And if you try to follow the state-of-the-heart savvy on the relation of exercise and cholesterol to the heart, it can be a dizzying pastime, because the major studies contradict each other right and left. And in case we're not dizzy enough, the physicists tell us that we perceive only three or four of at least 10 dimensions. They even tell us that time does not exist--that our linear sense of life is purely a function of our limited sensory capacity. So what are we supposed to believe when science speaks of something it really knows nothing about: death. Airy rhetoric, indeed.

Isn't grief too feeble and confining a way to feel these mysteries? I'd rather insist on death's wildness, and on how death reveals the limitless paradoxes at the heart of life. I weep, I tremble, I scream, I go into a silence not unlike the grave, but I feel lit inside by eerie lights that are more than pain and that run after grief with joy.

So.... given that nobody knows anything more about it than anybody else, I've found myself asking what at first seemed an odd question: Does death, too, die?

Say that life is movement and death is stillness. Say that the dialectic of the universe, if you like, is between movement and stillness, back and forth--then isn't some movement always bound to occur after the stillness, and does this mean that death too dies? Even death?

Which is a way of saying what some sages have always said: There is no death.

Even what we think of as death may be helpless before a still greater mystery: that something will always move; that movement is continual; that existence itself cannot stop moving. This isn't an abstract thought. Everywhere science looks, it has found everything but emptiness that remains empty and stillness that stops forever.

When a human being dies, there are obvious movements: the movement of memory among the living, the movement of the body as it decomposes. But since, as we have seen, science is still young, its measurements still crude, its reference points still unfixed, we are not mystic to assume movements we cannot yet measure or imagine. Ten dimensions, remember? Some physicists say there are 26! Those are scientists talking, not mystics. Ten, maybe 25, so far--and each just as real as the other, and all apparently connected.

So that finally, amid all the things we do not know, we do not really know that there is such a thing as death. We know that it is fated for our loved ones to become very still, and we know that we too one day will be very, very still. In this dimension.

And that's all we know.

Insurance, diet, exercise, holistic medicine, AMA medicine, they serve their functions, they make some aspects of life easier, or at least less messy. And if there's a chance that some treatment will save my life, sooner or later I'll probably try it--as long as it doesn't include quitting smoking. (And, no, I'm not in much more immediate danger, than, uh, you are.) But one way to increase fear is to invest in fear. One way to solidify illusion is to buy into illusion--a literal metaphor, in America. For myself, I prefer to trust one of the few things I am certain of, which is that everything in the universe is always moving. I will move too, beyond my will and beyond any belief I may have. You can call that "dead" if you want to. CP

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