Professional sports leagues provide the best euphemisms for those souls who’ve dearly departed the playing field. For example, the NFL describes death as being placed on the “Permanently Unable to Perform List.” If you do not go gently into that good night, Major League Baseball will put you on the “Involuntary Retirement List.” And to the NBA death is that strange thing where you suddenly find yourself playing for the 6 feet and under league. And while some run in terror from the Grim Reaper, others see an opportunity in being Reaped by His Grimness. For instance, after your body has been repossessed by the Grim Repo Man, you no longer have to watch in disbelief while it slowly delaminates and its once sculpted contours begin to look like something you’d see in a Funhouse mirror. Death also makes you very easy to shop for at Christmas. I mean what do you get for the person who has no pulse? – Defibrillators?
Jokes aside (and those were jokes), death is decidedly unfunny to a person’s ego. The ego takes death very personally. But in an equal and opposite way it is very liberating to the soul inside the body. And yes, I’m referring to that eternal and inextinguishable spiritual energy inherent in all of us. It better be eternal and inextinguishable, otherwise it’s going to be a very short afterlife. But I do hold that truth to be self-evident. That we are eternal beings who cannot help but obey the First Law of Thermodynamics which states: Energy can be transformed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed and that no energy is ever lost. This law of nature actually makes me a little giddy when it comes to death. It informs me that the animating force housed in a body continues on, long after its shell is repossessed. And this animating force continues, not as escaping heat energy, but as your consciousness. Some realists generously call this conclusion a leap of faith. Others call it a rationalization against the specter of nothingness. I call it an “only case scenario.” And I would share with you my irrefutable proof of life after death, if only you had an attention span and if only I had an irrefutable proof.
Alright, I’ll share it with you anyway despite its inconclusivity. Inconclusivity – now that’s a word you can really warm up too.
The Cost of Free Will
If you’re anything like me (up at 3:00 am, staring into the abyss, writing like a Banshee to prevent my world from cratering like a Death Star), all you really want is an E-ticket ride into the other dimensions. To see beyond the veil. To pull back the curtain and witness the origin of our separateness – where exactly we have diverged from God. Now I don’t like to throw around the term “universal omniscience” lightly for 2 reasons: 1. It’s a very heavy concept and therefore does not take easily to being lightly thrown around, and 2. I don’t really know how to describe universal omniscience except by analogizing it to that deep humming crackle you sense when an electrical line is overloaded. But more to the point, what kind of universal omniscience ever thought that separating souls from God’s infinite singularity would be a good idea in the first place? After all, most of us are well-suited to merging into the purring hum of our crackling origin. I mean what are we doing here? There must be some mistake. Didn’t this universal omniscience realize creatures like us need to be gently curated in little Assisted Living Habitats with holes poked in the top, and not in this underachieving world where more attention is paid to formulating new ice cream flavors than fortifying foster children programs.
Note: End of rant.
Instead we free-range earthlings are allowed to roam unfettered on the planet’s crusty surface like we own the place, when in reality we’re more like tenants who are way behind on our rent. It’s as if we’re all living in our mother’s basement for free and no one has had the heart to tell us to go out and get a job. The problem, I believe, is the superabundance of Free Will. It’s too much of a good thing haphazardly distributed and makes this world a volatile powder keg of passions – both obscene and sublime. All this mischievous Free Will is served-up in never-ending dollops of ice cream like so much Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Mayhem. Of course the alternative to denying people access to Free Will is worse (Fascism), but I’m not here to solve the world’s problems. I’m just here to poke a stick at them and see if they hiss.
Note: No really, end of rant
By virtue of our birth, we’re all entitled to fill our tanks with oceans of unearned, high-octane Free Will. And I call it unearned for because we didn’t pay for it. That’s why it’s called Free Will. We’re all hopped-up on gallons of this ego juice and can’t seem to understand why other people (whom we may refer to as “them”) don’t immediately celebrate our specialness. Conversely we rarely assume for one moment that others (them) are going through the exact same experience and are keenly aware of their own uncelebrated specialness. This is a wicked disconnect visited upon us by our aforementioned “universal omniscience” who chose to make us all appear separated and distinct from everything, when in all likelihood we’re ultimately derived from the same origin. It had to be this way. It didn’t just show up all differentiated, right?
