After I sat down across from Camp who was pawing his silly gadget we commented on the weather, the sorry state of the US body politic, the Russian aggression on the Ukrainian border and the ongoing crisis of the Covid pandemic. So many people dying prematurely and unnecessary and so much trouble in the world.
‘Are you afraid of death?’ I asked Camp, off the cuff, like asking him about what he had for dinner.
He gave me a funny look, took a sip and then said: ‘I’m not afraid of death, just of dying. Suffering and loss of physical functions and memory are what I’m scared about. Death itself, the grim reaper, could be a welcome sight, almost a relief I think.’
‘What about after death? Aren’t you afraid of what comes after?’
‘Like what? Heaven or hell?
‘Or eternal darkness,’ I said. ‘Lights out, show over.’
‘Well, we wouldn’t know about it would we. It’s not like laying in the dark wondering how to get to the bathroom. It’s like going to sleep and not waking up. No consciousness of anything, no darkness, no light.’
‘You’re ok with that? Nothing?’
‘You mean that there is nothing to look forward to or fear. Yes, I’m ok with that. Accept the inevitable, ahead of the event, put your affairs in order, not for yourself but for whom you leave behind and hope it’s a painless, easy parting. Best in your sleep in your own bed after a fulfilled life.’
‘The perfect, but somewhat boring end.’
‘I’m ok with a boring end, just not a boring life.’
‘What would you tell a child with a fatal illness, a young life that is about to expire and the child asks you: ‘Where do I go from here, can I take my teddy with me?’
‘That’s not fair,’ Camp protested, ‘I can’t speak and lead other people with my personal, intimate beliefs. Ok, here is what I would like to say. ‘You will go to a place where there is no more pain, where everybody that loves you will be with you and yes, you can take the teddy with you. Just hold onto it.’
‘That’s blatant lying. Camp,’ I said.
‘No, it’s comforting and at the end of the day comfort is everything. Some might find it in their religion or beliefs but the child is comforted by the fact that he can take his teddy with him.’
‘Nobody will be there because as you said there will be nothing and nothing is the opposite of everything. Life is everything. Death is nothing. That’s your rational theory, your theological master thesis. There isn’t any hope, anything to look forward to, no justice and no incentive, no after life. The mass murderer and goody-two-shoes will have the same outcome, the same prospects; in other words, no consequences and no reward and punishments.’
‘Not after death,’ Camp said, ‘but they will get their rewards and retribution while still alive.’
‘So, also no soul, no aura, no eternal flame. Don’t you think we have at least a soul?’ I pressed on, trying to corner Camp.
‘No really,’ Camp said after concentrating on his beer for a pause. ‘It’s what we call our conscience and inner feelings for lack of something tangible. Like we think love is in our hearts, which is just a metaphor as is the soul which is really just a product of our imagination.”.’
‘All right, let me summarize: You’re not afraid of death, just of dying, you accept that the end of physical life is also the end of spiritual life; no hereafter, no heaven or hell, no light, no darkness, just nothing. I’m not sure if that is depressing or just plain heartless,’ I said. ‘No angels, no devils, no gods, no saints, no eternal justice, no consequences. It sounds brutally final and cold blooded.’
‘Well yes, that is what life is,’ Camp nodded. “A finite existence from birth to death. That’s why we have to make the best of this thing called life since everything else is just a theory and fantasy.’
‘You’re a cynical bastard,’ I said, ‘but you’re probably right.’
Let’s ask Vicky what she thinks.
‘Life after death? You’re kidding right? Hell and heaven are right here, depending on the place you call home. You two should be thinking about love, life and fun.’
‘She’s got a point,’ I said after she swapped out our beers. We drank to that.