Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Eternity

Our neighbour Lucia is exhausted. Lucia’s mom is on morphine finally so at least is able to sleep. It is just a matter of time. The old house on the other side of us will soon be empty again, likely forever this time as it is old and run down, like its two previous residents.

I have always been afraid of dying. Not being dead, but the final process. Slow and painful is not fun. And what does the final moment feel like when one’s “soul passes from this life to the next”? I hope I go fast. Preferably at age 107 from a .357 between the eyes, fired by an irate and jealous husband.

Lately I have been wondering about the next life. How does one spend eternity? Never mind where but how? Dead is a long time.

One school of thought is “Fade to Black”. There isn’t anything on the other side. Like turning off the motor on the old Ford, parking it in the bush until it rusts into the ground. I don’t much like that view as life itself then seems so pointless.

Another notion that has a good number of followers is that we are recycled into another body and keep on trucking through time. (Reintarnation is when you come back as a hillbilly). I like that idea. I like to think in a past life I was a horseman of the Steppes, though there are some who suggest I was just part of his horse.

Those who insist on blowing themselves up in the name of Allah and jihad are convinced there will be a small herd of virgins waiting for them in Paradise. No appeal whatsoever to me. First, virginity is highly over rated; chastity is its own punishment. Second, virgin what? Wool? Olive Oil? Hereford heifers? I would want to see the fine print.

The Christian ideas of Heaven and Hell are the least appealing, at least as normal described from the pulpit. Spending eternity in a lake of fire as punishment for sins real and imagined but to what purpose and what end? And what do you actually do there? Work a 15 minute shift every three months shoveling coal? To hear some folks tell it Heaven is reserved for a select few (Christian Republicans). Since I don’t hate Jews, homosexuals, abortionists, immigrants, different skin colour than my own, poor or sick people and anyone who does not subscribe to an extremely narrow interpretation of scripture, I certainly needn’t worry about qualifying anyhow.

Seriously, what in H.E.-double hockey sticks, is Heaven like, that one would want to go there? What will a person do? The thought of sitting on a cloud and watching over those I care about and being unable to intervene sounds more like Hell than Heaven. Regardless it is only good for maybe 100 years and then you don’t know them anyhow. 7th cousins and great-great-great grandchildren are not exactly of immediate concern. Reuniting with loved ones will be great for a coffee and a few days to catch up and then what?

And of course, the gold streets, wings, harps (“Welcome to Heaven, here is your harp”. “Welcome to Hell. Here is your accordion”) halos and hymnals may appeal to some but not me. For the best description of Heaven I have ever read, I refer you to Mark Twain “Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven”.

A preacher is working himself up to a frenzy and demands of his congregation “All those who want to go to Heaven, stand up”. Of course everyone stands up – except for an old guy in the third row. The preacher glares at him. “Everyone who wants to go to Hell, stand up”. No one stands up. “And you, Sir, where do you want to go?” “I don’t want to go anywhere. I like it here”.

Me too.

10 comments:

  1. If harps and accordians are our only options, I'm not sure either. I guess it will depend on where I can find bagpipes. Whither thou goest, bagpipes, go I.

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  2. Wasn't it Mark Twain who said if he had a choice to go to heaven he'd rather not because he hated harp music?

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  3. Lyn! If heaven has bagpipes I am so not going.

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  4. Funny you should mention this. I've been thinking a lot about heaven lately. Please "bear" with me on this.

    If you follow a classic Hebrew understanding, heaven starts at the top of the earth. Meaning that if your walking on the grass, or on the ground, the soles of your feet (and the rest of you) are in heaven -- even when you're alive. It's a thought that has been around for, say, a millenium or three. I know; doesn't get much play. I don't know why. I'm with you and the old guy in church; I like it right here. This is heaven.

    As to life after death, I'm not sure (said da Rev.) At this point, my life is full of, "Is there life after birth"? Which is about how well people live before they die. Lots don't live very well -- many live in poverty, with all the attached evils. Working with and for them is a big concern, and takes a lot of time and energy.

    My Master's thesis is on ethical issues in pain management. You're right: slow and painful is not fun (when it comes to living or dying). It doesn't have to be that way. But, on the basis of my work, doctors are going to have to get a lot smarter about how they handle the pain people experience.

    I'm reflecting, finally on your plans for your departure. All I can say is, "You wish!" (Meanwhile, I'm sitting here, laughing.) And don't worry, you're not part of the horse.

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  5. Dad, I am going to have to send you an email to give you my true comments. But you can guess in the meantime.

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  6. Oh Oh. Sounds like dad is in trouble with the son...nothing new there huh? Did I get all of this started? Hope so. I've been thinking about those final moments ever since I was born. I'm too "maudlin" for my own good.

    It's like this: I visit my sister and see her estate, and jets, and cars and lakes and smoothly mowed acres and I ask myself: What could heaven offer them? (and they're VERY spiritual people)

    Then I come home and count beans (hillbilly joke)and wonder if heaven is something the rich use to control the poor: your award will be AFTER you're dead.

    I'm starting to let go of the Walt Disney version of heaven. I know there's no hell. Like Judge Judy says: "if it doesn't make sense, it's not true".

    We're here, and by the time we almost have it all figured out, we die in our own secretions. Those final moments can't be good OR easy. Gee Fodder, I'll never get to sleep now.

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  7. Rob-bear, "Is there life after birth? That is really the issue we need to be working on when we are alive on this planet. I agree.

    Dana, you are so right. "Pie in the sky by and by" is used by the rich and powerful to control the masses and keep them satisfied with their miserable lot.

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  8. I just thought I'd drop by to let you know that I have decided to give a name to our little group of three. You, Rob-Bear and myself. I've written a wee tribute to us (if not me, who?) and am just biding my time til I post it.

    My health is declining right now, and I don't think I should wait much longer before I find a doctor. I'm making calls now.

    Anyway, I've decided to call our little band of brainiacks: the DYNAMIC UNIVERSAL MEMBERS of the BRAINS ANONYMOUS SOCIAL SERVICES

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  9. (that's DUMBASS for short)

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  10. Speak for yourself, Dana. I know Al is smart enough that, if he sits on an ice cream cone, he can tell the flavour of the ice cream.

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