Category Archives: DYING & DEATH

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💀 Everything you ever wanted to know about post-death decomposition (“Body Farm”video) 💀

Depositphotos_80158370_originalCurious about what kinds of physical changes happen post mortem? The video below will fill in many blanks. Of greater concern to you is likely how and when you’ll shuffle off this mortal coil. Naturally, most of us prefer to “stage left” with as little pain and discomfort as possible, something medical science has make more certain than was true long ago. But die we must. The larger question is what lies afterwards – click to read.  First, satisfy your curiosity about what becomes of your “earth suit” after death and then read what follows below.

 

Life after deathSo you know what’s coming: You die and then face judgment. It is natural to think “Well, OK, I  think my good deeds outweigh my bad so I am good to go, right?” Wrong.  Ahem, dead wrong. The penalty for sin either must be paid by you or by someone qualified to pay it for you. The trick is there is only one individual who qualified to pay the penalty for your sins which he did. However, like a gift certificate purchased for you by a benefactor, you have to claim or redeem it and then follow the directions that come with it to preserve it (Salvation is a process). So how do you learn about this gift and how to claim it? The best way in my opinion is to hear from someone who has done it. In this vein, I heartily recommend you watch this video featuring scholar Dr. Michael Brown in which he shares how he went  from hell bound to redeemed:  https://askdrbrown.org/about/personal-testimony/

Then grab and read this book:

https://amzn.to/2K1y370

And buy, borrow or rent this film:

Video: Cardiologist Chauncey Crandall, MD discusses what a dead man brought back to life had to say about the afterlife

Video: Atheist Ian McCormack – Dead on Morgue Slab – Goes to Hell, then to Heaven and Back

 

Are you “pretty sure” or even “absolutely convinced” you’re heaven bound? Here are things you need to be aware of.

Following Messiah and living the faith authentically is countercultural & radical. One way to do so is in intentional community as a lay monk or nun (Married or single is OK)

© 2015, 2017 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

Book review: “To Heaven & Back” by Mary C. Neal, MD (Great read but it raises many concerns)

To Heaven & Back

I am like many of you reading this fascinated by unusual happenings and accounts including NDEs (near death experiences), UFOs, Bigfoot, and so forth. Actually so long as a claim does not violate the established laws of physics or chemistry and has not already been convincingly refuted by contrary evidence, one must allow that the phenomenon or what-have-you in question might one day garner sufficient proof to compel acknowledging its reality. However, until the jury is in (solid evidence) it is usually prudent to remain agnostic on the matter (With the exception of things believed on the basis of faith and not testable using the tools of science — such as the existence of God).

There is nothing, for example, to disallow the existence of Bigfoot (Sasquatch) or a Yeti. The existence of such primates do not require a violation or suspension of the laws that govern the natural world nor even quality as extraordinary in the same sense, say, as an alien or fairy or ghost would. The problem with Bigfoot and the Yeti lies in a lack of evidence. There has been lots of frauds and biological samples that turned out to be from cows and bears and such, but no hair or tissue DNA (much less corpses) that reveal a previously unknown bipedal primate.

Near Death Experiences (NDEs) are a phenomenon that involves biological events surrounding dying and death, especially brain states that tend to give rise to things like leaving one’s body, visiting the afterlife (Heaven, hell or what-have-you), and so forth. Scientists have spent decades teasing out the mechanisms underlying or contributing to this process such as anoxia (lack of oxygen) albeit some of their pet hypotheses have been recently questioned and challenged (Click this link to read one especially cogent article concerning this).

I doubt many people of faith would have any problem with NDEs as a biological phenomenon or at least rooted in it, however, things get somewhat contentious when it comes to whether anything is revealed in NDEs that could not be explained by prosaic natural events or happenings in the brain (Believers say “yes”, skeptics, “no”). Consider this:  Believers in God who have NDEs typically see people and places consistent with their beliefs and expectations, though more than a few have reported being in a place they did not expect to be — hell. Being in hell would not be the sort of thing most folks would expect, however, it could be argued that in such instances their subconscious anticipated their going to hell and they “fulfilled this” during dying or at clinical death — heart stoppage but not total cessation of brain activity — as an NDE “vision”. This is consistent with NDEs being a manifestation of processes in a dying brain though arguments abound on the Web by men and women of faith who’ve had NDEs and claim experiencing things that could not have been produced by the brain whether dying, on hallucinogenic drugs or in the throes of other influences.      