This paradigm is diabolical and begs the question: Couldn’t it all be put back together again into its original loving singularity, so we didn’t have to worry about things like body armor and interest rates. A place where instead of a minimum wage everybody made the maximum wage? I’m not asking for much. I’m asking for everything. Note: I may be speculating here.
As we become more aware we’ll gain access to this multi-dimensional E-ticket ride. But first we must grow. Right now we’re too short to be allowed on the ride. I long for the day when we can all merge with the One and become unified again. I’m absolutely willing to do so providing, of course, I can maintain my individuality. I know. So ironic – like drowning in the Dead Sea.
Back to Free Will
Meanwhile this Limitless Free Will is powerful stuff and so many spend it like a drunken sailor. And this is why today we have aircraft carriers – to protect us from those who would use their Free Will for evil purposes; and to a lesser extent, to provide shelter for drunken sailors.
What would have been more cost effective for the universe is, if instead of giving out unlimited Free Will at birth like they were breadsticks at The Olive Garden, you could purchase well-earned and moderately-priced Free Will as needed. That way you could pay for your mistakes before you made them and you’d never again have to say, “If only I had paid for the consequences of my actions earlier, doctor, I would have worn my seat belt. This Free Will is killing me.”
If this moderately-priced Free Will program were to be made operable, the benefits of having to pay for your mistakes before you made them would result in real and permanent change. For example, I believe the stairwells of parking garages everywhere would be free from the stench of vagrants’ urine. And graffiti hooligans would stop marking territory they have no ownership of and realize; “What am I doing with my life? I’ve got $57 in the bank and $1200 alloy rims on my ’64 Chevy.” Moderately-priced Free Will is your friend. Of course in every group there are those who chug too much Free Will and can’t hold it. They make a fool of themselves celebrating their individuality. That’s why a responsible visionary who understands the consequences of excessive Free Willing is usually chosen to chaperone the group and given the title of Designated Willer.
Become the Person You Always Wanted to Be
In some sense death is everything you could ever want. For many of us death is sweet release from ailments, neuroses and repo men. But if you haven’t lived your life in accordance with the laws of karma (the Free Will accounting ledger that does not take IOUs) your demise probably will be both disappointing and surprisingly temporary. Because for those who didn’t heed the little whisper in their ear, there is no sweet release into the next realm. Rather there is this compulsory do-over called reincarnation. Or as the newly deceased might say:
You’re kidding right? I went through all that sh*t and now I’ve got to go back again because of one little incident at a petting zoo. I think any reasonable observer would agree that whatever happened, it was absolutely consensual. Surely there must be some way to avoid returning. Couldn’t I contribute to an influential monastery or an Astral Lions Club Pancake Breakfast? It’s so warm and embracing here and these on-demand Slurpees are to die for – so to speak. I don’t really want to leave. No really. Aw c’mon. I really don’t want to leeeeaaahhh…
And with that Doppler-shifted protestation you’re launched back into another body to work on balancing your karmic ledger once again. Now I can’t present irrefutable metaphysical evidence of such a process, but in my life I’ve eaten a lot of yogurt and read plenty of books purchased at New Age book stores and written by holy people who think this is how things operate – so I think what I have to say has a great deal of validity.
The Bonus Part…for Some
For most people, one of the happy dividends of dying (besides no more telemarketers) is the prospect of being reunited with family members who’ve passed on. And this is fine – for them. I just hope it isn’t mandatory for me because I’d kinda like to avoid most of mine. I mean I love my family members, but more like boring old novels you had to read for English class. I’d like to keep them up on the bookshelf where they belong and not scattered about my living area taking up valuable coaster space.
