I’ve been watching I Survived… Beyond and Back on the Biography Channel, a television program profiling people’s near-death experiences (or NDEs, for short). The show weaves the stories of several people who have reportedly died, experienced a glimpse of something beyond death, and then revived to relate their adventures.
It doesn’t take long to identify a pattern to the NDEs: Someone experiences physical trauma of some sort, his or her body ceases to function for a time, then that person crosses over into a new, almost invariably euphoric plane of existence that doesn’t require a physical body in which to function. If he or she was hurt or sick, they no longer possess injury or illness. Their new environment is fueled by what they can only describe as Love Energy and the NDEer comes to understand that Love is really all that matters, that the purpose of life on Earth is to let go of fear and to learn to express unconditional love. Often, the NDEer is met by relatives or friends who have died previously, and/or a God-like figure that informs him or her that it is not his or her time, that they have work still left to accomplish and that they must go back. The person shortly finds him or herself back in their physical body, miserable for having departed that wonderful place.
Two things stand out about his oft repeated sequence. The first is that, at the very core, loving and helping others is our true mission in life. It isn’t fortune and fame. It isn’t personal success, however we define it. The heart of all our missions is the same: Simply, to love and love well.
The second is the revelation that the NDEer is often told that he or she has work left to do, or put another way, that he or she has a destiny yet to fulfill. It suggests that life isn’t merely a series of random events but something infused with purpose.
I’ve concluded that we are all given a life quest. It might be to raise a family. It might be to teach people, directly or indirectly. It might to write fantastic things that move people or entertain them. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be to find the magic ring. The quest itself is unimportant. It is only an excuse to meet and interact with people, to learn to let go of fear and to love and love well.
When I think about my own writing life, the successes and failures, I realize how blessed I am. At least I’ve found my quest. How many people in life haven’t recognized what their quest is and, if so, haven’t the ability to pursue it? Even if everything I’ve ever written hasn’t been instantly green lit, at least I know I am following my bliss. I’m doing what I’ve been sent here to do.
More importantly, I realize that my quest is just an excuse to meet people and love well. How many people wouldn’t I have meet if my first novel had immediately been agented, published, and a best seller? How many people wouldn’t I have helped (and how many people wouldn’t have had the chance to help me) if everything that I’d written had been golden?
The magic ring is out there, whatever that ring is for you. Just don’t be distracted by grasping it. It’s the path to finding it that matters.
Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.