Paradox and Significance of Concluding or Culminating Experience

Retrospectively, we often tend to judge unpleasant experiences persisting over long periods much less negatively than one might expect in light of an evaluation of the aggregated negative experiences. As experimental psychology has shown, this is especially the case when the concluding or culminating experience in such a series is a positive one, or at least brings with it an improvement of the general situation.

Clearly, it would be paradoxical to want to apply this lesson about “concluding experience” to the life of an individual. Because with regard to a whole life the person concerned will always, at the moment of such a “concluding experience”, have ceased to exist and will have no more to report to us. Let us nonetheless mount a thought experiment whereby one might, even after the onset of an irreversible cerebral collapse, continue to communicate, as some sort of “post-mortal consciousness”, before ceasing to exist even in this form. We might then ask, in the knowledge that a life’s “concluding experience” exerts such a significant influence, a large number of such “post-mortal consciousnesses” to evaluate the lives that lie behind them. What would they tell us? To the extent that it is the case that a “peaceful going to sleep” at the end of a human life is a myth or a rare exception, the “concluding experience” of the great majority of such “post-mortal consciousnesses” will surely have been a terrible one (>Catastrophe of Dying) So that, under such circumstances, such consciousnesses would come to a negative conclusion about their past lives even if these lives had been, in general, only lightly burdened with suffering.

What does this thought-experiment tell us? In the first place it functions, in accordance with >Ovid’s Rule, as a corrective to that general contentment with life that is to be observed all around us and that draws on the proverbial wisdom that “on rain there always one day follows sunshine”. With death, the sun goes down once and for all – and goes down, indeed, for most of us in a very painful way. If one were to question, then, such “post-mortal consciousnesses” they too would draw the very likely negative experience of dying into the general judgment passed on life and thereby undermine the possibly positive judgments passed by those for whom “sunshine” has indeed often followed “rain”.

>Diktat of the Recollecting Self

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