Once safely confined to the bookshelf I’ll never have to compare and contrast them again. Only occasionally would I take them down and remove them from their dusty jackets so I’d avoid judging them by their cover. But mostly they’d stay up on the shelf except for holidays or will readings. This tortured book-shunning analogy might be prevalent with family members (whom your assigned), but not so much with friends and lovers (whom you choose). For example I consider my lovely wife a New York Times bestseller and a real page turner. I’ve read and reread her story several times and each time I learn something new and I always look forward to bookmarking her (I would never dog ear her). Her Kindle version is even better – fits right in my phone.
Worst Case Death Scenario
When I die, which I hope will be many, many cheeseburgers from now, I’m afraid I’ll get sidetracked on my journey to the One and find myself stuck in the produce section of a supermarket where I’ll be doomed to suffer the hellish spritz of the store’s produce misting system. I cower in horror as the nefarious in-store meteorological process begins. First comes the telltale rumbling of faux thunder, then the freakish strobing of halogen lightning and in an instant I’m immersed in an inescapable mist of atomized water. I run from the grapefruit gasping for air, but there’s no quarter. I choke my way over to the kale who are so smug now that they’re suddenly an A-List vegetable. They don’t care. They never cared. Finally, reeling like a water-boarded terrorist I stumble my panicky wet ass over to the Swiss chard and ask them for asylum figuring they come from Switzerland and are probably neutral in this battle. And then it’s over. They shield me beneath their purplish leafy canopy and I can breathe once again.
Best Case Death Scenario
Exiting the produce department I enter a heavenly place where there are no convenience fees and where all phones are immediately answered by humans who say, “Hello Mr. Hardiman! I have all of your account information in front of me and yes, it looks like we owe you money. I’ll have that electronically transferred before we hang-up.” Now that would be heaven.
When my time comes I hope to die of natural causes – like from an ethically-sourced stake driven through my heart. A stake harvested from sustainable tree farms by indigenous workers making a living wage. I’ll revel in the joy of being released from my decaying body into a lighter, more transparent world of finer vibration. Where you’re never late for anything because the dimension of time has collapsed. A place where there is no word for botulism, tourniquet or Trump.
Dualism Can Go to Hell
I’ll grant you Breaking Bad was good, but Looking for Mr. Goodbar was bad. Such diametric impertinence. Will we ever merge with the One again? That is the question. Not “To be or not to be?” What kind of a question is that? I mean you can’t not be. Oh, you might snuff out your body, but you can’t kill off your spirit (See aforementioned Law of Conservation of Energy). So many words. So many ideas. Sometimes I think I’m better off just staring into the abyss.
Aaah to be One again. Not the age of one, but the reunion with the One. I’m not asking for much. Just for a return to the way things were. Before the separation (and I thought we were getting along). I think somewhere, down deep, apart from all these distractions (I’m an American. I’m horny. I’m outraged by blah, blah, blah. Really – we’re getting a new Chipotle?) all we really want is to converge once again with that unfathomable light energy from whence we came and to be free of all the dualism inherent in being the person we think we are. This would be like having the gravity of 10 million suns lifted from our breasts. Meanwhile we plow ahead preoccupied by a construct popularly referred to as life. Inklings of other dimensions are a distant and barely discernible calling. Like the one heard by people who seek a career as a sperm bank teller – where withdrawals aren’t so bad, but deposits are a mess. Talk about a stick-up.
Death as a Post-existing condition
As I read and reread this piece I sound like a wannabe guru or a callow dilettante (I’m actually a wannabe dilettante). But since I passed that point several paragraphs ago I don’t have to worry about that now. My credentials are established. And I‘ll unabashedly move forward like an ultra-cool guy who brags about his numerous sexual conquests, but has actually had relations only twice and paid for it both times. It’s that way with me and the spiritual worlds. My experience in these realms is meager, but my anticipation and attraction to it is magnetic. In reality I try to listen for the call of my Lord by standing in a serene field and looking up at the sky while beseeching, “Can you hear me Lord? Can you hear me now?” If there’s no answer I’ll move 15 feet or so and say, “How about now?” I’ll repeat the process for a while and if there’s still no response I usually give up and say, “I’ll call you later when I can get a better reception.” What else can I do? It’s not like I’m a God-whisperer.