There are, I know, those who claim they were brain dead and returned to life minutes or even hours or days after death (A search of videos on You Tube will turn up many such accounts and there are many books written by people claiming this, especially in the Charismatic or neopentecostal Christian world). However, I have yet to come across a single case in which indisputable medical proof has been produced that confirms body & brain death occurred and then life was restored later on.

So as best I can tell we have this tug-of-war between the two camps — those who find in NDEs only natural processes at work and no evidence of anything beyond brain death — and those who admit to the natural aspects of dying & NDEs but claim they have peered into or visited an afterlife world and returned. As Carl Sagan rightly pointed out, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” and no such extraordinary proof has yet emerged that takes a given NDE experience beyond what can accounted for by natural processes and happenings. But, and this is a big but, when such claims of having visited an afterlife world do not represent a scientific claim but one predicated solely on faith (and is also not amenable to scientific testing), then the tale or account or story lies outside the purview of science.

As I am a believer you know pretty much where I land on the question of NDEs and especially a postmortem afterlife. And in line with this I like to peruse books and articles penned by those who have had an NDE and have vivid recollections of either heaven or hell or both.        

One of my recent reads is orthopedic surgeon Mary C. Neal’sTo Heaven and Back“. It is this book I will briefly review and critique now.

In-a-word Dr. Neal went kayaking in  the Los Rios region of southern Chile in 1999 and wound up pulled under water and drowned.     

In her book Dr. Neal shared various “lessons” derived from her NDE experience and what followed and then drew conclusions (some applicable to others) that I found perplexing, even disturbing. One reviewer of her book very ably captured some of my own reservations:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/09/review-of-to-heaven-and-back-by-mary-c-neal.html

“…and yet in which it seems as though everything that happens, whether seemingly  good or ill, is for the best, and part of a divine plan, which is at times depicted as alterable but at other times seems not to be. “

“A worldview of this sort presents many puzzles and seemingly unanswerable questions. Neal believes that she was brought back from death to be there for her family to cope with the later death of  their son. But surely that makes no sense whatsoever – it would have been just as straightforward to spare her her accident, and have the son survive his own accident after a near-death experience.

“The book highlights the fact that, if we look for the good in the pattern of life that is woven by the intersection of human lives, we will find it. And I do not disagree in the slightest. But I do think that, in making a personal God the weaver who tugs and at times forces the threads into a foreordained pattern, it actually undermines the attributes of God that Neal herself wants to emphasize, including most importantly love. A God who micromanages an adult’s kayaking accident to ensure her survival, but not the careless running down of her son by a texting driver, or perhaps who micromanages both to at times reduce and at times intensify human agony, does not seem to provide anything other than personal comfort for one who, like Neal, wants to find comfort in the idea that such events are supernaturally meaningful.”

I’m sure many of the people who went through the Shoah (Holocaust) would agree with this reviewer whose opinion above, again, mirrors my own.

Also, in a chapter titled “Conversing with an Angel”: (pp 97-103) Dr. Neal discussed how an angel addressed a question of hers concerning why “bad things happen to good people?”

According to Neal ” In preparation for our journey to earth, we are able to make a basic outline for our life. This is not to imply that we, as humans, are entirely in charge of our life’s design. It is more like God creates it, then we review it and discuss it with our ‘personal planning’ angel. Within the algorithm are written branch points in our lives at which times we may exit, returning to God, or we may be redirected to a different task and goal”.

Let’s think about this for a moment:

Consider a, mother of six children, a believer, who has five children who along with her and her husband are placed in a concentration camp and then later tortured and then cruelly executed. Is it likely this is a plan she in some way approved as a preincarnate spirit including a grisly death of herself and her family, rewards in Paradise notwithstanding, as a favored “branch point” to exit this veil of tears?.

