What Happens After We Die?

I’ve never been a very spiritual person. I don’t believe in the afterlife, or reincarnation, or ghosts, or curses. I’ve more or less made peace with the idea that when we die, that’s it: we’re simply gone. I don’t find that particularly scary (at least, not while I’m still in my early 20s) and, truth be told, until recently, I didn’t spend that much time thinking about it.

I began to question myself when I listened to a recent episode of the Goop podcast, in which host Elise Loehnen interviews Leslie Kean, journalist and author of Surviving Death, about potentially life’s greatest mystery: what happens after we die? Kean explains how there is a lot more proof of life after death than we think, and that scientists simply dismiss that possibility based on the idea that ‘it can’t be; therefore, it isn’t.’ At first, I was hesitant to really hear what Kean was saying, but she speaks with a matter-of-fact clarity that is hard to dismiss. She doesn’t proclaim to be a miracle worker, an oracle, or even a woman of great certainty; rather, she makes death and consciousness less about mysticism and more about curiosity and possibility. Nobody has been able to explain consciousness. It’s all theoretical. Therefore, what happens after consciousness is an open question, and Kean suggests that our answers should remain equally open. After all, none of us really know what happens when we die, so perhaps it’s foolish to commit to any school of thought that proclaims one thing or another to be unequivocally true.

I can’t say I listened to the episode and suddenly believe wholeheartedly in reincarnation or life after death, but that’s not really the point. The point is that living in a state of curiosity is more enjoyable and maybe more helpful than living in a state of stubborn certainty, where there’s no room for growth or for change.

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