Sometimes my fondest ass-backwards wish is that other people are well-behaved enough to make my life worthwhile. As long as others perform their civic duty and social cohesion is maintained, I can run rampant against a backdrop of law abiding citizens. To the bedeviled earthling who feels the menacing presence of gravity as it malevolently presses them against the planet’s crust, our friend “death” has a lot to offer. I’ve read extensively about Near Death Experiences (NDEs) and revel in the gripping descriptions of people who’ve crossed over and returned to sign book contracts. These somewhat vague accounts are open to interpretation. Some return with vivid descriptions of realities far more bracing than this one. Others recall being awash in an almighty radiance then remember it was just a Cirque du Soleil show they saw recently.
Whether death is from natural or accidental causes, it’s really quite a lawful and ordinary event (except when it’s your own). Think of it as something to depend on – like one of those recorded phone tree messages that always remind you to “listen carefully because some of our options may have changed.” Yeah right. Who among us has any phone tree options memorized to begin with? Well I’m off topic here, but who really wants to hear about death – even if I am killin’ it? If I was a comedian I’d stop right there, drop the microphone and walk off stage. I mean I’d probably do it in that order, but check with me later because some of my options may have changed.
Through death I’ll more readily perceive the compassion and grace doled out so stingily here on earth. I’ll abide alert yet tranquilized in that dimension so I no longer have to suffer this one. I’ll marvel at a place that dissolves the most vulgar stain of humanity in loving and buoyant ways. It sounds like an Eden I’d like to visit, but unfortunately my Marriott Vacation Club Points plan will take me as far as Cozumel – which ain’t bad, but it’s not Eden. So far the only sure ticket to this destination spot is to take the Flatline Express through the portal of white healing light wondrously described by some who’ve been there briefly only to be shocked back into their bodies when some hero decided to break out the defibrillators.
Near Death Experiences (NDEs)
When I say Near Death Experiences, I’m not referring to standing in a DMV line or attending a Mariah Carey concert. I’m referring to people who’ve been clinically muerto; lifted into the ecstatic states only to return to their body and report on their extra vehicular activity. Speculating on the benefits of dying is a richly dense feast – like an all egg yolk omelet. In fact sometimes I’m so focused on Near Death Experiences NDEs, I miss out on Near Life Experiences (NLEs). Oh well so much for “Be Here Now.” I do what I can with the circumstances I was born into – a nuclear family whose dynamic was so radioactive they actually named an element after us: Acrimonium (Ac).
But in any event and at all hazard, I’m afraid of dying. Afraid of giving up this identity I’ve worked so hard to create and cultivate. I’m comfortable with the station I’ve achieved and I’m through auditioning for other roles (cue angry old man music). And yet (dualism being what it is) there’s a part of me that will be all too happy to surrender my fleshy shell (bony actually) in exchange for one peek behind that forbidden curtain to see who’s running this show. My money is on Frank Sinatra. Remember: “It’s Sinatra’s world, we just live in it.”
But wherever I go, upon taking final leave of my senses, I really hope they have Ad Blockers because I’d be devastated to enter the empyrean vault of God to find there is still a market for wrinkle cream. And I’d be truly disillusioned if after completing the process of dying and merging with the One, I discover that all the misery on Earth really was Obama’s fault. Now I’m on topic (discussing the ramification and methodologies of death), but I’m also off topic (going for the short reach of dark humor instead of the numinous explanation of a dimension that leaves you breathless and wanting more). Life is funny that way and maybe Dave’s Funtime Essay is too. Often we start out with a great thing like sex for example; and suddenly it’s “No, I don’t want to sleep over” and “What do you mean by, ‘I might have a sexually transmitted disease?’ ”
I’m sure the process of dying is not so tidy in its operation that it is simply a vehicle for loving clarity and soothing release, but you try telling that to my lizard brain. My reptilian sensibilities are likely going to approach death under protest. Just who I’ll be protesting to I’m not sure, but at least I’ll get some good self-pitying whining in before my crocodile tears give me away.