Would a preincarnate human spirit be likely approve an early life course spent being abused, sexually or otherwise, which is ended in her teens when her abuser bashes her head in with a sledge hammer? Is the fact the person she becomes is a faithful believer and accrues great eternal rewards for exercising her faith in the face of wanton brutality and perversion necessarily make this a life plan she would endorse?  

I suspect most folks reading this will have reservations and difficulties with this aspect of Dr. Neal’s book.

On a personal note, I am of the opinion that Dr. Neal’s  particular experiences are very circumspect in the sense that they constitute a divinely conducted experiment aimed at exploring & developing her faith (But which would not apply to many others, as the Almighty IMO fashions experiments unique to the individual).

This perspective — God as experimentalist — is actually one I have held for a very long time and developed and published in an essay titled “Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory: Is God a Scientist?” which readers will find at http://anthonypayne.hubpages.com/hub/Feeling-Alienated-You-have-a-lot-of-company (I originally published it ages ago on the “Think Deeply’ website — a now defunct cyber-forum. It racked up over 100K hits during it life and was #1 in the theory category).*

Having said all this, I did enjoy Dr. Neal’s book and was enriched by many aspects of it and thus would recommend anyone interested in NDE accounts to get a copy and read it, then pass it on to others who would welcome this sort of thing.

© 2012 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

*Readers interested in my religious musings are invited to visit http://summerclouds.weebly.com/.

State sanctioned executions: What’s wrong with “Hang ’em high!”?

Prisoner Holding Cigarette Between BarsHardly a month passes without one US state or another putting a convicted murderer, rapist or what-have-you to death (It’s 7-26-2013 and Reuters just ran an on-line article titled “Alabama executes man advocates said was mentally ill” at http://reut.rs/13h21aj). While I understand where folks who view this as closure for the victim’s family or “just deserts” are coming from, I quite honestly detest the idea of the state possessing the power to terminate a life under any circumstances. History clearly shows how easy it is for governments to slip into abusing this sort of thing in the name of national security, the war on this or that real or imagined nemesis, or what-have-you. To my way of thinking no modern state should ever have the power to take from any citizen that which it can’t later restore.  I actually took this conviction and planted it squarely in a literary brainchild of mine that incorporates satire and humor to convey certain realities & truths.  You’ll find it on page 1 of my “FUP Manifesto” at http://www.scribd.com/doc/115383259/The-Fook-U-Party-Viva-La-Revolution.

Or if you are too busy, lazy, drunk or stubborn to click the link and find it, here is the salient entry:

Party Prime Directive: The (Seig!) State should never be able to take from anyone that which it can’t later restore if required or compelled, for whatever reason.

If you think this “excessively liberal”, imagine yourself awaiting execution in one hour’s time.   Or what if your daughter, son, nephew, niece or other blood relative were to be executed shortly? 

© 2013 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

 

Green cemeteries: An alternative to environmentally-unfriendly burials!

  Most of us naturally resist thinking about our earthly demise and the “disposal” of our remains. We Baby Boomers likely tend to harbor hope that we will somehow cheat death — or at least put it off for 100 or more years. Whether you happen to live 100 years or more, one day you will “pay the piper” — that is, kick the bucket, buy the farm, cash in your chips, etc. For us American Indians death is simply a matter of changing worlds. We trust that the Great Spirit/HaShem/God is not a jack booted thug intent on consigning most people to some sort of eternal torment for missteps committed during a handful of years or decades but, rather, is intent on reconciling most of humankind to himself. You may disagree — which is something we American Indians respect — though I personally am hard-pressed to understand people who promote a theology which portrays God as a judge who (to be honest) differs little from those who populated the People’s Courts” in Nazi Germany. Be that as it may, I am here to place before you something more pragmatic — more “here & now” – namely how you will dispose of your mortal remains. Many will opt for being embalmed and buried in an airtight coffin that is sunk in a concrete jacket so as to minimize deterioration through time. This is a personal choice, though there are powerful arguments against this — if only because embalming fluid and such has a deleterious impact on the local environment. If you are open to an alternative — something ”green” — consider having your mortal remains disposed of in a green cemetery (If it could be pulled off I’d argue for the establishment of burial platforms much like my Plains Indian ancestors and brothers utilized in various localities. There is something inherently appealing about raising a body up to meet the world above and beyond IMO):

