Sometimes people are shocked to discover that I don’t believe in an afterlife. I really do believe that when we’re gone, we’re gone.
That seems to horrify them. They say they simply can’t imagine not being, so because they can’t imagine it, therefore we must continue on in some kind of heavenly – or hellish (if you failed to believe in the proper stories) – afterlife.
But it’s not really so hard to imagine. Here, try this: Do you have any personal memories of the year 1524?
No? None at all? It’s because you didn’t exist then, right?
I imagine not existing after you die will be a lot like that. It’ll be just like 1524. Okay, make it 1523, because the winter that year was a lot milder.
I don’t remember having a problem with the billions of years I didn’t exist before I was born, so I’ll probably do just fine after I’m gone. It’ll go by in literally no time at all.
But sometimes I wonder, what if I could design a heaven for myself? If some divine being came down and said, “Look, after you die, you get to live on in another plane of existence forever, but you have to tell me what it should be,” I’d have to think about that.
Of course, I’d be wary of the “monkey’s paw” effect – that what I wished for would turn out to be hell.
But I’ve come up with a kind of heaven I think I would like very much.
Eternity, continuing on and on forever and ever from minute to nonstop minute strikes me as boring. At some point after 5000 years or so your brain just couldn’t come up with anything new anymore.
So instead, I’d like to shrink all of eternity down, all the way down… to just one moment. One breathtakingly beautiful moment, a moment that I could experience forever, with no diminution because the blissful moment would never pass. It would linger, along with all the feelings of bliss that came along with it, forever and ever.
And then I’d have to pick that moment. Gosh, there are a few. Maybe that moment when I first fell in love and knew that she had fallen in love with me too. We were young and the future, as they say, was wide open. There was that one moment we looked at each other and just knew.
Or that moment I walked out onto a beach in the middle of the night, after a day in which I thought I’d lost everything, but suddenly realized, no, I was going to live and I was going to be okay. The night breeze sounded in my ears and the ocean waves seemed to be saying, “Don’t worry, you’ll be back with us soon enough, and until then you are where you’re supposed to be.”
Or maybe even the moment that I first heard Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, especially the final few minutes.
Magical moments. I’m sure you could think of a few too.
So pick one. Remember it. Remember how you felt in that one, shining moment. And then imagine what it would be like to have that moment, not frozen in time, but lingering forever, along with all the feelings that came with it.
Yeah, that’s a heaven I could sign up for.
Then again, not existing doesn’t sound too bad either. Not being? I think I could do that standing on my head. But I’ll say this: I’m going to try like hell to walk into it having lived as much as I could.
And who knows? Maybe not being will be pretty cool. I won’t have to worry about taxes or bills again, I’ll never get headaches or have to suffer through another Michael Bay movie. Hey, that sounds like heaven.