Lots of upside with death. We need to approach death as a kind of final cure to what ails us. One that’s more of a post-existing condition everyone eventually qualifies for. And the bonus part is: no copays. In my need to incorporate death into my life, I’ve decided to view it more as a graduation, with God as its commencement speaker. In my world death actually releases us from school and we get to enjoy a glorious summer vacation before we’re reincarnated into middle school or where ever it is we’ve been promoted/demoted to.
Cute Things about Death that Aren’t True, But are Offered to Reward you for your Continued Patronage
Hospice patients in their death rattle often report hearing an angelic voice interrupting their death throes to inquire, “If you’d like to take a short survey about your experiences on Earth before you flat line, we’ll be able to delay your death about 10 minutes. Your responses will be monitored and used for training and quality control purposes.” This is the one survey everyone agrees to, since it gives them more time before being placed on the Permanently Unable to Perform List.
Death and Social Media
In the future social media will play an increasingly important role in commercializing death. With the invention of new Deep Quantum Wi-Fi®, dearly departed will soon be able to send messages to loved ones from the other side, with the option to unfriend those who skipped their funeral. In preparation for the event, a new death app called Pokémon Dirt Nap allows players to simulate death and earn points towards a mahogany coffin all within a safe cyber-environment. It’s a killer app for people who want to explore a NDE without the all of the EMT and defibrillators. So if you’re dead serious about preparing for your afterlife, or just “die-curious,” I earnestly suggest the Pokémon Dirt Nap app. The Dirt Nap app zaps you into a world where everyone wears a toga and there aren’t just 2, but there are 3 kinds of genitals – and they all fit together. The app is endorsed by both “Big Cannabis” and Fat Burger.
And where “Deep Quantum” Wi-Fi meets broadband Ethernet, Mark Zuckerberg has partnered with our dear Lord (who evidently gave him a meeting, but couldn’t find time for mine) to offer a Death Check-In feature on Facebook. A typical posthumous Death Check-In would look like this:
Facebook Posthumous Check-In
Flatlined and Lovin’ It
(Where are you?) David Hardiman is at The Pearly Gates.
(Who were you with?) With St. Peter and all my deceased friends and family (yes, even Uncle Osgood). For some reason my probation officer showed up and said I still have to wear the ankle bracelet.
(What’s on your mind?) Finally crossed over. Things taste better here. Love these one-size-fits-all togas. Whoa! I’ll never eat sausage again. My parents stopped by to say I was adopted and then introduced me to my real parents JFK & Marilyn Monroe. So much for bookkeeping because on Monday I’m scheduled to merge with The Almighty.
Facebook Disclaimer: How we use your information. In heaven we take your personal information whenever we can and continue to use it for your spiritual growth despite your best efforts to wish it away. Especially that car you hit in the parking lot and then drove away. Please bear in mind fellow soul, there is no opt out feature. I mean everybody complains about unequal justice, but not to worry. We all get what we pay for. We’re all part of the same thing so learn your lessons, open your heart under the most trying of circumstances to all people at all times no matter what. And remember this is all much easier to do on paper than it is in the real world, so try to live as much of your life on paper.
OK Mr. Author. I Got this Far. So Tell Me, What is the Best Thing about Dying?
To the extent I’ll get serious now is reflected in Oscar Wilde’s brilliantly apposite adage: “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” I appreciate the profound circularity of its pith. Circularity of its pith? In case you haven’t already figured it out, occasionally I’m full of p*th. I’m just like you that way. Anyway I wonder if Wilde’s bromide (an upgrade from an adage) could be true when it comes to death. Could death also be too important to be taken seriously? – maybe at some deep “in the scheme of things” level. But there’s one problem with this cutesy little aphorism (a downgrade from bromide). Part of me is terrified to step away from the known quantity of here, and into the abyss known as there. First of all where is there? And second of all, what the hell am I talking about? I worked hard to get where I am (here) and am not too happy about going to wherever it is you go after death (there). However, I may have found a solution.
