, so that, when I die, that energy will exist as a part of Divine Love, and, as such, be in relationship to others who have died. This is my interpretation of the Christian concept of heaven when those who have died are in the presence of God and of loved ones who have died.

    If I manage to leave writings or memories or good works or descendents that continue to impact others after my death, that’s a legacy – or, perhaps, bonus points.

    Is it time for some wine now?


  2. I have spent a lot of time on this set of questions, many of which I discussed on my blog, where you will also find some more books to increase your mulling on the topic of mind-body-consciousness.

    With the recent death of a best-Beloved, the mulling continues…but I think Faulkner put it most readably. I do, however, appreciate Wiman’s phrase about molecular singularity. Our being-in-and-of-the-body seems the better explanation of ego.

    Liked by 1 person

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