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3947912/ns/us_news-environment/t/texas-cemetery-offers-green-burials/

http://www.greenburials.org/FAQ.htm includes a list of green cemeteries

http://www.ethicianfamilycemetery.org/for my fellow Texans & interested others

Nota Bene: I have no financial or other ties to MSNBC or the Ethican Church or the Ethical Family Cemetery.

Copyright 2012 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved but spread it around anyway.

To slow aging => Reduce HIF-1 alpha (?)

Key protein may explain the anti-aging and anti-cancer benefits of dietary restriction

“Animals that were designed to over-express HIF-1 did not get the benefit of lifespan extension even though their diets were restricted. Animals that under-expressed HIF-1 lived longer, even when they had a nutrient-rich diet. Furthermore, it was found that the lifespan extension resulting from dietary restriction required activity in signaling pathways in the endoplasmic reticulum, the part of the cell involved in processing and the proper folding of proteins. This finding supports the theory that aging stems from the effects of misfolded proteins and opens up a rich area of investigation to examine the mechanisms by which stress in the endoplasmic reticulum affects lifespan”

Carcinogenesis. 2009 Apr;30(4):636-44. Epub 2009 Jan 8. Links

Grape seed extract inhibits VEGF expression via reducing HIF-1alpha protein expression.

Lu J, Zhang K, Chen S, Wen W.

Department of Molecular Medicine, Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, 1500 East Duarte Road, Duarte, CA 91010, USA.

Grape seed extract (GSE) is a widely consumed dietary supplement that has antitumor activity. Here, we have investigated the inhibitory effect of GSE on the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and the mechanism underlying this action. We found that GSE inhibited VEGF messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein expression in U251 human glioma cells and MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells. GSE inhibited transcriptional activation of the VEGF gene through reducing protein but not mRNA expression of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) 1alpha. The inhibitory effect of GSE on HIF-1alpha expression was mainly through inhibiting HIF-1alpha protein synthesis rather than promoting protein degradation. Consistent with this result, GSE-suppressed phosphorylation of several important components involved in HIF-1alpha protein synthesis, such as Akt, S6 kinase and S6 protein. Furthermore, in the MDA-MB-231 tumor, we found that GSE treatment inhibited the expression of VEGF and HIF-1alpha and the phosphorylation of S6 kinase without altering the subcellular localization of HIF-1alpha, correlating with reduced vessel density and tumor size. Depletion of polyphenol with polyvinylpyrrolidone abolished the inhibitory activity of GSE, suggesting a water-soluble fraction of polyphenol in GSE is responsible for the inhibitory activity. Taken together, our results indicate that GSE inhibits VEGF expression by reducing HIF-1alpha protein synthesis through blocking Akt activation. This finding provides new insight into the mechanisms of anticancer activity of GSE and reveals a novel molecular mechanism underlying the antiangiogenic action of GSE.

PMID: 19131542 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

PMCID: PMC2664452 [Available on 2010/04/01]

 Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2009 Apr 24;382(1):96-101. Epub 2009 Feb 28. Links

D-glucosamine down-regulates HIF-1alpha through inhibition of protein translation in DU145 prostate cancer cells.

Park JY, Park JW, Suh SI, Baek WK.

Chronic Disease Research Center, School of Medicine, Keimyung University, 194 Dongsan-Dong, Jung-Gu, Daegu 700-712, Republic of Korea.

