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  • Writer's picturePray Jani

Karoshi

Below I write about a near-death experience of a Japanese workaholic who came to me with hopes of getting some answers. Since the person has shared his experience in confidence, I was compelled by the law to omit his name and so I will refer to him as “the Subject”. While many have claimed to have experienced NDE, I am convinced that this is the most realistic I have ever heard. Not only is the experience he shared, shocking, it has raised several questions and doubts in my mind as well. I come here with the same hope he came to me with: to get some answers.

Karoshi

“Yes, (Subject), tell me. What is it that you’d want to talk about?”

The subject seemed restless. As if he didn’t want to say much, but had to. A scared child, of 37, forced to command a battalion. The subject had really low self-esteem, as if he had just lost everything he had achieved.

“Ma’am, has there been a day in your life where you’ve lost everything? Every belief you had adopted, proved wrong? Almost as if, this entire life, was a lie?”

I was right in my analysis. The subject had lost something valuable.

“I was fifteen. I was playing in the park, with some friends and I see my mom rush towards me. She gave me a horrible news. My grandfather had passed away.”

“I hope he was a good man.” He said. His face almost hollow, as if he did not mean it. He had been looking at the carpet the whole time, fidgeting with the fiber.

“Yes he was. Only minutes ago, he had asked me if he could come with me to the park, he needed some fresh air, but I suggested he didn’t. It was for his good, he needed to rest. He was recove…”

“No, ma’am, what I am asking for is an epiphany. Did you have an epiphany, which questioned your beliefs in something that had a place in your heart, somewhere deep?”

Him interrupting my story did not help me. Or him. Everybody has had an epiphany at some point. And in my 60s I’ve had around 10-20 of them. But what was the point he was trying to make?

“How about we start talking about you first.”

I was tired of this routine and I needed him to start quickly. I use this line every time someone is trying to stretch something too far. Only, instead of “you” I have different variants for different situation. They always fold.

“Of course.” He said. Bingo!

“It was a morning, like every other morning, I leave my house, get in the car, drive to this one particular bagel guy; have my bagel and drive to work. I encounter several strangers there because honestly, after 15 years of corporate life, you hardly give a fuck about anybody in my line of work.”

It seemed a pretty standard start to the conversation, nothing out of place, people generally talk about how the day had started. The day something happened to them because of which they were here in my office. So far the subject had been normal, nothing out of the ordinary.

“I died that day, Tuesday, I still think about it. 8:22 pm, yes.”

What did he just say? Did he die? What? It was difficult for me to keep a straight face, but I could see he needed me to be completely normal about it. It was as if he had prepared the whole thing, practiced it over and over, until he could tell me, without paper, in the most unprofessional performance he has ever given. With every other word he uttered since, he was losing it. His calm, his character, his composure. I could see he needed me to be supportive.

“I look at the objects now, ones that belong to me, differently. Like they all talk to me, and I am certain about nothing anymore.”

Maybe he is paranoid. I could suggest him a psychiatrist. I don’t know what to do here. He has come to the wrong profession for help!

“The knowledge is all flawed, it means nothing, and ma’am there is more here. I want to tell you everything… and I wish you can help me but I know there is no answer here.”

With a deep voice here and a much serious tone he started talking slowly now.

“Ma’am there is no god. It’s just you…and me…and this life of people and things…moving and still…and they all in their own way…are living, not breathing but living…”

I was baffled. What was this man talking about? Is he an anti-Christ pastor? He comes to me with an epiphany and preaches about atheism. What am I going through here. It was difficult to understand. I needed to keep my face straight or I would lose him. But again, what was he trying to say?

He started to stammer a little from now, losing his calm perhaps. Maybe because I was a little too confused about the whole idea and could not comfort him.

“There are layh…layers to everything. I know… yuh…you don’t understand. I feel like we all go back…and forth, toh…together. I…I know you don’t get it. I know by the way you look at me. The…there is no help here. I know what a fool I am making of myself but I need to let it out.”

“Its ok, (Subject) you can tell me. What is this layer you are talking about? Is it personalities? Is it…” I had to bring him back, I don’t know why but I had to. It was getting frustrating now.

“NO! How do I say this? No. No. You have the wrong idea. I have seen this, I have lived it, the life after death, and it is different. A little too, meaningful.”

“Meaningful? How?”

The Subject was losing his focus now, and I felt I should not interrupt him anymore. It was best if he discovered his pitch and felt heard. But how does one handle this? I could not ask if he was hallucinating, he had asked for just 2 hours of my time, of my undivided attention, my ears, and that’s all. To get to the right pitch, I felt I could correspond his experience to registered NDEs.

“Mr. (Subject), may I ask? Was there a tunnel of light surrounding you, asking you to follow?”

