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0 Comments | Feb 11, 2019

Dispatch From the Hereafter

deceased-in-the-afterlife-2Despite a lifetime of religious cynicism and disbelief, it was still something of a disappointment, upon my death, to discover that there really is nothing afterward. Well, not nothing in the literal sense. My ability to be here and to tell you about it pretty much means that there must be something. But it’s certainly nothing in the eschatological sense that most everyone is back there basing their lives on and which serves as the foundation for everything they’re looking forward to in the hereafter—in fact, not only looking forward to, but for many people actually spending their lives striving toward. Only here’s the eye opening reality of it—what awaits over here is exactly the same for everyone, regardless of what you did during your life, what you believed, or who you prayed to and worshipped. Priest, serial killer, infant, Wall Street banker—doesn’t matter one damn bit. This place couldn’t care less who you were back then or what you did or did not believe. Some people take that news better than others when they first arrive.

Aside from the overall egalitarianism of the place, there are some other aspects of life in the hereafter (for lack of a better term) that it might also be handy to know about for the folks who are still alive. Being aware of these things would save everybody an awful lot of worrying and, more importantly, really cut down on all the persecuting and killing over whose god is the right one. Because a lot of that stuff about heaven and hell and standing in long lines to be judged is, best I can tell so far anyway, a big load of made-up nonsense. When all is said and done, everybody—white, black, brown, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, atheist—ends up in exactly the same place—this place—doing pretty much the same thing. And so, one the one hand, knowing that there is, in fact, an afterlife is, I suppose, the good news. The bad news is that it bears absolutely no resemblance to anything that anyone still alive is expecting.

Don’t get me wrong—there’s plenty of other stuff up here to feel good about, some of which will surprise folks (unclear why I persist in using terms like ‘up’ when I have no actual sense of reference relative to earth to know whether this place is up, down, or in an entirely different dimension of some sort). Random example: everybody is, to all appearances, pretty much the same age, which is around mid-thirties. So that’s cool, considering that most people, if they’re lucky, die when they’re much older. Also—and this is even better—there is no evidence of disease or other health issues of any kind. Everybody looks pretty vibrant and together and all.

The bad news—at least that’s how it seemed when I first heard about it—is that all that youth and vibrancy is kind of a waste because there’s really not much of anything at all to do here. People just walk around, sit around, occasionally talk to each other. That’s about it. Most of the things that were part of normal life on earth are totally absent here. There are no houses, no buildings, no jobs, no food, no recreation that I can discern, just . . . nothing of a material or superficial nature. Which, when I describe it that way, actually sounds kinda hellish, now that I think about it. And yet I’ve spoken to several folks who have been here a long time (inasmuch as time actually means anything here—more on that in a bit), and they all seem pretty content and well adjusted. So maybe boredom is only a problem when you’ve just come from a life spent doing lots of stuff.

Oh, and one other thing I’m sure you’ll find interesting—the answer to a question that may have occurred to you at some point (though oddly it’s never once addressed in any of the popular religious texts). The clothing here is utterly identical for everybody. We wear pants (everybody—there’s no gender distinction in clothes, or much of anything else for that matter) that are kind of halfway between a khaki color and a medium gray, a white button-up shirt with short sleeves (more than adequate since, best I can tell, it’s always about seventy-two here), and these really comfortable white slip-on shoes, kind of a canvas thing with rubber on the bottom, almost but not quite a slipper. And here’s a thing that’s taken a bit of getting used to. Not only is this the only outfit, but you only have one and you never take it off. It doesn’t get dirty, it doesn’t wear out, and everybody’s fits them perfectly. Also—long as we’re talking about cosmetic appearance—all the men’s hair is pretty much the same, as is all the women’s. For the men it’s a close-cut look, not quite military, but not far off. For the women, it’s shoulder length. The only differences in hair are that everybody has whatever hair color and degree of curliness, straightness, etc. that they had in life, so at least there’s that.

More linguistic weirdness—use of the word ‘have.’ I talked earlier about ‘having’ clothing. Aside from that, though, no one here ‘has’ anything at all. Concepts like wealth and possessions are utterly foreign, which, of course, means no rich people or poor people. No one wants for anything because there’s nothing to have and nothing to lack, if that makes any sense. This, in turn, means that concepts like aspiration, striving, and coveting are meaningless. I’m pretty sure I knew plenty of people in my former life who would regard these as significant improvements in the human condition.

