Death and parallel universes: celebrating my elementary school history teacher
What is death? It’s the end of the world. And people love to talk about the end of the world. We prophesize; we predict; we philosophize about the end of it all. But it’s all so abstract.
The truth is, the end of the world is happening all around us, all the time. The COVID-19 pandemic keeps reminding us of that more than ever.
When a person dies, it’s the end of their world. The end of their universe. Sure, the world doesn’t stop and the wheels of civilization keep spinning. . .just not for this one individual. For this one individual, it’s their encounter with finality. It’s also the ultimate adventure by learning the answer to the biggest question of all: do we survive death? Death is a uniquely personal experience. Death makes us acutely aware that what ultimately matters is our own experience, our own perspective.
There’s a reason we come into this world alone and we die alone. It’s kind of like having a thousand Facebook friends; how many of these people do you actually know? Not that many. It’s the same when the Grim Reaper comes knocking. You could be surrounded by a thousand people but it doesn’t matter. It’s your experience, it’s your final test. And no one can help you. Extrovert, introvert, celebrity or a nobody — we’re all in the same boat in the end. Speaking of boats: let’s hope we won’t be greeted by the ferryman of Hades on the other side, as we helplessly await our eternal condemnation and a humiliating personal punishment. . .
We can speculate all we want if we survive death. Personally, I choose to believe we’re eternal self-awareness traveling through infinity on an endless adventure. Could I prove it in a court of law? Of course not. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe when we die, that’s it. Nothingness. Maybe digital immortality is our only hope. We all have our beliefs and convictions. We’re free to believe what we want. Well, as long as you don’t want to cut my head off because my beliefs differ from yours, that is. Then we have a problem.
Being Polish, I’m surrounded by death. Walk around Warsaw, the Polish capital, and you’ll find memorial plaques, statues and monuments reminding you of the city’s terrible past. A hundred people died here. Two hundred people were shot to death there. If you know anything about Polish history, then you know it’s filled with bloodshed and drama. Sure, there were moments of joy and greatness every now and then. But they were quickly forgotten.
You know, I wonder sometimes. Has my country been cursed? It’s metaphysical, I know but how else can you explain so many national tragedies? It’s as though God has chosen Poland to go through trials and tribulations.
A terribly tumultuous history has an impact on the minds of the citizens.
I had a history teacher at an elementary school. She was a brilliant woman. Her incisive intellect was a treasure trove of ideas. She had a profound impact on my way of thinking. Sadly, she died suddenly. I don’t know the cause of her death. But I can guess. She probably died from sadness. All the calamitous events in Polish history simply made her sad. Immersed in all the historical tragedies, she couldn’t see the positive side of life anymore. She was heartbroken. Was it suicide? I suppose. A slow one.
That’s why I’m fascinated by alternate realities. You know, where things are similar yet different. And I’d love to see this other universe, this other reality, where my elementary school teacher is happily alive. I wish I could cross over to that universe. I wish I could see my alternate self over there, in this other world. Who knows. Maybe one day?
After all, we’re all separate universes, existing alongside each other. Some universes are similar; some are dramatically different. And when they are dramatically different, well. . .never the twain shall meet.
Maybe when we die, we simply cross over to some other universe?
Who knows. We’ll all find out one day.
I’ve chosen to celebrate my elementary school teacher by writing a novel about alternate realities. In the novel, she is alive and well.
That way, she has been immortalized.