“No no, please. What are you asking? This is not a movie, this is real life, a loop, cheating loop.”

The words he used were raising questions now; he described life as a mixtape of sorts that played repeatedly. His hand-gestures suggested panic and paranoia. He was angered by something big. He was disappointed with something, maybe himself.

“Ma’am” he continued. “What I am talking about is, that this light, this fiction of hell and heaven, it’s a joke. For a while forget that. I died on a Tuesday and I have never bothered for dates since. I did not know I was dead until I got back, after almost 3-4 lifetimes. How do I know it? Because to me I was never dead.” He paused, trying to recollect his thoughts. I offered him some water, which he gulped down hurriedly. Gathering his posture, he tried to continue.

“I lived days and week and years probably in this state of limbo but I am still confused. (pause) What I felt then…was different and yet familiar. See because I work at (classified) as a (classified) I undergo a lot of stress.”

He was starting to sound normal now. It really helped me too.

“In Japanese we call it Karoshi, death from work stress. When that happened I was clueless, I went deep in realms; that is the closest word to the existing vocabulary. Realms that gave meanings to everything. Suddenly the cabin made me realize the worth of my corporate contribution. I started looking at things from a third person’s point of view. Suddenly every conversation I ever had with people flashed right in front of me, and I lost track of time, it was as if I was experiencing the life I had backwards. But no, it was something else. It was different from the life I had had.”

“So you were imagining? Hallucinating?” I asked. I had to bring him to a place. Restrict his focus on the issue. Retain his thoughts from being everywhere to being somewhere precise. In NDEs we focus on the person’s experience. He was getting there, slowly. He was regaining his confidence with which he walked in. A little scared too now, that he was opening up to a maddening confession.

“No, what I saw, and experienced, was real death, and the judgement day. And when the idea of heaven and hell arose, it had a whole new meaning than what we have today.”

“So what is heaven and hell according to you?” I felt that if I showed interest in the details of his experience, I could help him let things out.

“Ma’am I…” “Please (Subject), call me Marge.” I said with a smile.

“Right, Marge, I experienced it all. See there could not be more to it than this, and by this I mean the life you and I experience and the world you and I see. So when we die, we are not sent to an ethereal landscape of beauty or terror, it is this life that makes our afterlife. Our consciousness that continues with a judgement call on itself. So when we die, we experience every good and bad we bestowed upon life, on ourselves. I am obscene to the coffee guy at the office. Fucking rude. In the experience I had, I saw him stare at me, with the face of disgust, as if he was staring at my dead body, been rotting right in front of him. I felt humiliated, while he had not done anything. See ma’am, pch, Marge, the thing is, you’re conscious and living now, on your chair, writing with that pen, on that pad, on your lap, but this consciousness changes entirely when you’re dead. While you continue to use the pen in that consciousness, there is a kind of self-curated meaning oozing from the pen, rising from the kinds of uses you have put that pen to. This meaning solely depends on you, and the good or bad that you consciously believe was brought by it, and by conscious I don’t just mean the fact that you know, but also unconsciously believe it to affect things or beings positively or negatively. And when you die, the same is imparted upon you.”

I just could not speak. I could not write. What does he mean by this? Was he asking me to be a good person? What is he talking about? Should I even sit and convince him what a life really is? He seemed to have travelled from another place and time, or life. What he just said is a new theory of life after death. Makes sense, yet, but theory none the less. I felt at that moment that I was only convincing myself because this man had just seen what he is talking about. He has visited and experienced it. It may not be a dream, it may be one. I don’t know for sure.

There was a long silence, I was thinking about what he just said. To make some meaning out of it. Judgement day? How far am I from one? If it is true, how will I judge myself? That’s ridiculous. I needed to ask.

“So are you saying if I do good with this pen, it’ll come back to me in the afterlife?” I asked immediately trying to understand his take, and for my sake.

“Yes.”

Finally! I pick his tangent.

“Okay go on.” Of course I needed to know more.

“Heaven and hell, as you asked, is only a series of situations, and while in that state of death, you are revealed to everybody, your hidden motives of say, good or bad and the true you.

“Why do you think are we stripped naked after we die? In dreams, being naked is a sign of being discovered of something you are trying to hide. Imagine this life is a next realm, controllable, and irreversible. And when dreaming you can wake up and call all of that just a dream and while we know in many situations; say that of a nightmare, that it is only a dream and we can wake from this, we choose not to. Just like that, death sends us to the next realm. It all makes sense when it happens and I will know for sure now when I die.”

“When you said, (subject) that you did not know you were dead until you were back to life.” I was interested in what he would say to this. He seemed prepared with all the answers.

