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?

Afterlife

Google has introduced a new facility in which Google, in addition to knowing everything about you when you are alive, also tries to determine if you are dead.

http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.in/2013/04/plan-your-digital-afterlife-with.html

The facility is like a will for your digital property, at least on the Google services. You can specify after how many months of inactivity should your online data be shared with your “digital executors”. You can also specify a goodbye message to whoever mails you.

This made me think, what message should I set for people who will mail me?

I remember reading an after death blog of a US Army Major a few years back. I felt as I if knew him from his blog. PS. Google is f* awesome! Here is the links. http://www.andrewolmsted.com/

A few ideas that comes to my mind:

  • That’s all folks? (Is it plagiarism if you steal last words?)
  • Hi, Thank you for your mail. I am currently out of life and will respond to you once I am reborn. In case of any urgent issues, please escalate to God.
  • If you are seeing this, it means I am already dead. I have found the hidden wealth of < a prominent Indian politician>. Just send 10,000 Rs to the below account so that my accomplices may finish the paperwork and transfer a billion dollars to your account. Oh I almost forgot. For quick processing of the transfer, we need your internet banking account credentials as well as some other personal information. Don’t worry, this is all legit. Do you think I am going to lie on my death bed?? (Did you get the pun in the last sentence?)
  • Should it contain the regrets in the life I have lived? Regret for giving up on loves that mattered? Regrets on decisions not made? Regrets on the mistakes that I am guilty of? Regrets for not eating proper, taking stress, not exercising? Regrets on things that I should have done but have not? Regret for running after things that are of little consequence? For that matter, regret for not realizing what are the things that do matter? Regret for not taking care of my loved ones? Regret on killing all those people? (I am joking for Chrissake!)
  • Should it contain fake assurances for the dear ones that life will not change and that I still love them? Should it contain fake assurances that I will meet them in the afterlife but not anytime soon? Should it contain advices, “best practices” in the language of consultants, for them to follow based on the glorious life that I have lived? Can my words fill the void in their life?
  • Should it contain a montage of the life that I have lived? Should it contain a dispassionate view of my life, people that inspired me, the dreams that I wove, the events in my life, fellow travelers that I met who may have forgotten me, books that have changed the way I think, movies that made me think that it was worth watching them again and again (Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back.)? Good deeds that I have done? (Does  anybody do any good deeds nowadays? I can’t remember any that I have done recently.)
  • Achievements of my life? I don’t know if having a job (at the moment) and getting married counts as an achievement? I think I can put my top scores from the games that I have played, they are called “Achievements” you know.
  • Should it contain my beliefs and my thoughts? What I was afraid of? What I secretly desired? What I abhorred? People that I loved?
  • Or should it contain little of everything? I am the sum of every moment that I have lived. Every thought that has crossed my mind. Every emotion that I have felt. Every individual interaction that I had.
  • Or should it contain only a simple goodbye  and nothing else? I am the sum of every moment that I have lived. Every thought that has crossed my mind. Every emotion that I have felt. Every individual interaction that I had. Isn’t it unfair to sum up in a few paragraphs or pictures or videos an entire lifetime that I have lived?

There is a very beautiful scene at the end of the movie American Beauty.

<Don’t watch the video if you have not seen the movie. Get up and watch the movie now!>

I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout Camp, watching falling stars. [Gunshot] And yellow leaves from the maple trees that lined our street. [Gunshot] Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper. And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird. And Janie, and Janie. And Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain, and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry. You will someday.

~ Lester Burnham