February 2006

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As I’ve mentioned before, I like to get out of the house once a day for lunch if I can. I go after the lunch rush to avoid the crowds and so reduce my chance of catching a cold from someone. But you can’t avoid the damn humans entirely and I do enjoy the people-watching.

One constant is the standard American pause before the self-serve soda fountain. You know what I mean, the guy standing in front of the fountain with an empty cup in hand as if he’s been asked to change the fuel rods in a nuclear reactor. But I have come to realize the pause is rarely due to confusion. (Regrettably, it sometimes is due to confusion. There are the people who press non-existent buttons when they should be pushing their cup in under the fountain and vice versa. They’re redfaced and you’re just glad you didn’t do it.) No, the pause is usually due to choices, too many choices. The guy can’t decide what he wants to drink. Eventually, he chooses what he always drinks (probably). Yet most people have this impulse to pause and survey their options. Because we gobble up options? Because we hope that one day a flashy new logo will appear on the pour spouts and dazzle us? I don’t know.

This is the Soda Machine Pause (SMP) and it’s a measurable statistic. You or your lackeys sit by self-service soda machines for hours on end measuring the pause.  In 2006, what is the average SMP (the ASMP)? What does our ASMP say about us? Is the Colorado ASMP different from the New York ASMP? How do those compare to the London and Shanghai ASMPs (assuming they have self-serve soda machines in London and Shanghai)? Should we be concerned if the Chinese ASMP is 50% lower than ours?

These are questions for the experts to tackle. If you or someone you know is an aspiring sociologist, feel free to pass this on to them.

So what do I believe about the afterlife? Well, I don’t believe 100 virgins will be waiting for me at the Gates of Heaven wearing leis (and/or pajamas). No, I think the first thing that happens as you walk into the light is that you meet one person who passed away ahead of you. Which is to say, you meet the energy or soul of that person. This first person is your guide. Her sole job is to acclimate you. (Let’s say she’s a she.) Between the two of you, there’s an immediate understanding of the guide’s role. There are no secrets in heaven, no anger, no fear, no conflict, no misunderstandings. It’s kind of boring. That’s one reason souls don’t linger in heaven for too long. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This first person who acts as your guide does not have special status. She is not necessarily your favorite person or your most beloved. In fact, it’s better if she’s not. She will at least be someone that you liked. We don’t want to shock these new arrivals into thinking they’ve gone to hell. The guide will simply be the person who is best suited to the job. Do you know someone who would make a particularly good forest ranger? If that person precedes you in death, she may be your guide. Like most things in heaven, the identity of your guide will both surprise you and make complete sense.

Your guide gives you an energy hug (these are much better than regular hugs, so we all have that to look forward to). Then your guide keeps you steady as you watch your body from above, the doctors trying frantically to save you, or letting you pass in peace, your family saying goodbye. Difficult moments for everyone involved, including you despite your new energy existence. Some new arrivals leap back to their mortal existence at this point and tell vague near-death stories to anyone who will listen. But for most, their latest sojourn on Earth is over. Time ceases to have the same meaning when you’re a lump of energy. Many souls like to hang around to see who shows up at their funeral. Your guide will let you linger for a short time, some souls find it easier to move on than others. But sooner or later your guide pries you away from your Earthly existence and introduces you to the next phase of your soular life.

More on that later…

Nobody Knows, Part III
Nobody Knows

Nobody knows what happens when we pass into the Great Beyond. Perhaps there are 100 virgins waiting for us in heaven — a Playboy Mansion pajama party taken to the next level. (For the ladies, it would be 100 firemen hosting a festival in your honor at the big firehouse in the sky.) Or maybe nothing happens. Maybe our bodies turn to dust and we end, we are over, kaput, for eternity.

Given that nobody knows, who opts for an afterlife of nothing? You have to be a real pessimist to survey all the options from heaven to reincarnation to a new plane of existence to jumping elsewhere in the multiverse to virgins/firemen…and decide on NOTHING. I guess maybe I could understand if you’ve lived a very, very hard life and you just want to sleep for a long time. I can see that. But I don’t know anyone who has lived that hard a life.

Anyway, this is why I could never be an atheist. You might say, “You can’t pick your favorite afterlife! This is a matter of belief, not choice.” My feeling is that belief is mostly a choice.

Nobody Knows, Part II
Nobody Knows, Part III

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