And while I’m no fan of ignorant folks lowering property values for those of us who are enlightened, I recognize that dummies probably feel the same way about people like me who make them party like it’s 1499. Despite the intellectual class warfare, you won’t see me carrying a sign reading: “Dumb Lives Matter.” Conversely we’ll never see idiots carrying signs saying “If only we simple folk were enlightened like you.” Anyway, I’m way down a rabbit hole here. Suffice to say the world is populated with unsavory people, in addition to well-seasoned people. And while human cuisine may be flavored unevenly, it’s still the only restaurant in town, so I try to avoid the junk food while hoping that all employees who must wash hands – do wash hands. The unpoliced honor system never inspired much confidence in me and the policed one is not much better, but certainly preferable.
It’s just… I revel in my hard-earned achievements which sometimes were achieved simply by waiting and waiting and persevering and waiting some more until I could say, “I got this.” Sometimes success is derived from the school of thought that says, “80% of life is just showing up.” I’m sometimes unwilling to leave this underachieving terrestrial planet in which I’ve invested so much. I enjoy its reassuring predictability (however soothing or despairing it may be). To be tossed out (by death) into the unknown riptides of universal omniscience never to see another episode of Hogan’s Heroes is terrifying. Can I give up those things? Well I better if I’m to reassume a soul’s place in the bosom of God, instead of out here on a tenuous tendril subject to all the lusty pleasures of Earth. I must. We must. I mean everybody goes or no one goes. I think perhaps now you understand the depths of my dilemma – enjoy the comfortable paradigm of bodily operations or present myself to the powers that be to move on to higher realms. I’m terrified. I detest giving something up I’ve so dearly earned – Earthly mastery, for a promising, but mysterious unknown. The ego hangs on to the end.
Bucket List Analogy
It turns out my Bucket List sits inside another bucket which sits inside yet another bucket; like so many Russian Nesting Dolls. You could say my Bucket List has a false bottom of sorts – kinda like (Nicki Minaj). I don’t think I’ll discover what’s in the other buckets until I kick the bucket. Now normally here I’d ask you to pardon the pun, but its groan factor is so immense it’s simply unpardonable. In fact I’m proud to have created a pun from which there is no clemency. As I understand it Alfred Nobel felt the same about his work.
The best thing about dying is it frees you from all the earthly distractions we often mistake for life (Costco runs, binge-watching 3 seasons of The Sopranos and even writing cutesy little stories about death). Far from the demands of these high maintenance fleshy bodies, death puts us in a position to more readily achieve that final Bucket List item: To Know God – The Source of All. Death is no guarantor of this realization, but it’s a more advanced platform to navigate our way back (or whatever direction it may be) to God. When you no longer have to contend with the chunky mayhem and nauseating granularity of Earth, your better able to see your way clearly.
My solution to dissolving the fear of death is to recognize it as a historically preordained and utterly natural opportunity to drop the body and move on to a finer, less fraught dimension where understanding abounds – not because this new dimension is pretending to be some Disney-like winkyland of rainbows and lollipops, but because it is that way by its very nature. In physics this is called a field. For example a magnetic field or a gravitational field whose properties are simply inherent and operative. While so too with this Field of Understanding which becomes simply inherent and operative in the afterworlds. A place where no questions are asked because they’re already answered. Maybe I shouldn’t be so clinical in designating it a Field of Understanding. Perhaps I should just call it a Field of Dreams. To many, this scenario may be merely a wishful formulation of speculative gospel from the Book of David. In any event it’s all offered in the spirit of light, good humor and in the hope that this best case scenario is the only case scenario.
I’d invite you to join our club whose members are on this stellar journey to the Field of Dreams, but the club does not discriminate and it just so happens that anyone with a body is automatically a member of God’s realm. So prepare to bask in the white radiance of God’s embrace and remember; membership has its privileges.