I’ve been obsessed with death for the past few months.
I could say it’s because of the darkening of the year. The more the sun disappears, the more depressed I become. It’s not an uncommon affliction. A vast majority of people are affected by the dark of the year, even if they don’t realize it. The human body is meant to run on air, sun, and water. When the sun only hangs around for a few hours at a time in the dead of winter, it works against us. We are missing one-third of what our body so desperately needs.
But let’s be honest, for the past several years, I’ve been battling some pretty serious depression. It affects almost every aspect of my life. Some days, I am so frozen by anxiety, so hopeless, that I can’t even function. I play silly sitcoms for hours on end just so my mind can blank and I can simply laugh without worrying about my responsibilities or lack of ability in accomplishing anything. Thank the goddess for my extremely understanding and wonderful husband, or I’d be alone and suffering. Depression isn’t uncommon either: In a given year, more than 18 million American adults – nearly 10 percent of the adult population – will suffer from a depressive illness.
Creative people have characteristics that make them more vulnerable. Ernest Hemingway committed suicide in 1961 after a lifetime of battling psychosis and depression. So, too, did Hunter S. Thompson, the most famous person to come out of my high school. David Foster Wallace, after twenty years of clinical depression, finally gave up and hung himself. . Two of the most brilliant female minds of the twentieth century did themselves in: Sylvia Plath, a personal favorite of mine, and Virginia Woolf.
I’m not going where you think I’m going. As dark and dismal as my mind can get, and as often as I wish I could hit a switch and turn off the voices telling me I’ll never amount to anything, I’ve never entertained thoughts of suicide. Probably because my fear of death is greater than my fear of depression. I’d much rather be alive and struggling to find my light in the dark, then to be, well, permanently dark.
My obsession—or perhaps heart-pounding anxiety—of death stems from my depression, which concurrently likely stems from my creative brain. And all of this has caused me to really assess my beliefs in the afterlife.
Four years ago, when I was at my highest peak of spirituality, I could have told you definitively that I believed in reincarnation and that death was merely a new beginning. Today, after meeting the darkness and still fighting to best it, I’m not so sure. Is death the final dark? Non-existence? Or in death, do we shed this mortal body in favor of the next?
I recently finished listening to an amazing audiobook by author John Green titled Looking for Alaska. It’s about a group of teenagers forced to confront the death of someone they hold dear. It is by far one of the best books I read in 2013, because for the first time in SO LONG, I’m again reaching my long-forgotten beliefs about death.
In the final pages of Green’s book, the main character writes of his new-found understanding of death and the beyond.
But ultimately I do not believe that she was only matter. The rest of her must be recycled, too. I believe now that we are greater than the sum of our parts. If you take (her) genetic code and you add her life experiences and the relationships she had with people, and then you take the size and shape of her body, you do not get her. There is something else entirely. There is a part of her greater than the sum of her knowable parts. And that part has to go somewhere, because it cannot be destroyed.
Although no one will ever accuse me of being much of a science student, one thing I learned from science classes is that energy is never created and never destroyed. And if (she) took her own life, that is the hope I wish I could have given her. Forgetting her mother, failing her mother and her friends and herself—those are awful things, but she did not need to fold into herself and self-destruct. Those awful things are survivable, because we are as indestructible as we believe ourselves to be. When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.
(Copyright John Green, I assume no credit for these incredible words.)
That brings me to my point. AKASHA. What is it? In Hinduism, it is the very basis of everything. It is “space”, the sum total of all existence. In Buddhism, it is “infinite space” and deeply revered as a real thing. Theosophy uses Akasha in the term “akashic record,” referring to the entire eternal compendium of knowledge of the human race.
And in paganism, it is much the same. Akasha is in everything and everyone. It is the spirit force that alights us all. It is the soul, what makes every human and animal unique to themselves. It is the knowledge behind our gazes, the compassion inside us. Akasha is the primal, important driving aspect of our existence.
I believe Akasha is the part of us that Green writes about in Looking for Alaska, that pure energy: unchangeable, immovable, completely and utterly indestructible. It is the part of us that goes on when our earthly form has shattered for its final time.
Maybe I’m simply Looking for Akasha.