I was at a funeral on Wednesday for a relative of Wendy's that I had never met in person. It was a pretty standard sort of affair with a gathering in a graveyard and a bunch of speeches, songs and readings. I thought the speeches and songs were fine but the readings really got me irritated; they were not just religious in nature but portrayed the afterlife in ways that are ridiculous. One of the readings was the entirety of the book When I Get Where I'm Going which describes heaven with some degree of authority. The idea that somehow the authors of the book have some kind of direct line to the afterlife to determine how it will play out is silly as is the utter certainty that the person in question is going there. Even more absurd is the fact that people stand around talking about how the person in question is now endlessly, perfectly happy and yet they are desperately sad about it. If we really believed in these words we would have joyous celebrations for the dead who have so recently gone on to the happiest place in the universe. When we die our time is over and the only thing we leave behind is the memories in those we touch and the changes we make in the world.
The book talks about how heaven is a place of perfection. You can explore without fear of being lost, love without fear of rejection, fly without fear of falling. No one in this version of heaven ever feels bad for any reason. There are endless descriptions of poetic but nonsensical things that can be done by those in heaven and the book raves about how wonderful things are for them. Unsurprisingly I find it all to be a bunch of ridiculous drivel. The excitement and the rush of falling in love are almost entirely based on the possibility of rejection. Exploring is all well and good but once I know that there is no possibility of loss, no possibility of injury and no possibility that I might actually have to do a good job I am going to get bored. The most exciting and interesting things in our lives revolve around risk and the need to do things right to avoid a bad outcome. Any time you see a situation where there can be no bad outcome you know that how much you try and how good you are has is irrelevant - and in that situation people get utterly bored. A place where nothing can go wrong, nothing bad can happen and there are no limits is a place in which there is no reason to try anything. It describes hell much better than heaven. As anyone who has ever used a 'god mode' cheat in a video game will tell you being unable to lose makes playing at all feel utterly pointless after about 5 minutes.
The thing that boggles my mind is the necessity to come up with such fictions. People talk about how it is a useful thing to believe that we will continue forever in some fashion but fail to acknowledge that we *know* for a fact that the things we do and the memories people have of us continue long after we die. Much of what we are is in many ways immortal and there is no need to invoke a invisible superman to see that. Not only that but life becomes all the sweeter for the knowledge that it is limited. I won't get a second chance, I don't have forever and the answers will not all be forthcoming at the end. I have but one life and these facts make that life and how it is lived ever more precious.