(Hey! Super Agnostic and comic guru CB here with another two-parter. This one is on consciousness and the afterlife as explained through my geekery! Stay tuned for part 2. – CB.)
ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER AGNOSTIC: CONSCIOUSNESS AND AFTERLIFE
“No more Magnus… No more!! Logan shall be the last! No one else will ever suffer! You caused the deaths of hundreds today, Magnus – deaths I could have prevented had I stopped you years ago! You have killed too many, Magnus – and I have had enough!! I will make sure – here and now – once and for all – that you never kill again!!”
– Professor X, The Complete Onslaught Epic vol. 1, opening pages
The above is a quote from right when Professor X, my hero, decides to do the unthinkable and psychically wipe Magneto’s mind; not killing him, but forcing him to live a new life. This sort of thing happens all the time in comics, and it’s easy to laugh at, but to me it illustrates the link between stories and continued consciousness. Magneto only resumes being himself when Professor X puts his memories back, due to the link between the brain and consciousness. Thus, scientifically, all evidence of an afterlife must be anecdotal.
As such, let me illustrate with a personal anecdote.
It’s 2002. At 16 years old, I’m undergoing spinal surgery for my scoliosis which is a tilting spine. I am outfitted with an anesthesia mask…cherry flavored. It makes me look like a walrus with big tusks for some reason. I still remember the feel of that big clunky mask. Secretly, I worry that the anesthesia won’t work. They tell me to count backwards from 10. I seem to remember I got to about 7, and I had time to think: “Well, this isn’t worki–…” and then, I remember nothing. My first words when I awoke were, “Have we started yet?” But they had already finished.
What I missed, as it was later described to me, was hell for the last 6 hours for everyone around me. My mom broke down and cried, and at one point she even had to make a choice as to whether or not to continue. The doctors feared I would lose what little motor control I had. And yet, I remember nothing except: “Have we started yet?” That, in all honesty, is what I believe death is like. Since we know the brain maintains consciousness…if anesthesia can shut it down, that’s pretty solid evidence that there is no afterlife. I believe whatever we call an afterlife is either a hallucination caused by the brain shutting down, or in as the case of anesthesia, shutting down instantly and peacefully, so as to remember nothing. As Roy Batty puts it: “All those moments…will be lost…in time…like tears in the rain.”
While this is it for the afterlife in the literal sense of the word, I still believe the “afterlife” that consists of continued memory through stories shared by a group about a person. Through stories we transcend death, which is why it can be done in comics and movies. Further, the hallucinations (Like a Force ghost!) which must take place in the event of a slow shut down, come from personal, cultural, and even historical contexts as in people seeing tunnels of light and angels. But, of course, that doesn’t mean they are real. Nonetheless, they are important in the sense that they can carry a Force, a meaning to the bereaved, and I cannot deny them that, because: “It surrounds us. It penetrates us. It binds the universe together.“
About Chris Bowsman, comic and gaming editor: I’m a passionate disability rights advocate, sci-fi fan, and intercultural communication guy. I have cerebral palsy. I like video games. I have a master’s degree in Intercultural communication and a B.A. in German. I hope to go overseas again someday. Haven’t been to Germany. I’ve been to Spain. I like movies. Raised in Port Huron, MI. Went to College in PA. Looking at the world through the eyes of aliens. Blogspot: www.christopherbowsman.blogspot.com