Philosophy, Ethics and Religion are three things that have always fascinated me, and I imagine that they will each continue to do so.
I’m intrigued by the bigger questions, those that no one has the answers to.
Why are we here?
Is there a God?
Can we really define what is right and what is wrong?
And, what's more, each individual reading this will have their very own beliefs and morals, their very own perceptions of the world that nobody else can prove, nor disprove.
Well, until it's not, of course. Because, questions like this can cause people a lot of affliction, and whilst the lack of answers opens these queries up to endless debate, it's also the lack of answers that gives way to great turmoil and frustration.
And, as you can imagine, it's the title question of this article that causes the most turmoil and frustration for me.
Is there really a life after death?
Okay, I know. I can literally picture some of the reactions already.
But, for those of you who have read my article on Existential Anxiety, I think it's fairly obvious why I battle with this question frequently.
Because, whilst some people fear spiders or heights, perhaps public speaking or clowns, maybe even the dark, my biggest fear is dying. And so, for my own sanity, I’m naturally going to lean towards the narrative that there is some truth in ‘the other side’.
Now, I can totally appreciate that some people see a lot of naivety in the belief of an afterlife. From a non-believer’s perspective, I understand how it seems a bit airy fairy, particularly when you consider the scientific possibility of such.
In fact, it’s pretty easy to assume that believing in the afterlife is simply an attempt to combat any negative feelings that one has about dying. For example, if someone loses a loved one, the concept of that loved one‘s soul still being around in some way is, more often than not, incredibly reassuring.
So, in that sense, the idea of an afterlife for those that struggle to accept death is the same principle as turning on a light when you’re afraid of the dark.
When facing something that arouses negative emotions, we are bound to look for a solution.
But, many do genuinely argue that the afterlife isn't a concept, rather stating that it's a real thing, and their evidence comes from first hand experience.
Dating back to the 1800s, Spiritualism is a religious movement based upon the doctrine that the spirit/soul of an individual exists as a separate entity to their physical matter. Those who wish to participate in the practice of Spiritualism may attend a Spiritualist Church, and the services held in such often involve a demonstration of mediumship.
Now, whilst I have been to a Spiritualist Church, I wouldn't exactly call myself a Spiritualist, per se. In fact, the very reason that I started to adopt a more spiritual perspective was nothing to do with the loss of someone close to me.
My newfound interest in Spiritualism came shortly after the heinous string of terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13th, 2015.
When news of what had happened broke out across mainstream media, I remember feeling extremely disillusioned, a little like I was suddenly colourblind after 17 years of seeing life in fluorescent.
For days, I couldn’t think straight.
I found it particularly difficult to accept that 89 individuals had gone to The Bataclan to enjoy a concert, of all things, and then never returned home.
Perhaps it was the fact that music is something so close to my heart.
Perhaps it was the sheer magnitude of the attack, or the fact that Paris is renowned to be a city of love.
Maybe it was the fact that all of the victims that night were there, then they were gone. Instant. It was the first time that my belief in something greater than us had been shaken, the first time that I started to think 'this must be it; this is all there is.'
But, a few days later I came across an Instagram post from author and poet Rupi Kaur, and this marked the beginning of a whole new perspective for me...
I am sorry this world could not keep you safe, may your journey home be a soft and peaceful one
There‘s something about the concept of our souls residing elsewhere after we’ve left this world, the idea that we have a real home waiting for us, void of suffering, pain and evil.
My friend Hannah once told me that, whilst she’s massively spiritual, it doesn’t necessarily mean she feels there is something protecting us from evil.
Instead, she believes that things like nature and free-will still play a major part in what takes place in this world, those of which are entirely separate to a spiritual realm.
And, I guess this aligns entirely with Kaur’s poem. We can’t be guaranteed safety, good health or longevity in this world, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of our souls living on peacefully after our passing, however that may be.
I mean, there are many individuals out there who claim to have contacted 'the other side' through the practice of mediumship - they even make a living out of doing so!
I know some who have received messages themselves, be it at a Spiritualist Church or a private reading, and others who speak of extraordinary experiences that give them no choice but to believe.
As for me?
Well, I just want to leave you all with this...
Back in April of this year, I lost someone incredibly special to me.
I'm not going to go into any great detail about them, as I don't find it to be necessary, but it goes without saying that the loss of their presence was tremendous, and this person was pretty spectacular.
Now, as you, the reader, will already know, my interest in Spiritualism dates back to 2015, and over time I've developed a greater understanding of such. One thing in particular that I've grown to be familiar with is the practice of mediumship, and how easy it is to fob people off with half-hearted descriptions. You know the type.
"I'm sensing a very kind person"
"I get the impression that this person had a lot of love for you"
"This person wants you to know that they're proud of you..."
Essentially, bog-standard generalisations that most would obviously see as applicable to their loved one, were they ever to receive a reading.
That's why I wanted to give this person something special and personal to refer to. I had no confirmation that there could even be a possibility of such, rather just a 'persistent despite all' kind of faith that always encouraged me.
And so, I folded two origami crane birds.
One for me, kept close to this day, and one for them, which I personally placed in their coffin.
"This is my way of knowing," I thought. "If they ever want to reach out, this is how I'll know."
Now, let us fast forward to July of this year.
I was in Ibiza with some friends, and we'd planned to spend some time on the rocks near Cafe Mambo on the evening of Saturday the 13th. The location is notorious for beautiful sunsets, and hundreds of people gather there to witness such each night.
I'd decided that this would be a wonderful opportunity to commemorate the person that I lost, now just over 3 months ago. Leaving my friends further back, I made the decision to sit out on one of the rocks at the seafront, telling them I wanted to take in the moment on my own.
The issue, however, was that the sky that evening was far too cloudy for the sunset to be a ''success'', so to speak. Rather than setting along the horizon, the sun fell behind a cloud relatively early on, and the sea was pretty choppy.
Choppy enough to result in me getting absolutely drenched what with sitting out on the front rocks.
All in all? A total disaster.
I trudged back over to the girls, nothing short of gutted that this had been our experience. I told them that I'd wanted this to be a moment of reflection on behalf of the individual that had passed, and we all agreed to come back another evening for a second take.
"Never mind," I'd said. "I know if they could see me now, they'd be laughing at all of this!"
And I assumed that was that.
But, just as I'd finished talking about them, the sun started to break through from beneath the clouds, completely blood orange. It was beautiful, enough for me to take a momentary pause, appreciating the small, albeit probably coincidental, signal that they may be watching over me.
Simply good timing, perhaps.
Then, that's when I heard the music.
It was faint at first, so much so that I spent a brief second questioning whether or not I was hearing things.
I wasn't. It was real.
Somewhere (and to this day, I cannot be certain of where), was playing the music from the beginning of my loved one's crematorium service.
'Now We Are Free' by Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerard was the song, a powerful and moving piece of music that had played out in the background as friends and family entered..
And, now, that very same song was playing there in Ibiza, just as the sun broke out from behind the clouds.
Of course, at this point, I'd started to cry. Be it a coincidence or not, it was incredibly overwhelming for me, and the moment of commemoration that I'd set out to achieve.
One of my friends came over and hugged me, I imagine in a bid to help me regather myself, and that's when I noticed her face drop.
She started tapping me repeatedly, telling me to turn around immediately and "look!"...
So I did.
A young boy was ahead of us, talking to a lady whom I can only assume was his mother.
He was standing on the very rocks that I'd been sat on just moments prior.
And on the back of his jumper?
An origami crane bird.
Thank you so much for reading.
All the love,