For this prompt I either want you to invent your own mythology surrounding the afterlife (you can combine and utilize existing philosophies to create an original perspective) or to elaborate on existing philosophy. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead there are actual instructions for the newly departed to navigate the netherworld. These instructions are chanted to the deceased by trained monks as part of a unique death ritual. Of all the after life mythologies I have explored, the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy paints the clearest visual of the beyond so it might be a good place to start your inquiry. You can even take the stance that we are already dead and that this life is false like the Dustmen of Planescape Torment. If this life is false how do we break the spell?
There are no right or wrong answers and you don’t even have to write something that reflects your personal beliefs just explore.
Here’s one of my poems that fits, I think.
I read that there are standards
for the declaration of dead.
(How is it measured? Who measures?)
This is the undead proclaiming certainty
over what they cannot know. And yet,
when you cross borders the dead here
may still be living on the other side of the line.
At night, the dead take surveys:
Tick here if you are dead, there if undead
or indicate on the line below if you hold
some other status. Ghost is the third option.
picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 29th week, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dead travellers must carry their death notices
at all times, be prepared to present them
or take the chance of being hooked up again
to tubes and wires that pump a body up
to a semblance of an undead state.
The dead hide their faces behind hands folded in final prayers.
Behind their hands, the dead are laughing.
Carol A. Stephen
Merged photos depicting a copy of the Ancient Egyptian papyrus depicting the jounrey into the afterlife. This version is known as “Guide to the Afterlife for the Custodian of the Property of the Amon Temple Amonemwidja with Symbolic Illustrations Concerning the Dangers in the Netherworld”. Photo(s) taken at the Altes Museum, Berlin, later merged and cropped using PhotoShop. Catalog number: P 3127. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Poem inspired by a CBC.ca excerpt, Mar. 19, 2014
It’s a question you would think medical science would have answered long ago – when are you dead? But in “Dead Enough” the fifth estate explores how the standards for when and how people are declared dead can vary from province to province and even from hospital to hospital. Bob McKeown looks at how, in the rush to meet the need for life-saving organ transplants, some doctors are worried that we may be pushing the ethical boundaries.