Today I took my daughter R to the Science Centre in the city. We have an annual family membership and so we go often. She is a child who has a love of science and nature. She has a definite interest in space, though she also has a fear of it. She hasn’t been able to completely articulate what it is exactly that she finds scary, but from what I have gathered through our conversation, it has to do with its vastness as well as the unknown. There’s no concrete end or boundaries, and there’s still so much for us to learn. Forever, infinite, eternity… Those are hard concepts to understand as an adult, never mind as a 9 year old.
While there, we visited the star theatre. This is a dome theatre, that surrounds you on all sides, and gives you the impression that you are there in that vastness of space, amongst all those stars. When we watch movies about space, my daughter usually becomes quiet and withdrawn. She becomes pensive in a way that is deeply personal. I can see that she is confused and frightened by the questions that arise in her mind after watching a film that may include talk of the big bang, planets outside our solar system, black holes, and what it is precisely that happens out there in space. She has commented more than a few times that she doesn’t like space movies, and I know it is because there are a lot of uncomfortable thoughts racing through her brain, struggling to make sense.
I understand, because although I am an adult, I still work in precisely the same way. I am fascinated with space and I love to read and hear about the new discoveries that are made, and witness the expanding knowledge of human beings. Yet space ultimately always leads me to think of death. It is the unknown. The blackness. What I perceive to be the vast emptiness. I am always drawn to the thought that vast emptiness, nothingness if you will, may be exactly all there is after we die.
And death… Well that’s my biggest fear. And probably the biggest fear of my children. I mention in my About page that I’m not religious but I am spiritual. But I’m not going to pretend I know or have any definite answers when it comes to that question of the after-life.
I’d love to believe that something happens to us after we die. I know logically we are made of energy and that energy has to go somewhere. But where? I have no idea. And I don’t tell my children that I know. I share with them the many lovely beliefs of this world, because there are so many. But I don’t spend much time on the beliefs that aren’t so lovely. There is enough tragedy in this world already. Besides, I’m not sharing these ideas to get them to conform to some moral standard. I’m simply sharing so that they may see all the choices there are out there, and they may choose one of these belief systems if they’d like, or some of each, or none at all. That’s the great thing about beliefs. We get to choose.
But then again, that’s also the hard thing. Not being able to give them a definite answer. This is a question that caused me SO much anxiety throughout childhood. And it can still cause an almost panic attack like response in me if I think about it too much. It brings about sadness and worry and desperation. This mere average of 80 or so years is all I’m guaranteed with the lovely people I know. And sometimes it’s not even that much. Brian passed away at 32 this year.
If I could simply say, that Brian, is in a better place, and TRULY believe it, then I wouldn’t be so sad. I wouldn’t be so worried. If I had that belief I wouldn’t miss that guy so damn much, because I care deeply for him and I would want him to be in a better place. If I truly believed the better place idea, it wouldn’t have taken me almost 10 years to come to terms with the my grandfather’s death, with whom I was extremely close.
The thing is that wanting to believe in something doesn’t necessarily make it true. I can’t turn off the logical part of me for belief. And I can’t know for sure what happens until I do actually die. And there’s no guarantees that my being will be cognizant of it anyway. So I will probably continue to live in fear of the death. But I do hope at some point I will make peace with the fact that I just don’t know what’s out there for us after our physical bodies are done on this Earth. And I hope my daughter can too. And if we do, when we watch a space movie it won’t necessarily trigger thoughts of death and decay and empty loneliness. Which will probably make watching those movies, just a tiny bit more enjoyable.