Death as a Return

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 9.24.18 AMI came across this lovely question posed by Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker in Journey to the Universe, where they are speaking of our human species emerging out of the incredible flux and change since the big bang: “If we have come out of this immense journey is it not possible that our transition is a return? Can it be that our small self dies into the large self of the universe? Are our passions and dreams, as well as our anguish and loss, woven into the fabric of the universe itself?”

I love this provocation, the possibility that we are not going away but returning home, that we are part of something much bigger that draws us, encourages us forward while we are alive in the service of a larger purpose we may be unaware of. John O’Donohue explores this point in Eternal Echoes when he says, “When you truly listen to the voice of your soul, you awaken your kinship with the eternal urgency that longs to lead you home.”

This strikes a chord for me that has surprised me and given me cause for pause. I have long been a believer that this brief life is what we have and anything following it lives in the memories of those we have left behind, for better or worse. We each leave a faint footprint on the earth and its evolution. Our purpose is to be the best we can be given the capacities and opportunities we have to work with, to be moral and just not because we desire an endless heaven but because it’s who we essentially are as human beings.

If there is a universal tapestry into which we are woven in all our individuality and complexity, not in a corporeal sense but in our essence, as the invisible soul or spirit that was born into this body and will perhaps return home after our death, what difference would that make to how we live our lives here on earth? If our longing for home is not something we can ever satisfy here but in fact comes from elsewhere much deeper within us, an ‘eternal urgency’ that is the heart of the universe calling us back where we belong, would that change anything?

As I think about the possibility, I feel a spaciousness that wasn’t there before, a sense of being a traveller on a long series of journeys, making different stops to visit places I have dreamed about, knowing that I will return home after each journey to share my experience, to integrate what I have learned, and then probably to leave again. My home awaits when I am done. I am a visitor here in this lifetime, being given the gift of the earth’s hospitality for my explorations. I want to be a good guest, treading lightly on the ground, discovering what I can about others who are here with me, growing myself in the light of their presence, contributing as I am able without interfering, knowing that I am a temporary inhabitant of this dreamscape.

What might this death as return idea provoke in you?

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One Response to Death as a Return

  1. Carol Tornow says:

    We are all cosmic energy and cosmic matter (“stardust”), so being called home by the cosmos seems as plausible as any other imagery for our passing. The grandness of it both comforts and inspires, and why couldn’t it be true that something of our essential essence and identity carry on, becoming part of the spirit of the universe? Small and insignificant as we may be, we are each our own cosmic wonders. Surely our passage creates a ripple thru the universe, like another pebble in the sea of stars.

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