Monday, 31 October 2022

So What's Next?

I was recently having a conversation with my Mother-in-Law about death. She’s 100 in a few days’ time. It wasn’t morbid but on her part there was just a genuine sense of curiosity. Her younger daughter had in a matter-of-fact way told her “when it’s over, you’re switched off then they bury you and you become old bones.”

A cemetery with a house in the background

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

I told her it didn’t have to be like that. “Just imagine your best and most exciting event with you the star within it…imagine that’s what it’s like.” She pondered for a moment and asked “but what if it isn’t like that?” I told her not to worry because we’d never know. We don’t know one way or the other, of course not, but we can make our lives here much more cheerful with a happy prospect rather than darkness and nothing.

Just imagine as John Lennon put it – “it’s easy if you try.”

Imagine, new picture book inspired by John Lennon's song | Amnesty  International UK

Since that conversation with a game, old lady who’s still very much on the ball, I’ve been thinking about the power of our imagination and our ability to improve our mood just by dreaming. I told this to a very good friend who snorted “well that’s completely irrational.” I agreed with her because it is irrational but half of life is pretty irrational. Hard to argue that war is rational or falling in love is rational or playing cricket or baseball is rational.

PNC Park - Wikipedia

But imagine in your dream of waking after death to find you’re on strike at the PNC Park, Pittsburgh  playing against the New York Yankees and effortlessly smashing the ball deep into the crowd or hooking Michell Starc for six at Lords or writing a joke so funny it reduces an audience at the Stand in Edinburgh to uncontrolled hysteria.

Imagine the best ever lunch al fresco at La Colombe d’Or in St Paul De Vence surrounded by friends and happy people listening to laughter and birdsong and sipping a glass of Condrieu.

La Colombe d'Or Restaurant, Côte d'Azur | Centurion Magazine

Imagine the dream of spending time with witty, happy, beautiful people just soaking up the atmosphere of unalloyed bonhomie. And hearing:- 

“the Booker Prize for 2023 goes to “A Deathly Silence by… (your name goes here)” 

Julian Barnes in his book The History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters writes about finding himself in a perfect heaven in his short story The Dream. He concludes:-

“Heaven’s a very good idea, it’s a perfect idea you could say, but not for us. Not given the way we are…. after a while, getting what you want all the time is very close to not getting what you want all the time.”

 History Of The World In 10 1/2 Chapters

But the actual perfection of perfection is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about how the prospect of perfection and extraordinary achievement could keep us going and make us good company. In a world full of nightmares, disappointments and ultimately death we can soften that blow, that finality by dreaming of a momentary afterlife and make the prospect of death less intimidating.

This isn’t the Christian view for sure. But as you lie there composing yourself just imagine there’s going to be a wonderful experience of your choosing about to happen.

It’s irrational. It’s eccentric. But it’s likely to make you feel a lot happier than thinking of earth and old bones or as Macbeth said:

    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,

    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

    And then is heard no more. It is a tale

    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

    Signifying nothing.


Think optimistically. Not this.

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