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[ It is not possible to talk about emptiness without discussing death ]
17 June 2023

How can we not discuss death when we talk about emptiness?

Can we talk about emptiness without mentioning death?

As I carefully read the survey for Subin's graduation project, I pondered. Her graduation topic is death. More precisely, it is about how to prepare for death. And how to remember death.

Among the many elements in Subin’s project, such as consciousness, space, and behavioral patterns, the most easily understandable object she designs is an urn. However, the urn she is designing is not the round, white vessel that we typically think of. It is an object with practical functions that we use in our daily lives. In the system she designed, individuals preparing for death choose one object (an urn), and they use it in their lives until their death, contemplating the afterlife it will be imbued with their present life. The acts of using the object in each moment are subconscious yet simultaneously conscious.

In the survey she sent, there were several questions asking about my thoughts on death, and the last question asked me to draw the urn I wanted to be placed in. I was breezing through the first few questions, finding them surprisingly not too difficult. However, in the middle, I had to stop unexpectedly when I encountered this question:

‘How would you like your friends and family to remember you?’

Well... I am not sure. Of course, I would like it to be remembered positively. But to be honest... will it be remembered? When I die, my universe will disappear, and with it, everything that was in my universe will also disappear. Even the memories, these words written on paper or in my mind will all vanish. Oh, just to clarify and prevent any misunderstandings, when I say my universe disappears, I mean that my inner universe, which revolves around me, disappears. It does not mean that other people's universes disappear. Ah, you might be thinking, 'What on earth is this person talking about?' so let me add a bit more explanation.

Let’s pretend that ‘I’ am the protagonist of a book where everything I see, hear, and experience is described in the first-person perspective. This book is my universe. You, who are reading this right now, are the protagonist of your book where you are narrating from your first-person perspective. That is your universe. So- in my universe, everything comes to an end when I die. – There is no such thing as a book that continues when a protagonist dies. – This is saying that the fact that I died, the people who remember me, this Earth, Andromeda, the galaxy, and the creator that I half believe and half doubt will all disappear. But indeed, this is saying that nothing will happen in your universe. Well… by a chance in a million, or one in a thousand, there might be a few lines saying I died. However, my book has already burned and disappeared, so in my universe, it is ultimately a tale of 'nonexistence’.

As Schrödinger's pitiful and cute cat communicates to us, we make choices and directly confront the consequences of those choices. Only the scenes resulting from our choices become real. So, are the moments I have not faced non-existent? They do exist. They exist for another ‘me’ in a different parallel universe who has encountered them. The 'me' in the other parallel universe is not the same 'me' who is currently writing this, so they cannot become the owner of my book; therefore, I cannot say that is my universe either. Hence, when the 'me' in this universe dies, I will not be able to face anything anymore. There will not be any more reality for 'me.' It will essentially return to 'nothingness.' (Goblin..?)

Anyway, to conclude the lengthy story, when you die, it is over. Even all of those who lived in my world will be gone. There is no point in remembering or getting upset about it. But, I should design this cremation urn... uh... excuse me, what am I supposed to do? This was a project that conflicted with my thoughts too much. Without hesitation, I honestly shared it with her. She willingly accepted this somewhat unexpected story, and while explaining it to her, I had an even greater realization.

(Opening omitted) "The reason I draw shadows is to find existence in the moment, but if you delve deep, it is also related to death. Contemplation of human existence penetrates through life, and ultimately, because there is death at the end, I think the desire to leave the existence of ‘self’ in this world arises. That is why I also feel emptiness at the same time -.

(Omitted section)

To be honest, I do not want to leave something behind after I die. While I am alive, I want to awaken myself with a brush, and when I die, it would be nice if it could disappear with me. In fact, I am not scared of dying. The process of dying is scary. Perhaps, I want to die without pain...?

Somewhat paradoxically, I am not very impressed about my death, but I am scared that someone else in my world will die. When I think about friends, family, and a lover (when I had one😊), oh, I realize the finiteness of life more when I think about their deaths. I should do better. I should cherish them more. I think about these things a lot. (Of course, I don't always live up to it😊) Talking with you made it clearer. It is not when I think about my own death, but when I think about the deaths of the people I love, that I realize the preciousness and finiteness of life.

From that perspective, if we think about it again, maybe others might also be scared if I, a friend, lover, or a family, were to die, just like I could be. So, it might be better to consider that when I die, I completely disappear. When I die and my universe powers down, the entire universe I was in disappears, and only the universe where I never existed remains. It might sound a bit funny, but I wondered if it is possible while exploring parallel universes and such. It might be funny, but it is also somewhat sincere.