So let’s see—other things you’re used to that you’re going to have to get unused to here: It’s always daytime, like summer in Norway! Only that works out better than you’d think, since no one ever sleeps. The whole circadian rhythm thing doesn’t appear to exist here at all. But it’s even stranger than that, particularly when you first show up. There’s no geography, if you can imagine that. The ground is really more of a floor, kind of a seamless sheet of travertine tile, totally flat extending to infinity in every direction. And there’s nothing you would recognize as a sky. When you look up or around, everything you’d think of as the sky is simply this pale gray void, sort of like a winter day in Seattle, only without the cold and the rain. All of which means that with the totally homogeneous environment and everybody dressed the same, looking around isn’t terribly rewarding, as there really isn’t much of anything to see except for other people.

So I hear what you’re saying right about now: no food, no jobs, no environment, no day/night, what the heck do people do all day? Well, this is where it gets genuinely weird, and not all that easy to describe. In fact, I’m new enough here so that I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole thing. I guess I would describe it as the ultimate expression of zen: pure contemplation punctuated with occasional conversations with others if you feel like it. The only thing to do here is to simply be. The yoga and meditation people are gonna love it! But it gets even stranger because here’s the other thing. Everybody comes here as a totally clean slate. All that business on earth about being reunited with old dead loved ones is right out the window. No one comes here bearing any memories at all of their previous life, including having any recollection at all about who you knew, who you were married to, related to, or anyone else. Not only that, but all of the things you knew in life—your education, your job, your hobbies, all of that—it’s all wiped clean. You come here with a completely free and empty mind, which I guess is where all of the contemplation comes into play. And, oddly enough, the notion of different languages is right out the window too. Everybody understands everybody else without difficulty. Honestly, I can’t even tell you what language it is, but everyone here knows it. So that’s a plus. And, lest you get the wrong idea about all the homogeneity that I’m describing, there are still plenty of races and colors, though no one seems to much care. Whatever you were in life is what you are here; it’s just the language that’s the same.

Being new here, I’ve found myself wondering if this is the actual end game as far as eternity is concerned, or if perhaps it’s some sort of waiting area, like what the Catholics used to call Purgatory. I haven’t got a clear sense of that yet because, as I suggested earlier, time is a funny thing here. There are no clocks or watches, no phones, nothing at all that would give you a sense of time, which, combined with the whole no day/night thing, means that any notion of how long you’ve been here quickly vanishes. In the early going I tried asking a few people how long they’d been here, and the answer invariably was “a while.” Not that helpful, I remember thinking at the time, though now I’m kinda starting to get what they meant.

In thinking about all this from the perspective of what people on earth are being taught about heaven, hell, and all that, it doesn’t really fit any of the stories. It’s certainly better than what people have been told over the years about hell. There’s no fire and brimstone, no demons running around with pitchforks, no eternal torment. So that’s a great thing. Heaven, on the other hand, was always a somewhat nebulous concept in all those earthly teachings—streets paved with gold, many mansions, that sort of thing. But there was never really any discussion about what you would actually do for eternity once you got there. Like I said at the outset, I spent most of my life as a nonbeliever, so I didn’t really live with any preconceptions about what eternity was going to be all about, if anything. But I did grow up in a church and so naturally I heard all the same accounts everyone else did. I guess in a way this place is at least somewhat heavenly, only without the white gowns, harps, streets of gold and all that. Oh, and, of course, no almighty deities to worship, pray to, or any of that. Which raises another interesting subject.

I’ve not discerned anything here yet that looks like politics or hierarchy. There are no meetings or agendas, nothing that looks like government, and no one who shows any signs of being in charge—mortals, gods, or otherwise. The only things I’ve learned since arriving are what I’ve gleaned from my brief conversations with other random people I’ve encountered. One minor difference between people that I can point to is that, like on earth, there is a definite range of personalities. Some are quite loquacious and will sit and talk with you at great length, whereas others are, while not outright rude, certainly reticent, even appearing sometimes to be borderline upset, perhaps because this place doesn’t quite fit their expectations as a place to spend eternity, though that is pure speculation on my part.

So, lots more questions than answers at this point, I’m afraid, but I’m still kind of getting acclimated, so I’ll have to send another update later, once I’ve gotten the hang of the place a bit more. The really big question, of course, is whether this is it or just some sort of staging ground. No idea on that. Other questions naturally occur: Is there sex here? Will I need to get a haircut? Will I ever encounter anyone I actually recognize? Does anything ever change? It’s way too early to tell. All I can do at this point is keep talking to people and see what more I can learn. My only advice for now is to not beat yourself up too much about sleeping late and missing church last Sunday.


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