[This article was originally published in 2017]
It's a fascination with life that's at the root of our fascination with death. Do we live on in some sort of metaphysical way? Do we experience anything comparable to what we call 'consciousness'?
Death is only a man-made term after all. For some a beginning, for some an end, and for many simply a state of disrepair when medicine gives up.
Consciousness is something neither science nor philosophy can adequately define and it takes a living being to experience it, so perhaps someone who spent a short while medically dead is our best insight into post-life.
A man who “died twice” for about two minutes at a time, once from a motorcycle accident, once from an overdose of painkillers, gave an AMA on Reddit today and fielded questions on his experience.
On the sensation of death…
"I had no idea, it was just black emptiness. No thoughts, no consciousness, nothing.
"Both times I was just "not there". It was just all black. I would describe it as when you take a nap. A short nap with no dream, you wake up and it feels like you've been sleeping a long time, when in reality it's only been about 15 minutes.
"The only reason I know is because the doctors were obligated to share the information with me. "So yeah, you were dead for a couple of minutes, just FYI" hahaha.
"So if the doctors wouldn't have said anything I would've just thought that I took a dreamless nap."
On whether he really experienced 'black emptiness' or if this was just how his memory filled in the 'blank'…
"It was definitely not just a gap. Much like a dreamless nap, you don't just wake up and feel like time just jumped ahead. You know that you've been asleep for a while. At the same time, you can't really remember experiencing anything at all, unless you had a dream.
"So yes and no. I experienced something, and that something was nothing."
On the sensation of dying…
"The first time was right before the accident and the only thing in my mind was 'oh fuck'.
"The second time I had no idea. I was in pain and all of a sudden there was nothing, just no life. Then I was awake and in pain again."
On whether the different causes of death yielded different experiences…
“The two experiences were exactly the same. The only difference is that the accident one, I remember the seconds before a lot more clear. The second time, I was in so much pain that I wasn't really fully aware of my surroundings if you understand what I mean.”
On other people's reports of near-death experiences…
“I think that in their cases, their minds were still active. What they experienced was just a sort of dream.”
On being told he had died…
"Well my first reaction was 'Omfg, that's fucking cool! Now I can tell my friends that I've been dead and come back to life etc' but most of those thoughts were the morphine talking.
"Then reality sets in, and I realised that 'wow, I could've been dead right now.' That's when I started to understand how serious my situation really was.
"I definitely fear it less. I know now that death is nothing worse than sleeping. When you die, you just stop existing, nothing to worry about!"
On religion and the afterlife…
"I have always been an atheist, but I have always had a part of me that hoped there was a God or Heaven or something greater than us. I mean, who wouldn't want there to be a Heaven?
"I am still an atheist, and now I know that there is no such thing as God or Heaven. At least not for me. My reasoning behind that is no God would ever put a person and family through such a experience.
“I am an Atheist, and always will be. But I believe that your belief is your belief. The only thing we can share is our own experiences and let people make up their own mind.”
On approaching life after death…
"All I want to accomplish in life is to have fun and make other people's lives better as best as I can.
"No personal achievement will matter to me once I'm dead, the only thing that will live on after my death will be my impact on the people that are still alive. And hopefully my impact will be positive!"