And death shall know no dominion
In the US, there is not a lot of evidence of history of human civilization... The oldest habitats are a few Native American cliff dwellings and a few surviving missionaries from the Spanish civilizations. Northwestern schoolchildren are blithely unaware of even these and trace their history only a few hundred years back, with sparse monumental evidence before the 1880s and close to none before the 1700s. There are not even that many old cemeteries, so that it seems almost plausible that all of the people who have lived and died, well up until the last hundred years could actually fit in Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.
But once you leave Kansas and start traveling around to other countries, you become more aware of the millions and millions of past lives richly lived over thousands and thousands of years... and learn of other religions with just as much nonsensical logic as your own, deeply believed by millions... helping you to see with a fresh vision just how ridiculously contrived your own is. All of this leads to an acute awareness of mortality - that millions and billions of people who did wonderful and horrible things are all dead. Compounding that with age, with counting your remaining dwindling years, realizing that you won't see your grandson as an old man, well it's a wake up call, spiritual afterlife or not, that life as we know it is quite brief. And though Michaelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel remains and can be restored when it cracks and fades, the artist himself is not here. Nor are Ataturk, Ghandi, Muhammed, Robert the Bruce or any of the slaughtered Scottish clans or the many women murdered in Edinburgh as witches.
But today, in a dark cavernous space, below the festival streets where performance artists were juggling fire and terrifying children in their monstrous costumes, clear as a fire truck's clanging bell, I heard the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. And felt his presence through a performance in the Pleasance Theater in Edinburgh, Scotland. You win, Dylan Thomas. Death shall know no dominion over you.