‘The Quest of an Agnostic Catholic’ by Oliver Lim

Non-Fiction, Short Stories

I’ve always wondered what happens to our consciousness when we’re unconscious. Despite being unconscious when we’re asleep, our mind doesn’t stop working. Studies suggest that we dream every time we’re asleep, and that during our whole night or day’s sleep, on average we spend about two hours doing it.

A lot has been said about the human brain – its functions and how to enhance them, how to treat it when there’s injury or trauma – all sorts of different stuff. But there isn’t one particular study that explains the significance of dreaming. Imagine waking up from a nightmare: there’s a feeling of exhaustion and you think to yourself, “It felt so real!” But if you don’t wake up remembering your dream, you might think it never happened. If science is to be taken into account, your brain goes through the same cycle every time you’re asleep. It gets busy even when you don’t realize it’s working.

I have the same question about death: what happens to our consciousness when we die? Does it vanish forever? No one really knows, except those who have been pronounced dead and have then woken up. They could tell you where their mind, or possibly their body took them. Some vividly describe their out- of-body experience, how they watched their own body being treated by medical professionals. What if those accounts were actually real occurrences? Could it be possible that your consciousness lingers after you die, the same way that your mind takes you places when you dream, only this time, your dream becomes your reality and you wouldn’t have any recollection of your past life?

If you think about it, everything in the universe is made up of the same particle – the very particle that makes up you, the air around you, the stars or even the computer or mobile phone you come face-to-face with every day. When someone dies, the body decomposes over time, but in theory, every bit of it remains. A new life is created out of your decaying corpse: bacteria and worms flourish. Picture your body as an iceberg – it cracks, it breaks and it melts. But does it really disappear? The ice does. When it is no longer in ice form, it’s no longer an iceberg. But when icebergs melt, water levels go up. The same particle that once made up the ice now becomes a significant part of a body of water. Part of it is in the air we’re breathing. It’s still with us, but in different forms.

If that’s true with something as palpable as an iceberg, or an erupting volcano that spreads lava on the surface and sulfur gas across the atmosphere, then it’s possible that our consciousness lingers forever. Scientists suggest that your consciousness remains for approximately seven minutes after your heart stops beating. What happens after that has yet to be known. Religion tells you only two possibilities when you die: you either end up in heaven or in hell. Science gives you a bunch of theories that contradict that of any religion, but have yet to provide an answer.

My own theory welcomes the idea of ‘perpetual rebirth.’ I’m not necessarily referring to the customary belief on reincarnation, but rather, the possibility that our consciousness is made up of more than one consciousness – that we are a combination of different remnants of the past, that despite being perpetually reborn, no one lives the same life more than once.

There are times we question why our circumstances are different than others. We grieve when losing a loved one, but there isn’t an answer science can give you that explains why certain things happen the way they do. Religious ideologies will simply tell you that everything is part of God’s plan. Yet, if the universe is infinite, then it encompasses more than a few possibilities. In fact, it would have infinite possibilities, too. You could say the same thing if the idea of a multiverse is put into question, because then it would have an infinite number of possibilities as well. If so, then it’s quite possible that you lived as a King, a Queen, or an animal in your past lives, and that part of your consciousness (and whole being) once belonged to another person or persons, animal or animals. Now, it is a part of you.

There are certain things science just can’t explain, at least not in this lifetime. Sometimes it’s easier to go with the flow of nature and time until you run out of it, but it’s the realization that this lifetime ends at some point and you ponder what awaits you on the other side. Or, it could be your instinctive, curious nature that triggers your thoughts, and you begin to question if there truly is a purpose for why you are here. Or maybe, humans are like a bunch of mushrooms who began to flourish when the earth’s surface cooled down, and we started popping up everywhere. There isn’t really a purpose of a mushroom’s existence, in fact, some of them are lethal, yet they still exist.

In a scientific theory, the universe was formed through a violent collision of atoms that caused an explosion, and stars were created and then the planets. Earth in particular was formed like a fireball that grew in size following several collisions. Its surface cooled down sufficient enough for life to form. Some billions of years later, we are the modern super-dominant species who inhabit this planet, and when nature throws a tantrum and wreaks havoc like when a volcano erupts, causing an earthquake and sea level to rise, we call it a calamity. We often fail to realize that underneath the surface of this planet is the same fireball that has always been. We just happen to thrive on it through a series of events, but the purpose of our existence continues to be a mystery.

How can someone really explain what happens after we die when no one knows exactly why life was formed to begin with? That is, if there truly is a purpose of one’s existence. But, if we’re made of the same atom that collided with another atom, and caused an explosion that created the universe, then that makes all of us collectively a mere fraction of a single entity. We sustain life by ingesting and breathing the very particle that makes up humanity, or something as profound as the stars – or as intangible as our consciousness. If so, then this ‘reality’ can very well be just as intangible as a dream, the same way that a dream is possibly just as tangible as this reality. If that doesn’t make life an illusion, then what could it possibly be?


OLIVER LIM was born in the Philippines to a Filipina mother and a Fil-Chinese dad. He moved to Canada in 2004 as a teenager, and has not had any formal training in creative writing. He uses writing as a tool, very much like his art (painting), to be in his own little space. He views it as his safe place, his comfort zone, where his mind is free to do whatever it wants, using only words or colors or shapes.

Copyright © 2018 by Oliver Lim. All rights reserved.


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