Take it or leave it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

NO HAZE IN HEAVEN


Searching for a new hobby? Try necrophilia. It works for me. I know what you're thinking: "Ew gross you surf dead person porn. Wait, is there in fact dead person porn?" There's kiddie porn and doggy porn and every other fetish of the forbidden, so it probably does exist somewhere on the "dark web." If you don't know, the dark web is where I buy my absinthe, a liquor known to induce morbid visions.

But no, I don't have sex with corpses. And while the term necrophilia generally refers to this prurient practice, in a broader sense it denotes the fascination with death itself. Thanatology is another nifty word which means something similar: "the scientific study of death." If there were a course I'd take it. 

Until then I'll rely on good ole intuition and personal experience, with a little ratiocination thrown in. Old-fashioned approach, you might say. Hey it worked for Galileo and Copernicus and Newton and Michelangelo and all the greats, who long before fancy computers simply studied the evidence of their senses and made inferences which they developed into theories that went on to change the world as we know it. And Albert Einstein refused to memorize his home phone number, which he'd never use - because who calls himself? - so he could devote his working memory to physics, and to helping other people build the A-bomb. Einstein didn't know he was developing technology that could destroy the world, so he is excused. But as the man with his finger on the button, and on the pulse, and sometimes up his butt, Trump is grateful for ratiocination I'm sure, though how much of it he uses himself is up for debate. 

We're all gonna die, hopefully not by Trump's hand, however. Nuclear proliferation is so passe. These days it's all about superviruses. They even designed one to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear system and cause it to self-destruct. Maybe superviruses are why Trump is seeking an over $50 billion increase in military spending. Because cyberwarfare is the rage. As is global warming. 

This week's TIME Magazine cover story is about whether truth is dead. It's about the president's tendency to "blur the binary distinctions between truth and falsehood," with his specious claims about Obama's wiretapping, and protests in Sweden, and illegal voting by US immigrants, which he then supports by citing sources such as the National Enquirer. Not exactly the bastion of American journalism. But oddly fitting, as Trump is not exactly the bastion of the U.S. presidency.

Some of what Trump says is false at the time but turns out to be true or to appear true later. He calls it intuition but it could be just a bit of savvy self-fulfilling prophesying. And his claims about global warming could fit this picture. Trump swears that global warming is a myth concocted by the Chinese. Could it be true that 98% of scientists are wrong and that the world is actually getting cooler? True in some places, maybe. Through geoengineering, or weather modification, aircraft can be deployed to fill the atmosphere with dust particles which then attract water and form clouds. This leads to global dimming, or that persistent haze that blankets the sky every morning by around 10 a.m. Except when it's really windy, like today. 

Global dimming counteracts global warming by shielding the Earth from the sun's warming rays, effectively lowering the ambient temperature. But sending aircraft into the sky to seed clouds does nothing to block out the greenhouse gases that actually cause the warming in the first place, and all those gas-guzzlers spew out more greenhouse gases, which further depletes the ozone layer. So while the world (or the part of the world that can afford cloud seeding) seems to cool somewhat and for a time, climate change is actually becoming worse. 

If you hop around discussion boards and browse YouTube videos, or if you just take a moment to look overhead, the consensus is that the planes leaving these conspicuous trails aren't commercial flights. They are military jets. It must cost a helluva lot to deploy these jets over major US cities every damned day. Like $50 billion per year a lot. Some of which comes from cutting funding to the EPA, the very agency that monitors such emissions. All in the name of "keeping America safe." Truth or falsehood? You be the judge. But first tear yourself away from that sitcom and burger. Because distractions only prevent your perception of truth.

Where am I going with this? Death is one thing you cannot prevent, and the burger may hasten it. We're all gonna die someway or other, be it by atom bomb, global warming, skin cancer, or the mythological natural causes. I hope yours is a peaceful one. But whichever way you meet your inevitable demise, spend a little time thinking about life on the other side. Or at least read on.

There are three commonly held beliefs about the nature of the afterlife. The first is Heaven and Hell, espoused by Christians, including at least 75% of Americans. Then comes the belief in reincarnation, held by Hindus and some Buddhists. Finally, there is the notion of the Void, which atheists hold as true, and some Buddhists, too.

The interesting thing is that amidst such diversity, a common thread runs through all the major religions. Death really does unite us.

Take reincarnation. Hinduism posits that the soul takes many bodies over the course of eons in the relentless quest for perfection, which it finally achieves in freeing itself from desire. Desire being what binds us to the earth and prevents our liberation from the body. Some Buddhists, the Tibetans particularly, also hold this belief, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead was written to help the deceased soul avoid human rebirth. But once upon a time, Christianity held reincarnation to be true. That souls inhabit many bodies throughout their evolution was struck from its teachings at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 AD. So at one time or another, one or more major sects of each of the world's major religions believed that the soul has many lives. 

Of course, Christianity later replaced reincarnation with the concept of Heaven and Hell. Simply put, at the end of earthly life, an individual is assigned to an eternity in perdition or in paradise based upon the merits or demerits of his actions in the world. Now this may seem illogical. You mean you are created and then become immortal? And it seems unjust and cruel to damn you to an eternity of suffering based on a few bone-headed decisions you made as a mere mortal.

But as otherwordly realms, or interdimensional planes, Heaven and Hell exist in the other major religions as well. The difference is that after a life on this planet, a soul spends a brief time in these realms, not an eternity. According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, in the moment it expires, a soul has the opportunity for liberation. If when it sees the "Clear Light" it does not merge its consciousness with the Oneness, it assumes a dream body, at which point it is assigned to a particular realm based upon its actions on Earth. This continues for 49 days, and if it does not free itself from its thought forms and attain liberation, the soul once again assumes a body of flesh and blood, is reborn on terra firma, and in accordance with the laws of karma continues to experiences the fruits, whether bitter or sweet, of prior actions. This Tibetan concept is based on the Hindu notion of identical realms. Buddha after all was raised a Hindu. 

Interestingly, Buddha himself did not believe in reincarnation. His followers only adopted the doctrine after his passing. Instead Buddha posited a Void, which he called Nirvana, a merging with the Oneness that sounds an awful lot like what a soul experiences in the moments of death when faced with the Clear Light. This same Void is also what we experience every night in deep sleep. This Void, then, in which we lose our individuality, and become forgetful of ourselves, bears a striking resemblance to the cessation of existence which the atheist upholds as the true reality awaiting us all, saint and sinner alike, when our time comes to die. 

So Buddhism as taught by its founder is very similar to atheism, and both have roots in real life, since the state of dreamless sleep is common to us all. 

Therefore, the major religions have more in common than meets the eye, and death may bring Heaven and Hell, the calm of deep sleep, life in another body based on your actions, or all of these. It all boils down to your beliefs. 

So what do you believe? Me, I'm all for blue skies, and the wind that keeps them that way. I hope there's no haze in Heaven.

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