“Yes obviously! See while you’re alive here, you do not know what is going to happen when you die; there is little thought given to that actually. But when I died, it was different, and while I continued to live the same life, my brain was on a journey, as if heading somewhere, and yet feeling like it belonged there, as if that was more real. And while I felt I was stripped off of all my hidden motives, and my true identity, nature, was forced to surface, I felt about what a horrible life I had led, leaving a horrible horrible example. It was disheartening. But when I was back to this life, I was told that for a moment I had died, I believed it right away.” He had started tearing up. My presence was not helping. I was not able to provide the calm he needed. The man had just come back from death and remembers his experience. I sincerely needed to be heard and understood. Because, assuming he was, he has just returned from a revelation, known perhaps only to him. I could only try and connect with him. It is not about losing on something; it is the knowledge that has cursed him.

“So according to you, in your experience, you will remain in a state of joy, and happiness if you imparted happiness around you. Right?”

“Yes.”

“And in your experience, this life is only a dream-like state with something more real lying post-death. Right?”

“Yes.”

“So if you’re saying that this life is a loop, as if it plays repeatedly, how is it that nobody who has died, has returned? If that is what you mean.”

“You have a wrong meaning here. When you sleep, and then wake up, do you not sleep again?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Similarly, this life is a state of dream, arising from the representation of what lies beyond death. Why are you scared to commit crime, because of the consequences? No, the consequences lie in the after-life, much worse, lasting an eternity. What I mean is, just how you dream every night, you come to life after death, but just how you never dream the same dream, you also, don’t live the same life. But of course, there are some incidents like myself who has stepped on the same Earth, and maybe that’s how you reach the same dream, by being revived and temporarily beating the next realm. So whatever, you’re doing now, and have done in the past, and will do in the future, comes from your already existing self from the afterlife. Does that make sense?”

“Yes, and no. See I’m sorry (Subject) I cannot connect with you. I understand the questions you are having but I am not able to answer them. I see wh…”

“My questions is just that, does this, whatever I said; theorized, make sense?”

“That life is only a dream-state of us in the next realm?”

“Yes.” He said, satisfied he could convince me to talk like him.

“Well life has many meanings, and to confine ourselves to just one can be a problem, (Subject), and I wouldn’t want you to think about this so often because to believe maybe this life is only a dream can trivialize your role on this planet. Everything will seem dull and meaningless to you. You might go into depression and…”

“And? And commit suicide?”

I nodded; afraid that maybe I had planted that idea in his head.

“I died 4 years ago; I haven’t been able to kill myself yet. Not because it’s difficult, I know what lies ahead. But ma’am, life is where we impart consciousness. In my life, you were my ear, and you told me what I wanted to hear, that you are as confused about life as I am. And in that we experienced life, mortality. In your life, I shared a knowledge of my experience that you have value for. So when I say life exist with consciousness, everything around you and you will stop existing, will vanish, when I leave with my consciousness. And the same can be said about you. Once I leave, I will stop existing, when you took this job you have been expecting things that should be expected, maybe somedays you don’t expect patients, some days you do, but they come with a kind of experience you are trained for. Not a day in this office will a scientist come and ask you to talk to aliens, not because you are not trained for it, but because it is not something this life of yours is prepared for. I myself have to fulfill my life before I go to the after.”

The conversation from there shifted to our personal lives. He needed my help in understanding how to cope with anxiety. This talk made me wonder about his take on life. Maybe it is true, but who can tell. I have had several patients coming here and expressing their concern about how trivial life is, meaningless and over-rated. While, here was a man with hope, knowing what after-life was like. I heard the tapes of our conversation over and over and observed how important meaning was to him. He said that repeatedly, and emphasized upon it. I wonder what meaning he was talking about.

It is difficult to say what really my patients mean but this particular incident will never stop bothering me. He did make sense to this ambiguous meaning of death. While he correlated it to sleep and dream, and the realms that we exist in, it is the repetition that bothers me. According to him, a poor man, once dead will not lead exactly the same life, a little different, not better, not worse, different, because it is for the poor man to judge whether his life is good or bad. This loop of life, is an inevitable state of dreaming and somehow, this life is a reflection of what lies in the after-life; the next dimension.

This incident has raised many questions in me, and perhaps you too. There may not be any answers yet, but this man has reaffirmed my beliefs in doing good because apparently, you might stay in blissful eternity by portraying good. I am not a writer of any sorts, I am a mere psychologist. I hope I have communicated in my best way, the message I have tried to convey. This narrative is not only about how realistic the life after death experience sounded, but the subject’s emphasis on doing good. While ancient scriptures are manifested with that idea, here was a living, modern example of one, preaching the same. While I hope this has helped you, I also hope you, as readers, have not trivialized the essence of life. All-in-all, we still do not know what lies ahead of us, after death, or anything. Life is as uncertain as it has been.

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