There has never been a more thoroughly debated, investigated, feared, and exploited biological process. Understanding it, the implications, and the process can embolden us and help us die with grace.
With the exception of nerve cells in the CNS, lens cells in the eyes, and oocytes (egg cells) in girls, all other cells die and are replaced. You, on a cellular level, are an entirely new you every eight years. Did the old you die? Yes, biologically, it did. Those cells were shed, destroyed, digested, assimilated for their nutrients.
Your brain cells do not replace themselves (at least, not very well.) But they are subject to something called “neuroplasticity”, which is a reorientation of synaptic connections. This is a continual process and influences your ideas, your decisions, your daydreams, chronic methodology, everything. Your mind is constantly in flux. The mind we have as children is gone. The mind we have now will not last. The body we have now may be replaced several times before the process of replacement fails. Do you feel like you’ve already died? Are you afraid of this process of replacement? Are you afraid of the moment of absolute death?
The instant of death is hardly and instant. After a doctor declares a time of death, a majority of the body’s tissues and organs are still alive. The heart may even beat. The brain may still be thinking. Severe trauma can result in a expedited process of systemic failure. Sepsis, or chronic disease states can result in a long process. The process can correct itself spontaneously. Life can be restored more easily, particularly when the deceased have been kept cold while deprived of oxygen.
There is no “moment” of death. We are a community, and environment of microbiology. That environment is never obliterated in an instant, and the environment changes and evolves. The flora within our intestines continues to thrive well beyond our “death.”
Please reference Reality.
It is entirely likely that there are an infinite number of you. In various life stages and different fates.
It could be that consciousness is due to the arrangement of super-imposed quanta inside the micro tubules of our neurons. See here. (Remember to unlock the article with sci-hub.)
Quantum particles will orient themselves according to probability. Their probable orientation is determined by similarity of systems. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that the quantum particles that seem to be intricately involved with consciousness, would travel easily to a similar system in an effort to maintain coherence. Simply put, if your neurons were to systemically fail in death, or loss of consciousness, the particles that reside within your microtubules would readily inhabit, or collapse, into a parallel you. Most likely one that is exceedingly similar. Does that reassure you? Scare you?
Does it scare you that you lose consciousness for a third of your life? Does it scare you that you could be…a different you? Would you know? Do you ever wake up feeling…fundamentally different?
More on this will come.