Thursday, September 24, 2009

An Example of Selfishness

One of our* 3 cats is very sick and close to death. He's over 17 years old and his organs have begun to shut down. I've been trying to nurse him as best I can -- including spoon-feeding him -- but he's gotten to the point in which he's refusing food -- in itself this is amazing as he has always been a big pig.

So, I'm contemplating his death and thinking about how to explain it to two young neighbor kids. As I was rolling the whole situation over in my mind, a weird thought intruded: heaven is a prime example of selfishness!

In nature, when a plant or animal dies, it slowly decomposes which provides food for other creatures and microbes. One it is fully decomposed, it becomes soil which brings forth new life. In other words, what we have here is a perpetual cycle of life into death into life into death into life...

Each being gives up itself for the betterment of the whole. If a spirit or essence is involved, it returns to the source to generate new energy or whatever.

Now compare this process with the religious beliefs of humans, particularly those that envision a heaven or heaven-like place. First off, when each person dies (except in extreme cases), we go out of our way to ensure that our physical body doesn't benefit the whole. For the last few centuries, we've tended to pump the corpse full of embalming fluid, place it in a box (wood for the poor, harder substances for the rich), bury it in a hole and, sometimes, build a concrete cathedral all around it. (Note: I'm going to be cremated.)

Beyond that, from most religious standpoints, our soul or spirit will remain intact and the good among us will fly off to heaven. This means that even our energy, essence or whatever it is will not be allowed to enrich the whole. It's reserved solely for "ourselves" and nothing else.

That is downright selfish, if you ask me. It's an absolute "me first" mentality. Whether in life or death, my essence seems completely disinterested in anyone else.

I'm sorry, but I just don't accept that kind of thinking. Why should every other life form -- except humans -- be involved in a continuous cycle of interconnection? Since we're part of this thing called life, it defies credulity that we would merit a special dispensation.

*Note: The cat, in question, Mookie, is our next door neighbor's cat. Before we moved to South Bend, he lived with them for 15 years. However, HE decided to adopt us. He has basically lived in and at our house for the last 2 years. We feed him, bathe him and take care of him.

I thought our neighbors might harbor ill will towards us for this interesting arrangement. However, Brenda (the wife & mom) told me the other day that Mookie was lucky that we moved next door and she was thankful we had decided to take him under our wing. Consequently, Mookie both is our cat AND their cat.


  1. Several years ago I was reading one of the Dune novels by Frank Herbert. It was either Heretics of Dune or Chapterhouse: Dune, I can't remember which. In the book it mentions that one of the groups of people by the name of Bene Gesserit bury their dead feet first in their orchard and then plant a tree where the body was buried. The body then becomes food for the tree. I always thought this was very cool. If I can pull it off, I would like to be buried in a similar fashion.

  2. I read a few years back about a new way of preparing a body for burial that I really hope becomes mainstream. Some states are offering it, but I think they are all on the East coast of the USA.

    The body is frozen in liquid nitrogen and then powdered. The powder is then placed in a biodegradable box. The headstone consists of a small natural rock with engraving put on it. The box is then buried in an area put aside for such a purpose (but not a cemetery really) and eventually the stone will be all that's left as a reminder.

    It's much better for the environment than embalming or cremating. (I plan to be cremated if the other option is not available when I die.)

  3. i have always wanted to be buried in cardboard or thin wood so it can decompose first and let my body naturally feed the soil. however i've learned that it's illegal to just bury a body with no "standard" coffin, because they are worried about disease! so essentially you are forced out of the ecosystem!!! i wish to be cremated as well, since the other option is not possible. :(

  4. You are so right... furthermore, it makes the problem worse when people base their life decisions on how it might affect them after they die, rather than how it might affect the people around them *right now*.

    Interestingly, this focus (as far as I can tell) is not native to Christianity's roots, but was 'imported' from Greek religions some centuries later... but wherever it came from, it's been with us for too long! :)

    As far as being cremated, does that preclude being as organ donor?? Just a thought...


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