Apparently death doesn’t necessarily mean your dead. At least not anymore. Recent science on the frontiers of human life/death has found that it isn’t the lack of oxygen that kills cells in a resuscitated body, but the presence of it.

Take a second to process that: seconds, minutes, even hours after the heart has stopped beating, cells aren’t quite dead yet. They’re ready for a new burst of life. But that new burst of life effectively causes them to go cancerous. Apparently mitochondria [we all know what mitochondria are, right?], the powerhouses of the cell, are also directly involved in apoptosis [cell death]. I won’t get into all the gory details [I’m done with cell biology forever!!! Or until it comes up again in some sort of future research, as it inevitably will…], but if you want to know more, check out Wikipedia.

Scientists have found that the sudden flux of oxygen after resuscitating a person leads apoptosis inducing cells to fail to distinguish between cancer cells and cells newly flooded with oxygen. In other words, a really bad time in Cell Town for those poor souls with new oxygen.

In other words, for the past century, we’ve been bringing people back from death in all the wrong ways. Where we should have slowly reoxygenated the body, or lowered body temperature to slow chemical processes, we’ve instead been doing CPR and using crash paddles to give the victim a sudden burst of oxygen. Woah wrong!

Isn’t that just cool? I mean, sure, it shifts the boundaries of death just a little further past any previous thoughts of ‘the point of no return,’ but I personally find that fascinating.

If you want the real science without my messing things up, check out the original article.

Enjoy all that oxygen pumping through your cells. Mm mm mm, cellular respiration.

Want to see something morbid and yet hilarious? Check out this AIDs campaign poster:

I need to try some of those moves. I mean, seriously, the creator of this poster has some imagination!

But after seeing the last few panes, maybe not.

Damn death, takes the fun out of everything…

Death and dying. Everyone’s interested in them. In fact, some anthropologists see all of human culture as an attempt to run from death. Don’t want to face your mortality? Create a god. Don’t believe in gods? Create a science that offers the possiblity of allowing humans to transcend their present condition.

But this post has little or nothing to do with any of that. :) Well, it does have to do with death, but from a new perspective. For me at least. Let’s look at death like an atheists.

Now, when I say this is a new perspective for me, I’m not being completely honest. I can remember laying awake at night when I was seven or eight, usually after watching an interesting show on the Discovery Channel on the paranormal (remember when the DC had good shows on it?), thinking, ‘If there isn’t a heaven, what’s life like after this?’ My mind would inevitable shift to images of astronauts. I guess I associated death with empty space, therefore the spacemen. So, I thought, life would just like being an astronaut forever. I guess.

Not quite. When you consider a real atheist view of life (in this case I mean atheist to mean a purely physicalist view of the universe, meaning a belief that only matter really exists), this belief looks just as fallacious as a belief in some bright, shiny heaven somewhere “up there.”

You can read the article that originally gave me the inspiration for this post here. Basically, the author of the argument claims that death isn’t a vast nothingness in the way I thought of it as a child, or in much the same way I still thought about it while wearing my “atheist” cap. As the author put it, most believe that, “what’s next is nothing; death is an abyss, a black hole, the end of experience…” But, in fact, that’s not it at all. To realize what death is like, take this thought experiment:

What was your experience like before you were born?

That’s it. That’s what death will be like. ‘But I can’t remember what my experience was like before I was born… I feel like I’ve always been here.” Well, then, what do you have to worry about death? For me, any fear of death from an atheist perspective has little to do with all the lost opportunities that I’ll never get to experience (though, yes, that does bother me… I don’t “seize the day” as much as I should). No, I’m afraid of life after death. Or rather, the lack thereof. I’m afraid of the great void. The great abyss.

But there is no great abyss. When you’re dead, you’re dead. Nothing much more special than that. So, unless you fear what your life was like before you were born, you have no reason to fear your life after your death. If you didn’t fear life when you didn’t have it in the beginning, why fear it when you don’t have it at the end.

Maybe this is something to do with the Zen Koan, “Show me your face before your parents were born and I’ll show you your true self.” That face was pure consciousness. As long as people exist, consciousness will exist. And in reality, “you” are just a bubble of consciousness. The only difference between the eyes that helped write these words and the eyes that read these words now is a few smudges on pure consciousness. A scar on the original face. A scar we call “you” and “me.”

That all said, I still fear death. Less than I did before, maybe. But the thought of losing this life still scares me. I have a few more years to get over this fear. Hopefully.

I hope this helped you consider your life and death.