Life is multifaceted. After that is anyone’s guess.
These are details of my current life:
I attend graduate school, and therefore my days are largely consumed with reading and writing, writing and reading. I train six days a week for triathlons, usually with multiple workouts in a day. I set my morning alarms to odd-numbered minutes, but I eat even numbers of M&Ms or Skittles (on the occasions I’m eating candy).
In his book SUM, neuroscientist David Eagleman presents essays on what the afterlife is like. One describes the deaths of synergistic endeavors: teams that produce a thing more important and powerful than the sum of the individual parts. In this way I have, at the young age of 24, lived several lives.
There were theater productions in elementary school, Destination Imagination competitions in junior high, newspapers in high school and college and a magazine in grad school.
There were the always-ephemeral P.E. teams for dodgeball and badminton doubles along with greater-than-me existences of football, cross country and basketball.
My longest-lived constants: 4-H club and track and field, both spanning a good run of more than a decade.
Months of preparation act as a social gel, setting a group of people into the mold of a common goal.
Inevitably, one day, sometimes after years of continuity, the actuality of that team or project or group ceases to exist. It is a death of the highest order.
When the larger being dies, the individual actors in that network also lose a function. No practice, no study, no recitals or sharpening of skills, nowhere to be at 3:30 or 6 or all day Saturday.
Within my one life, I have already lived and died many times.
Each life is different, and thus, each death hurts in a unique way. Similar to any movie script, some of my lives have ended at the hands of a rival, others to outside forces such as injury. I’ve watched lives evaporate due to buzzer beaters and soft-spoken words and breathlessness and inaction.
Some lives merely dissolve at a pre-apportioned time. A life ends with each final class, each sports season, each plane trip home from a shared global adventure.
This process holds true from political campaigns to Girl Scout troops. Paper-and-paste scrapbooks used to hold these memories for safekeeping. Days from another life.
Timelessness was once the realm of conquerors and explorers: Alexander the Great, Constantine, Magellan. Eternal fame was held by the brightest bearers of philosophy and the written word: Aristotle, Virgil, Homer, Sophocles.
Now, immortality is free.