Who will be in your heaven?

There is nothing after death. One moment you are and then you aren’t. There is no pearly gate to enter and no hot furnaces to take a warm dip in. There is nothing after death.

This sad truth however does not stop the various religions and cults to create their own fantasyland. If you live your life saintly you will get to spend eternity praising God. I don’t know why they would call it heaven. Some people do spend their life on earth praising politicians or movie stars or sportsmen or ideas. How would heaven be any different for them? Some belief systems give you the carrot of lots of carnal pleasure in heaven with the stick of burning eternity in hell if you do not do as the Book says. Some says that you will reach a stage of Nothingness if you live a good life. The truth is somewhat closer to this, you don’t have to be good to reach Nothingness. You will reach there auto-magically when you die.

In any case, my intent is not to criticize any set of belief. Everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe in. To paraphrase Voltaire, I may not agree with what you say or believe but I will fight for your right to not agree with me. Or I may not.

This lack of belief in afterlife does not stop me from creating my own fantasy heaven. Remember that you have to spend an eternity there and there are no modern conveniences like electricity or movies or Internet. Lack of internet should make it Hell but let us proceed without getting into the semantics. I am an introvert and as such I am more comfortable alone than with people. However I would stock up my heaven with people. Lots of interesting people.

The setting of my heaven would be a grassy knoll with some trees for shade. There is a clear stream flowing nearby and I can see fishes swim in it. The air is filled with songs of the birds. It would always be sunny with a mild chill. You would not feel the heat but you would not be cold either. Some days there would be a slight drizzle to fill the air with the scent of the soil.

I would not want my family or my friends there. Their presence there would imply that their time on the Earthly Dimension is complete and I would not want that. I would rather spend an eternity feeling the pangs of separation than have them there.

So my heaven would be filled with strangers. It would be filled with people I have never met during my employment with Earth Inc. It is not a crowded place though. Each individual is carefully chosen for a specific skill-set. Ideas. I would have originators of religions and destroyers of religions in my heaven. I would have Communists and Capitalists. I would have Fascists and Liberals. I would have Freedom Fighters and Oppressors. I would have Conquerors and Rebels. I would have Inventors and Destroyers. And I would want to spend my time understanding their ideas and what made them tick.

I would spend mornings listening to Jesus talk about his beliefs and I would ask Gautama Buddha what he thought about Jesus’ ideas. Some mornings we would talk about role of religion in a society and other days what they thought about the way modern humanity has perverted their teachings. Afternoons would be for weighty matters so that I can have a good sleep. So it would be up to the Aristotles and Kant and Nietzsche and Karl Marx’s of the world to talk about important things while I doze off.

Evenings would be spent with Alexander and Patton and Genghis and Che and Rommel and the re-enactments of great wars and battles. They would each argue how they would have fought a particular battle and changed history. Other days it would be the Storytellers who would entertain all of us with their stories. We would have Shakespeare read us Henry V. Some days it would be Tolkien who would give a talk on the economy of Middle Earth. Bear in mind that Keynes would be free to interrupt and expound on how the fall of the Dark Lord would have led to an increase in supply of weapons and consequent free fall in metal prices in Middle Earth version of commodities markets.

Nights would be spent listening to Mozart and Bach and Schubert and Vivaldi while I gaze up towards infinity and ponder about my life that was and the beauty of the world that is no longer mine.

Who will be in your heaven?


I am watching the anime Naruto at the moment. There are lots of things to NOT like about the anime. Stupid kids, boring teenage love and angst, one dimensional characters and the list can go on. However, there are a few things shown in the anime that makes you think. One such thing is the character of Orochimaru.

To give a brief background, Orochimaru is one of the main villains of the series that I have seen so far. Watch his theme song below to get an idea of the pure evil that he radiates in the series.

Now before we get into the reason why Orochimaru’s character is interesting, we will digress a little. Read the below article on Absurdity of Life by Rivka Weinberg, written as an opinion piece in NY Times.

Why Life Is Absurd

The article is a take on the philosophical theme of Absurdism. Absurdism talks about

a) the human urge to find meaning and inherent value in life

b) but the inability to find any.

The inability to seek value where none exists is what makes life Absurd. In the beautifully written article, one of the idea that Rivka posits is that Life is made absurd because of its short duration. By the time we find something that may give meaning to our life, we are already too old to do much about it. If we were to live a much longer life, we would have the opportunity to search for more things that can give value to our lives as well as have sufficient time to explore them more thoroughly. Not everyone can be a polymath like Leonardo of Vinci or Sir Isaac Newton to do so much in a small life. Albert Camus’s view on how to cope with an Aburd life was to emulate the mythical Sisyphus. Like Sisyphus, we are bound to roll the stone up the steep hill of life for it to crash back down again. Even though this task is meaningless we should find joy in the task rather than in the goal. As Krishna says,

Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani – Do not let the fruit be the purpose of your actions, and therefore you won’t be attached to not doing your duty.

There are however, characters like Orochimaru, who have found a different solution to the absurdity of life.

Orochimaru is one of those rare individuals who have realized what gives meaning to his life. In his case, it is knowing all the Ninja techniques in the Naruto world. In this fictional world, different individuals get some kind of powers through genetics, some secret techniques that can be taught and some that you develop because you have monsters living inside you. Orochimaru would require hundreds of years to master all the Ninjutsu techniques and hence it is an impossible task in a short life. He realized that life is too short for it to have any meaning the way he understands it. He embarks on a drive to become immortal by any means possible. All that he does, the people he manipulates, the murders that he commits are all geared towards this goal. Now you may say that there is nothing new in a villain looking for immortality, even good ol’ Voldemort aims to do that. There is a big difference though. Voldemort’s strive for immortality does not have any meaning. He does not have an aim that he wants to fulfill if he doesn’t die. He just doesn’t want it to end. Orochimaru however does not want to die because it is a stumbling block in a specific goal that he wants to achieve in his life.

One of my favorite quote is from the novel, Lord Of Light by Roger Zelazny

An army, great in space, may offer opposition in a brief span of time. One man, brief in space, must spread his opposition across a period of many years if he is to have a chance of succeeding. ~ Yama to Sam

Orochimaru understands this.

NGC 4594

NGC 4594 or the Sombrero Galaxy is a galaxy in the Virgo cluster around 28 million light years from us. It has around 700 billion stars and has a radius of 60,000 light years. If you look closely, you will realize that most of the other pin pricks of light in the image is yet another galaxy. Just think about these words and try to understand their meaning. “700 billion stars.” “28 million light years.” “60,000 light years.” The universe is too immense for our limited intelligence to comprehend its vastness!

NGC 4594
NGC 4594