As I recently passed the half-century mark in my life, I find myself contemplating some things now, more than I ever did before.
- How long it takes muscle strains to heal vs how long it did 30 years ago
- The strange new places hair grows on, and in, my body
- The annual upkeep of my physical form and how intimately my doctor is getting to know me
- Does my doctor go home at night and think about these things as he tries to go to sleep, or discuss them with his wife over drinks on the porch?
The strangest contemplation of them all is dying. Death. It gets closer each day, sure, but it’s more of an interesting proposition than something I find myself dreading or fearing. I don’t know for certain what it will bring, if anything. No one does. Many people think they do, but they don’t.
Not that I am eager to find out, but it’s interesting to think about all the ways we humans have created to avoid it, prevent it, reckon with it, and make ourselves think that there we are certain about what happens when it arrives.
I saw something online sometime back, and I saved it. Finding it again led me to write this blog post. I’d like to offer it up here, as it makes a lot of sense to me. It’s a eulogy from a physicist. This resonates because it is the most true and accurate thing we can possibly know about death, without conjecture, superstition, or guessing:
“You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every BTU of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell her that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.
And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.”Arron Freeman
If anyone know of any physicists for hire to perform eulogies around the time I die, please hire them! They’d be well worth the money.
In the words of Kilgore Trout, ting-a-ling!