D-glucosamine has been reported to inhibit proliferation of cancer cells in culture and in vivo. In this study we report a novel response to D-glucosamine involving the translation regulation of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-1alpha expression. D-glucosamine caused a decreased expression of HIF-1alpha under normoxic and hypoxic conditions without affecting HIF-1alpha mRNA expression in DU145 prostate cancer cells. D-glucosamine inhibited HIF-1alpha accumulation induced by proteasome inhibitor MG132 and prolyl hydroxylase inhibitor DMOG suggesting D-glucosamine reduces HIF-1alpha protein expression through proteasome-independent pathway. Metabolic labeling assays indicated that D-glucosamine inhibits translation of HIF-1alpha protein. In addition, D-glucosamine inhibited HIF-1alpha expression induced by serum stimulation in parallel with inhibition of p70S6K suggesting D-glucosamine inhibits growth factor-induced HIF-1alpha expression, at least in part, through p70S6K inhibition. Taken together, these results suggest that D-glucosamine inhibits HIF-1alpha expression through inhibiting protein translation and provide new insight into a potential mechanism of the anticancer properties of D-glucosamine.

PMID: 19254699

 

The Spiritual Aspects of “Holistic” Medicine

The foundation of holism or holistic medicine rests on a triumvirate — body, mind and spirit. Actually, as the mind is an expression of the various regions of the brain — a species of the physical — we are really dealing with body/brain and spirit. The former, of course, has been probed and explored using the tools of medicine and science. No one questions their reality. Spirit, on the other hand, by most definitions is non-material, and thus lies beyond the purview of science; that is, one cannot demonstrate spirit using a gas chromatograph, scanning electron microscope, or any other tool in the armamentarium of science.

But what of the effects of spirit? If it exists, should we not be able to detect its effects on the physical realm? This is a question which now occupies many philosophers, some scientists and physicians, and many laypeople.

One very often cited manifestation of spirit lies in the realm of answered prayer. Numerous studies have been carried out in which patients with a given affliction were divided into two groups: One received prayer (experimental group) and the other (control group) didn’t. The prayers were offered off-site and no one involved in the study knew who was being prayed for and who wasn’t (double-blind).

The bottom line of many of these studies is that prayer appears to have made a significant difference in the relief or cure of the malady or affliction in the experimental group, while those in the control group had no appreciable change in their condition. The rigor of these studies has been found wanting by countless impartial investigators. That is, flaws in study design, methodology and/or execution have basically invalidated the findings of these clinical trials.

What of the healings connected with religious shrines, such as Lourdes? There have been approximately 69 healings connected with Lourdes which have met the Catholic church’s criteria for a bona fide miracle — 69 out of the hundreds of thousands of petitions for healing. This is not statistically significant. In short, the numbers do not support the notion that the rate of recovery/healing at Lourdes is greater than would be expected to occur as a result of normal processes. (One can expect a certain percentage of even incurable illnesses to suddenly and inexplicably go into remission. These recoveries happen to non-believer and believer alike — and hence appear contingent on natural and not supernatural mechanisms.)

I know what many of you are thinking — “Leave it to a skeptical, non-believing blankety-blank scientist to trash our sacred beliefs.” If you are nodding your head in agreement — you are dead wrong. First of all, I am a theist. I also believe that God hears and answers prayer — and even heals people through various means including the ministrations of physicians. Well, wait a minute, isn’t this contradictory or hypocritical, given what I wrote above? No, indeed, for I do not allege that my beliefs are based on hard science nor the manifestations of spirit, or God so physically evident as to permit measurement or quantification. In fact, those who believe that spirit, God, or any aspect of the supernatural can be demonstrated in a controlled study or lab experiment invite upon themselves the unenviable task of proving their claims. (It is always incumbent on those who propose the existence of something which can be physically detected and, thus measured, to do just that.) And I, for one, do not believe that they will ever garner any substantive proof. Why?

Consider this: In virtually every religious tradition God requires that humankind both apprehend His existence and relate to him via faith — a conviction based not on the physical and demonstrable, but on sheer belief. If God were to reveal Himself in the lab or clinical trial setting — say, by answering the prayers for healing in an experimental group at rates which exceed chance — the need for faith would be dispensed with. We could base our confidence, our belief in the spiritual and a First Cause (God) on the hard data provided by the study in question.

