I’ve emphasised again and again how critical a functioning brain is for human behaviour and, of course, life. While there’s still very little known about the root and run of the conscious mind, ideas purposed by leading theorists, many findings from the cognitive sciences, even the very title of this blog, strongly suggest that personality and consciousness are products of the functioning brain, that all there is to us is the neural cogs, wheels and connections residing inside our head.
When considered in light of the inevitable brain death waiting at the end of our days this makes for rather morbid reading. When our neurons stop signalling, our neural structures start shrinking, when our cerebral cogs quit connecting and our cognitive wheels stop spinning…mustn’t our presence on earth also end?
Not so. And the following speech by American comedian and journalist Aaron Freeman eloquently conveys why this is the case.
Freeman’s words about why you should have a Physicist speak at your funeral, make up the most moving piece of pros I’ve ever read, or heard, relating to the world post brain activity. No matter your religious beliefs, or lack thereof, this piece will move you, it will reassure you, it will teach you that not only did your very presence change the world, but it will continue to do so. It will enlighten you as to how you, your family members, your friends, your favourite musicians, poets and playwrights, how we all continue to be when the brain no longer speaks.
I couldn’t but share…
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.
And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.
(To hear the speech in full follow this link)