Being a painter, one of BG’s biggest influences is Francis Bacon, a 20th century British artist whose bizarre but still “representational” art flew in the face of the American craze at the time for all things abstract. Being in the enviable position of achieving fame and fortune during his lifetime, Bacon lived large. Although he said that he was “optimistic about nothing,” he emphatically and unapologetically believed that there was nothing after death.
BG has a hard time wrapping his mind around that concept. After all, if that’s true, what’s the point of our lives? The thought that we vanish into nothingness after a mere 70-odd years is not a comforting thought to him — or to most people.
Knowing just a smidge of non-Western philosophies — and somewhat more about astrology — I’ve often debated with him that even if we cease to exist after death, we do live on in a metaphysical sense; if we have children, help others in ways large or small, or create a great work of art, we are “immortal.” If in our short lifespan we’ve tried to leave the world a little better than we found it, we are still “here” long after we’re “gone.”
Has John Lennon’s assassination meant that he is no longer “exists?” Quite the contrary; he (or his “spirit,” if one prefers) is still very much with us whenever we hear a Beatles or Lennon song, even for those who were born after his death. Musicians who were influenced by him keep him alive as well by indirectly carrying on his incredible legacy. The remaining Beatles even brought his “ghost” back by “accompanying” him on unreleased compositions he wrote like “Free as a Bird.” And when BG and I gaze at a Bacon painting in the Museum of Modern Art, his presence and energy are still palpable.
As a Jew (since my mother was Jewish, I’m considered Jewish too by my people), I prefer to concentrate on good deeds (mitzvahs) while I’m here. Jews have a complex philosophy and belief system, but there is little talk of the afterlife, and the concept of “hell” is not really a Jewish thing. But for all that, “believing” Jews are adamant about the continual presence of G-d in their lives, while many secular Jews still carry on the philosophical underpinnings of an avid love of learning and questioning which produced such ground breakers as Freud, Marx, and Einstein.