This, of course, would make God the author of a serious contradiction and would obligate most major religions to toss out many of their principle doctrines concerning the nature of the deity, the need for faith as a requisite for apprehending the divine, et cetera. It would also raise serious questions as to the reliability of revealed truths about God (oral and written traditions).

Since I do not believe God would ask one thing (faith) and then reveal Himself in a concrete, scientifically demonstrable fashion, I am not surprised or dismayed that laboratory experiments and clinical trials do not turn upon any credible data which stands up to scrutiny. I also realize, however, that there are some who believe that faith isn’t the only requisite to apprehending God or the supernatural and will continue to carry out studies aimed at catching a glimpse of the divine in action.

In my opinion they are wasting both time and money, but should they one day prove to be right — if they do incontrovertibly demonstrate the efficacy of prayerful supplication (to God) in healing a given malady — skeptic and believer alike will be making some rather profound changes to their distinct perspectives. This isn’t beyond the pale of possibility. I think, however, that such definitive proof will in some ways weigh more heavily on the religionist then the agnostic or skeptic.

While the debate rages and the studies plod along, what role then should the spiritual play in healing/medicine? I think most physicians — even diehard atheists — at the very least accommodate a narrow species of “spirituality,” in the sense of encouraging hope and making use of patient expectation to afford relief, if not cure.

In holistic medicine, on the other hand, the spiritual element more often takes on a different character and importance. The holistic medical community plays host to wide range of spiritual beliefs, including American Indian, New Age, Buddhist, Christian. As long as this spirituality is not called “scientific” or “hard science-based,” or makes claims which can be tested using the tools and methods of science, its place in the patient care repertoire of holistic health care practitioners remains a matter of personal prerogative. And doesn’t faith and personal prerogative lie at the core of human spirituality?

In the final analysis, I think we will find that the substantiation of faith begins and ends on one’s knees — and in one’s heart — and not in the laboratory. 

© 2009 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved

Frankl & Custer: We are all headed to the Little Big Horn

Dr AG Payne - May 2017One of the most beloved verses in the Hebrew Scriptures comes from the 23rd Psalms:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For you are with me

In Japan, where I lived and taught for many years, a general sense of “gloom & doom” pessimism pervaded the lives of many folks. This was especially evident among my university students. Japan’s protracted economic woes had apparently sapped the vision and vitality out of many of these otherwise industrious, tenacious souls. A great many kids spoke of there being “no real future” for them. Needless to say, depression and despair reared its ugly head fairly often.

Now reactive depression is a wholly expected and understandable response to intractable adversity or woe. We all have a tendency to get sorely vexed when our lives are turned upside down and held there by trials and tribulations. In such a situation, one tries to console and counsel the suffering as best one can. (A touch of satire and self-deprecating humor sometimes doesn’t hurt either). And this I ably extended to my angst-ridden student charges with varying degrees of success. But more was needed.

The “more”, I reasoned, had to lie in something that would get these kids to change their outlook or perspective on certain aspects of life. To do this I looked to a tried-and-true source for generating insight and encouraging change: history. Specifically, I had my students tackle and examine two notable chapters: Famed psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s account of his years of struggle in various Nazi concentration camps (as recounted in his timeless classic, “Man’s Search For Meaning”), and the saga of Gen. George Armstrong Custer.

Dr. Frankl and his imprisoned compatriots suffered cruelly at the hands of sadistic SS guards, all the while struggling with scarcity and living conditions so calculatingly appalling as to beggar the imagination. Mindful that he could not change his circumstances and that his Nazi tormenters could snuff out his life at any minute, Frankl nonetheless felt empowered by a single fact: They could take everything from him but his power to choose how he would react to their brutal actions! And it was this realization that essentially helped buoy up Dr. Frankl during his agonizing walk through the “valley of the shadow of death”!

Frankl emerged from Hitler’s reign of terror intact and went on to establish an influential school of psychotherapy called logotherapy (http://logotherapy.univie.ac.at/). He died in 1997 at the ripe old age of 92, having survived the Third Reich by 52 years.

Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument,
While Dr. Viktor Frankl was the victim of totalitarian oppression and a state-sanctioned policy of malignant racism and genocide, Brevet Major Gen. George Armstrong Custer stood on the other side of the divide, so to speak. Custer played a somewhat pivotal role in the United State’s 19th century pursuit of lebensraum (“living space”) and its calculated program of conquering and containing indigenous peoples (American Indians). It was not Custer’s successes in the so-called Indian War that helped advance the narrow social and political agenda of his time, but rather his death along with that of over 200 of his soldiers at the Little Big Horn (June 26, 1876). The “massacre” of then Lt. Col. Custer and his troops elicited a massive military response that ultimately led to the total subjugation of American Indians during the early years of the 20th century.

After my students had fully acquainted themselves with the lives and feats of Dr. Frankl and Lt. Col. Custer, I had them conduct an open comparative analysis of the two (men) for the purpose of extracting principles they felt to be especially insightful and personally meaningful.

Of course, these bright, eager young people came up with an illustrious roster of “goodies”. Among them: The power of choice; how evil seduces people by playing up to their basic desires and egos; the futility of life spent focused on narrow, self-serving and self-aggrandizing goals; the nobility of service to others informed by prior suffering; etc.
After we had reviewed their litany of ideas and comments, I asked them to sum up what we had learned from the lives of Frankl and Custer. The general consensus was that we must all have the power to make choices that will steer us through life; choices that may decide whether we end our days with a tally sheet that favors having achieved something worthwhile,…..or its opposite.

I had only one thing to add to what their conclusion, which was this:

“Each of us is headed into the valley…to our own “last stand”. Whether you get there as a young person or during middle-age or as a very old man or woman,….we all have to the enter the valley and depart this world. No one escapes this fate. But as you correctly surmised, it isn’t that final battle alone that determines the meaning and value of the life you have lived, but what you do in the days, weeks, and years leading up to it. And yes, the impact of your life and the ripples it sets in motion are determined by the choices and subsequent actions you take while enroute to the valley.

“Now I have but one final point to make – an admonition, really – which is this:

“If Dr. Frankl could exercise choice in his dire circumstances and by so doing not only survive the fiendish horror that was Nazi Germany, but set in motion ideas that have transformed countless lives ever since,….then certainly you can lay hold of the promise that lies in the abundant choices and options you have in life.”

Of those students who have stayed in contact with me in the intervening years, most appear to have made prudent choices that have helped them forge personally meaningful, productive and fulfilling lives.

How goes your journey to the valley?

© 2013 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved. Photo of Dr. Payne made & added in 2017.

Terrorist beheadings and other forms of inflicted, violent death: Are victims aware of what is happening around them after their heart and lungs have stopped working?

ISISThe many beheadings carried out by insurgents in Iraq during the past year or so not unexpectedly generated expressions of revulsion and denunciation far and wide. It is difficult for all but the most callous souls not to feel pangs of anguish for those who have been dealt this grisly fate. No doubt many of you have at one time or another found yourself trying to imagine the thoughts and feelings of the victims prior to and during decapitation. And then thinking, “Were they aware of anything following this despicable act?”

This concern has a lot to do with our human capacity to emphasize and sympathize with others, but there is an element of “enlightened self-interest” in our curiosity and even fascination with dying and death. When we ask “What did that poor soul experience?”, we are in some way seeking in the death of others some idea of what we might sense or think or visualize as we go through our own final, irreversible “systems failure”.

Modern science has amassed a great deal of evidence that the dying brain can and often does generate a wide range of images and such, not unexpectedly reflective of individual beliefs, expectation, and history. But what of the period immediately following cessation of heart and lungs? For example, does the brain of a just severed head continue to function?

Consider this account tendered by a French physician named Beaurieux who attended the state-sanctioned guillotining of a criminal named Languille during the early morning hours of June 28th, 1905 (France abolished the death penalty in 1981):

Read the rest of this entry

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