In the last couple weeks, I have been in and out of planes, cars, buses, taxis (which I guess technically should count as cars), and boats. Travel in this capacity generally returns me to two understandings that I believe about the world: 1) people are very interesting if you give them a chance and 2) fantastic literature is still being written by marvelous minds around the globe. For the purposes of this short story, I will focus on this second understanding. While at home, my dad handed me Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlife by David Eagleman to read. At barely more than one hundred pages, I initially relished the oportunity for something that seemed a bit… lighter than college coursework. However, what I encountered were fascinating tales of potential afterlife scenarios which each attempted to account for the afterlife in terms of our feelings toward the heaven/hell scenario human beings are thrust into and the realizations of a god about his/her creations. I continually found a smile on my face after the scenarios (generally only two pages each) and my mind was abuzz considering my fate at death.
Despite the beautiful situations and lovely scenes of reflection, I was most intrigued by the afterlife where god had placed Mary Shelley, the author of Young Frankenstein, on a throne in the middle of heaven. Eagleman described the feelings evoked by the book on god as s/he reflected on the relationship between a higher power and the creator. Initially touched by the true joy and love for a creator towards the created, and the (inescapable) dread for the inevitalbe moment when the created becomes something else- and does not look back. This god praised Shelley for acknowledging and understanding this; the sense of pain known to Shelley was that which existed in this god.
In itself, the story can seem somewhat humerous. An author who contributed the story for a somewhat cheezy old film attaining the highest place in heaven. But, the more I considered this scenario, the more it seemed like this was the true occurance in heaven, if and when/where it exists. As a species, believing for a second that we were created, we have revolted against the only being with potential for a truely paternal love in favor of wars amongst ourselves. From Iran to North Korea to Russia to the United States (and oh my we contribute), have we reached the point where we are doing much more harm than good? Is what we’re doing physically disgusting? And if it is, how much of this is tolerable?
Too many serious chats lately I think… more questions than answers in my own head.
But read the book- it’s way good and an easy, quick read.