This was a post I thought I’d already written, but I can’t find it anywhere, so I’ll do it now.
The TLDR is “I could pop my clogs tomorrow, with no regrets”.
But how have I reached this conclusion?
I think the answer to this is the “fullness” I feel that comes with already having had many memorable experiences, as I try to explain below.
It is also the appreciation of my own mortality, and my assessment that I have already had full value from my allotted time here (in heaven) as, in my opinion, there is nothing thereafter.
And it’s not even over yet. Anything that comes hereafter will be a bonus!
I used to think that I was agnostic but as I’ve aged I’ve come to realise that I’m actually an atheist.
This process started at school, when every Sunday all the boarders would sit, grudgingly captive from my perspective, on one side of the village church with the public congregation on the other, and be bored senseless for 90 minutes or so.
I observed that the congregation was invariably and notably aged and quickly concluded that these elderly congregants were just there to hedge their bets and therefore, whereas we had the stick (hell), it was all carrot for them (heaven).
Some years thereafter, in awe at the arrival of my first child and having read Richard Dawkins book The Selfish Gene, I thought that children were a form of immortality,
Fast forwarding a couple of decades, after emerging from the life blur of three further children, I read a science fiction tetralogy by David Zindell entitled A Requiem for Homo Sapiens.
These are probably some of the best books I have read, and further shaped my thoughts on this subject, because, although I didn’t know it at the time, they describe one man’s epic journey to achieving buddhist enlightenment or nirvana.
A testament to just how good these books are, to me, is the fact that even after reading the tetralogy, my mental penny regarding this religious aspect hadn’t dropped.
It took quite a few very enjoyable stoned sessions around a camp fire out in the wild with a very good friend of mine, who was exploring buddhism at the time, before this was pointed out to me!
We then tried very hard to wink out of existence for a while.
After that I thought buddhism might be a viable religion, but after further research concluded that because of the reincarnation aspect of buddhism (the carrot, in my opinion) it suffers from the human egocentric failings of all religions which adopt the carrot and stick approach (eg., heaven and hell respectively).
There was then one further chance for my religious epiphany to occur, when I wrote off my beloved TVR Griffith, one evening, after the roads had opened after being shut all day due to the final race of the Manx Grand Prix.
I had filled the TVR up with fuel, the roof was off and I was smoking a cheroot when the crash happened.
Upon coming to a miserable kerb stripped petrol drenched halt I lept out of my ruined car and walked to and fro like Basil Fawlty on a bad day before realising the cigar was still lit in my hand.
The hiss of the cigar as it dropped into a pool of petrol is still audible to me.
Two other notable mental images of this evening are of a car door stuck very high in a tree and my wife’s face when she arrived after the ambulance did, and someone covered in tinfoil (not a hat 😉) on a gurney was being deposited in my ambulance.
“I thought you said no one was injured”, Karen demanded; to which I explained that a lady had seen the whole sorry episode and fainted.
There is a scene in the great film Meet Joe Black, where Joe (actually the Grim Reaper if you haven’t seen it) is in a hospital to collect the life of an old lady, who somehow divines Joe’s true nature (his guise is that of Brad Pitt) and panics.
Joe, being a compassionate collector of souls, calms the lady and they have a nice conversation which ends with Joe asking her whether she has some nice pictures to take with her, which I took to mean life experiences.
And when, in remembrance, the old lady smiles and says that she has, Joe rather gently and peacefully takes her life.
“Pretty fucking close”
I met a pilot on a paragliding trip in Colombia five or so years ago. By profession he is a private jet and helicopter pilot, having been introduced to recreational paragliding by a fellow private jet pilot (also a paraglider pilot) who retired very young from flying fighter jets for the German air force.
This pilot’s progression to paragliding was via base jumping to wingsuit flying to hang gliding before being convinced that the way forward was paragliding.
His reason for ceasing wingsuit flying was the loss of too many good friends.
We shared a room in Oludeniz, Turkey, a year or so later whilst on an SIV course (basically a “how to crash your paraglider” course). This was my second SIV course and his first.
After one particularly eventful day (for him) out crashing his paraglider, I asked him how it compared to flying a wing suit.
His answer was “pretty fucking close”.
I could pop my clogs tomorrow, with no regrets
Although my second SIV course was much scarier than the first one, the first one was sufficient for me to realise afterwards, whilst walking the dog on the beach back in the Isle of Man on a really nice sunny day, that my life was complete.
Without ever first realising that it needed completion.
I felt as if I had completed a bucket list that I didn’t even know existed.
I can still draw on the elevation (no pun intended) and exhilaration of these first experiences as they now seem, like the cigar hiss, to be seared into my psyche.
And I hadn’t even broken out of the wedge of failure yet!
Although I do it every day without realising; it’s actually a state of mind – freedom over fear!
The wedge of failure
I touched upon the wedge of failure here.
This was a talk we received before the nervous ride up the mountain to begin the first SIV course.
It’s very simple really, and describes how fear, of any type (anxiety, for example, is a form of fear) invariably results in poor decision making which can then amplify the problem that created the fear in the first place. This fear/bad decision loop then continues and funnels you down the wedge where bad things happen.
Being aware of this is one thing but breaking out of it can be difficult.
But if you’re not even aware of it, how can you break out?
And the SIV course, as well as improving your flying skills, is intended to equip you with some ability to face your fear, control it and break out of the wedge.
But I wasn’t expecting the Matrix
I experienced a matrix like time dilation effect for the first time on my second SIV course and it was incredible.
A phenomena like this that expands the bandwidth of mental processing abilities is probably as close as I’ll get to a spiritual experience.
It happened in the video below, at about 20 seconds in, where my instructor says “right brake quickly”.
But I had already lost control – my lines were twisted and locked, I was disorientated and accelerating backwards around my glider. Halfway through the second full rotation I realised that I would have to throw my reserve before I passed out probably in the third rotation.
So I had already broken out of the wedge by deciding to throw my reserve.
But time slowed as I was reaching down for the reserve handle and I made a different decision (which was to follow advice previously given) to reach up above the twist and try to get my little finger around a brake line.
A little tug was all that was needed to slow the rotation.
Maybe my decision to throw my reserve in that moment diminished my fear and hence created some headspace to make an even better decision.
And this was another epiphany, really knowing that you always have options and that you are not as helpless as you think, as long as you can face down your fear.
And you don’t have to fly a paraglider to do it.
We are all god
In the footer of my website I write …
We’re all God 🙏🏻. I picked this up during my raid on buddhism and also from an awesome tetralogy. I think it means that we can all find some form of surprising enlightenment within ourselves if we can push hard enough and overcome our fears/pains (pain is the awareness of life Zindell likes to remind us).
We’re already in heaven 🤔. Well this is what an atheist would say. You only live once so make the most of it. Also knowing life is finite may make you enjoy it more.
Wear your own crown👑. Fear will shackle you. Conquer it and you will not only free yourself. You will become inviolate.