Metaphysics, Parenting, and the Supernova.

We revisited the end of the Earth today.

The Lad (aged six) and I were reading Beowulf over lunch. Not my choice; the lad is drawn to it. He suddenly stopped me, starting to look upset.

“Mummy, I don’t want to think about the end of the Earth, for two reasons. But I keep on thinking about it.”


“Firstly, I don’t want to think about the end of the Earth at all. Secondly, I don’t want to think about not being there to see it. Because I can’t think about what it is like to be dead.”

[soothing noises from me]

“I can’t think about it! But I keep thinking about it.”

[more soothing noises]

*tears brimming*

[hugs] “Thinking about death is scary and big and difficult, and adults find it very hard too. We’re here to talk about it if you ever want to.”


“That’s why many religions have made up stories about what happens after death, to help them think about death and to help them feel better.”

“What kind of stories?”

“Well, you remember the Egyptians, with their gods of death and the way they were carefully buried with organs and gold for their afterlife.”

“Oh, yeah!”

“And Christians believe there is a ‘heaven’ after death.”

“What’s heaven?”

“Well, people think about it in different ways, except they all think it is a nice place. Some people think about it as if they will be dancing on clouds and playing harps and wearing angel wings!” [attempt to lighten the mood a little]

“Oh! Yes, I saw heaven in Tom & Jerry.” [laughter]

“We should look up some of the legends of other religions, how they think about the afterlife.”

“They’re MYTHS mummy, not legends.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Myths are something that could absolutely not be true, and legends are something that could be true. And some people believe them, but they’re not.”

“Oh.” [I swear, this was uncoached and unaltered – I don’t recall talking about the difference between myths and legends with him before, and on a re-read it sounded like something I’d made up and inserted into the conversation; it wasn’t.]

“Some people believe there is a kind of heaven for dogs after they die – they go over a Rainbow Bridge and play with all the other dogs who have died, and get lots of bones.”

[weak grin, still teary]

“But I still don’t want to think about the end of the Earth, but I keep thinking about it, and I can’t stop!”

“Sometimes you can put in a good memory instead of a bad one, when it’s bothering you.”

“There are some good things I really remember even though they were ages ago. I remember going on a plane with Granddad and having Christmas down South.”

“That’s a lovely memory. Sometimes I think of my brain like a bunch of memory boxes. If a bad one keeps coming out, I try to slam it back into the box and take out a good memory or a good thought out of a different box.”

“I’ll try that.” “No, boxes aren’t working. I’ll try jars.” “It’s still not working!” [sigh]

“Mm, I understand. Sometimes it takes lots of practice. And sometimes you just have to think about the sad things, and feel sad for a while, to deal with them.”

[dubious looks in my direction]

“I don’t want to think about the end of the Earth, mummy. Will you talk about heaven to me every day until it goes away?”

“Sure, if you want me to. And we’ll find some story books, too.”


To followup on our discussion about the suitability of The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, we watched it sans Daddy, and while the Lad found it objectively scary, it didn’t freak him out at all. He loves the Slitheen episodes, and got a lot out of Father’s Day despite it being a bit grim. (He now keeps reminding me that you “don’t meddle with time”.) We’re about to watch The Parting of the Ways/Children in Need/Christmas Invasion, which will be his first death-and-regeneration sequence (we’ve just dipped into classic Who, but haven’t seen any regens yet).

We haven’t told him about the Doctor’s regeneration; all he knows is that “The Doctor looks different sometimes”. I’m so looking forward to this.

Categories: education, ethics & philosophy, Life, religion

Tags: , , , ,

14 replies

  1. Ach nooo! Another Lad being indoctrinated – with Beowulf.
    How many Neo-Beo’s do you people seek to create for the sole purpose of hunting me from existance?
    Grendel’s last blog post..La Cage Aux Tigre

  2. Mwahahahahahahaha!

    So was Grendel really a rather nice, quiet, kept-to-himself swamp creature who liked a macchiato with his morning tea and has been unfairly maligned by revisionists?

  3. Look, lauredhel, when the Spear-Danes insist on ostracizing some dude they know nothing about from their social circle and then throw loud parties without him …

  4. My Beowulf approves of the Lad’s choice of reading material.
    And I feel for the Lad on the subject of not being able to stop your brain sometimes. Give ‘im a hug for me too, next time.

  5. Your kid is unbearably awesome.

  6. Aw, I used to have this problem a lot as a kid (with death, not with the end of the world). It kept popping up until well into my teens. Your strategy is probably a good one, as what I wound up doing most of the time was just arbitrarily deciding to actively believe in an afterlife (which I don’t), just so I could stop thinking about it and get on with my life.

  7. What I found hardest to talk about with my kids was the Church teaching that only believers go to heaven, so that my unbelief meant that I wouldn’t go, and they were horrified. I’ve basically said that if God is such a control freak that he demands that people need a faith password to get into the seekrit headquarters, even if they’ve been thoughtful and ethical and considerate to other people on earth, then I don’t want to be anywhere near the sociopath for eternity, and they could see that point of view as well, enough to stop being horrified anyway. It’s still a nasty piece of emotional blackmail from the Church.

  8. Okay, first, ditto to the lad being awesome.
    Second, the myths/legends distinction sounds like something I learned in school somewhere between the ages of 7 and 10, so I totally didn’t question it. 🙂 Of course, I had no recollection of it until just now, and if you’d asked me ten minutes ago what the difference between a myth and a legend is, I would have gone, “Uh…” But it’s exactly the kind of trivia I would have filed away as a kid for the sheer delight of busting adults who didn’t know the difference (My god! So many years on this earth and still so ignorant!), so that might be my favorite part of the whole exchange.

  9. This made me smile. Indeed, I’m with Kate on the myth/legend thing. (If you’d asked me ten minutes ago, same thing…)
    As for the constant thinking on the end of the world, I can recommend from my OCD treatment that it really helps to find something really engaging to do, or someone to talk to, or, as you pointed out to Lad, a favorite memory. It might take a bit more control than he has as a young’un, but it’s a start.
    Which is not to say not to think about it, but not to let fear overwhelm.

  10. Awesome lad indeed. On Christmas night we overheard the junior (7) telling a three year old that even though she probably couldn’t believe it, one day she would be as old as…me. 37 that is. Obviously considerably more worrying to him than being dead, in the context of his conversation/monologue. So at least your child does not think being as old as you is a fate worse and more unimaginable than death.

  11. Ach nooo! Another Lad being indoctrinated – with Beowulf.
    How many Neo-Beo’s do you people seek to create for the sole purpose of hunting me from existance?

    Hey Grendel.., yo momma!
    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..ET fails driving test as UFO hits wind turbine

  12. That’s, like… the first “yo momma” joke that’s ever been funny, in the history of “yo momma” jokes. Props, DEM!

  13. We aim to please. 🙂
    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..You bombed it, you bought it…

  14. There are good reasons to be worried about the increase in sunspots and the hole in the earth’s magnetic shield as relates to the planet passing through a noisy part of the universe. I’m also worried about the planet.

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