Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On the After Life (Excerpt from a Recent Letter to My Friend Tim)

My best guess is that, if life after death exists at all, it exists for one and all—just a guess, mind you—because few things come into existence just on the basis of belief—whether we're talking leprechauns or the Alps. If I choose not to believe in leprechauns or Alps, I don't think that choice either diminishes or increases their probability of actually existing.

I think the existence of life after death is worth pondering in general ... just not for me. It no longer enters my mind as something either so probable as to require my attention or so desirable as to excite my hope. As I mentioned, I can't imagine eternity as a satisfying experience—and I am not the first to say it, though I did arrive at the thought independently: I think it's no sadder that no trace of me will exist five years after my death than that no trace of me existed five years before my birth. Certainly one can imagine such a situation as a loss or deprivation of some sort—but that seems like only a trick or quirk of the imagination—like the perception that I should have been born a harlequin in 16th-century Italy, but somehow fate or unbelief has cruelly robbed me of the joy such an existence might have given me.

As for a version of me that would not be repulsed at meeting Jerry Falwell in heaven, such a version of me strikes me as being nothing like me or, at any rate, too little like me right now for me to rejoice that such a me might last through eternity while the current me is a mere memory, if even that.

On the other hand, I am so different now from who I was 20 or 40 years ago, I could argue that it's conceivable that a future me might be BFFs with Falwell. Such a conception, though, troubles me on several levels at once—and further raises the admittedly pharisaical question of, if I could live everlastingly, which version of me would that be? Certainly, it's possible that in heaven I will be "as the angels, neither marrying nor giving in marriage"—which is where I am right now, come to think of it, thanks to Proposition 8 and similar theocratic laws—and it's further possible that such an indifference to mere human relationships and affections would extend to not minding sharing a quiet nook with Jerry Falwell from time to time.

Also, there are questions whether angels like horror movies, have sex, get goose bumps, and eat guacamole that need to be settled before I can determine to what extent I would want to be "as the angels."

(My lack of spirituality betrays superficiality in my sense of pleasure that sometimes mortifies even me.)

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