Nobody—I mean, no body—is leaving this planet alive. By contrast, every soul will be very much alive and kicking when it pulls out of here.
A part of us grasps this Truth: We know indisputably that no one has ever come to Planet Earth and stayed. We know that this is not home. We know that we have bodies and souls—and we know that the two are not synonymous. We know that one is finite; the other is infinite. And we know which is which.
On occasion, we even verbalize our understanding of this difference: When souls leave human bodies, we often say that they “passed” or they “passed on.” We use an active verb that indicates that these souls went somewhere. We know that lifeless bodies aren’t going anywhere that they aren’t physically carried.
More frequently, however, we act as if the physical body and the immortal soul are the same thing. “Michael died,” we say. Did Michael’s body die, or his soul? Which was the real Michael, the mortal body or the immortal soul?
We do something else that’s quite confusing: We say or write, “Rest in peace” (R.I.P.). Are we talking to the soul? The body certainly doesn’t need a directive to rest or rot; it will do both naturally. It seems to me that if an immortal soul had the option of departing a lifeless body or resting peacefully within it, that soul would get out of Dodge—immediately. Of course, I could be wrong.
How did we get so confused? If we believe that every soul has a purpose for being here, do we know when that purpose was established? Was it done prior to its arrival—or years later, after reading A Purpose-Driven Life? Who has the greater vision to establish the purpose of a lifetime on Earth: the infinite soul or the ego that is inextricably attached to the finite physical body?
If the soul is on a mission, do we believe that it will subordinate its plan to the ego? In other words, can a body or ego’s desires trump a soul’s mission? If not, could that explain why bodies don’t always get what they ask in prayer: the job, the house, the car, the mate, the baby?
Did millions and millions of Michael Jackson fans worldwide want the undisputed King of Pop to entertain us forever? Absolutely. Did our collective desire trump his soul’s divine plan? Absolutely not. That’s difficult for us to grasp because our egos want what they want, when they want it—and they’re egotistical enough to think that they can run roughshod over the soul’s desires.
Our egos’ battles with our all-knowing souls is what makes us “double-minded.” We cling to two diametrically opposed belief systems. “Double-minded” is a phrase we learned from James, in his book that became part of the best-selling anthology we know as the Bible. In the 18th verse of his first chapter, James noted that you can predict that a man who is double-minded in one area of his life is unstable in others. The inconsistency becomes a common thread woven through his thoughts and actions.
James’ theory has held up for nearly 20 centuries: Humans believe that God is angry and vindictive. Worship is mandatory and free will is granted; but if we exercise that freedom in ways that God does not desire, He will torture us throughout eternity.
Conversely, we also believe that God is Love—and we don’t believe that Love is angry, vindictive or that it mandates worship and obedience from loved ones or it will exact a painful long-lasting punishment. That’s double-mindedness in action.
But that’s the tip of the iceberg. We also believe that we should drop bombs on our enemies; but don’t believe our enemies should drop bombs on us, their enemies. We believe that we can be unfaithful to our spouses, kill a gang member’s child, infect millions of computers with a disabling virus, and steal quarters from a jar or billions in a Ponzi scheme; but it’s an indignity if others do these things to us. We believe there should be harsh penalties—even capital punishment—for some crimes; but we want mercy if we or a loved one committed the illegal act. We also believe that our loved ones are dead when only their bodies and egos have died. Yes, we are double-minded; but we don’t have to stay that way, unless we choose.
Several high profile souls left the planet this past week: TV’s most famous talk show sidekick, Ed McMahon; model, actress and pop icon Farrah Fawcett; Oxi Clean’s screaming hawkman, Billy Mays; and the Thriller of them all, musical genius Michael Jackson. There were also countless mothers, fathers, children, relatives and friends whose souls completed their missions here. We can also look at these transitions as our egos’ loss or their souls’ victory: Consider the possibility that their souls had a schedule for this visit (remember, this is not home)—and they left according to that schedule.
In one of my favorite books, a simple little allegory about life and death, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Author Richard Bach offers a gull proverb: “The gull sees farthest who flies highest.” When we’re able to see beyond the physical props and the costumes to that invisible realm called reality, the realm of spirit, soul and God, it’s amazing what is revealed to us. Bach writes:
“As the days went past, Jonathan found himself thinking time and again of the Earth from which he had come. If he had known there just a tenth, just a hundredth, of what he knew here, how much more life would have meant! He stood on the sand and fell to wondering if there was a gull back there who might be struggling to break out of his limits, to see the meaning of flight beyond a way to get a breadcrumb from a rowboat.”
That was the birth of a new mission for the soul known as Jonathan, prior to his return to Earth. When we understand the meaning and the multiple dimensions of Life, we understand that “loss” is a thought, not a reality.
When our loved ones pass, they are not lost. Because of our limitations, not theirs, we simply cannot see them. In reality, they are more accessible to us, in spirit, than they were in body. Yes, we miss their physical presence. Let’s not deny that. But it doesn’t mean that they are dead. It means that their bodies are no longer animated by the infinite life of their invisible, invincible souls.
Maybe it’s time for the rest of us to R.I.P.: Rethink the Idea of Passing.