The baby new to earth and sky,
What time his tender palm is prest
Against the circle of the breast,
Has never thought that `this is I:’

But as he grows he gathers much,
And learns the use of `I’ and `me,’
And finds `I am not what I see,
And other than the things I touch.’

So rounds he to a separate mind
From whence clear memory may begin,
As thro’ the frame that binds him in
His isolation grows defined.

This use may lie in blood and breath,
Which else were fruitless of their due,
Had man to learn himself anew
Beyond the second birth of death.

Tennyson thinks that the consciousness of a separate self is essential to being human. The use of personal and possessive pronouns indicates a knowledge of the boundaries of the self and its possessions. A mature grasp of the self is the fruit of “blood and breath” that is, of physical existence. If life after death did not build on this self, then the development of the human self before death would be fruitless. Buddhism on the other hand, teaches that the separate self lacks all substance and is an illusion that creates evil. Christianity at its best has taught that the separate self is only a stage of development, which is surpassed by a greater, communal identity of love in which individuals find their true fulfilment.

I share this view of humanity, and therefore do not expect my daughter to be unchanged in God, or to yearn for a renewed daughterly relationship with her father. If there is any truth in life beyond death, surely it must offer change and growth. Tennyson holds a conventional view of human identity because it seems to promise him that Hallam still feels their friendship in his new state, and that when Tennyson dies, it will be renewed. The majority of people for whom I have cared in bereavement, hold a this view.

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