Saturday, February 28, 2009

40 Days of Lent: Day Four

What? I Believe?

In her comments on yesterday's post, Carol asked: "Um, do you even believe in purgatory?"

So I began thinking about what I believe*, which inevitably reminds me of an old routine by Steve Martin ("I believe in 8 of the 10 commandments"), J. G. Ballard's surrealist manifesto ("the lunacy of flowers...the gentleness of the surgeon's knife"), or the misanthropic rant unleashed by the main character in The Singing Detective ("I believe...not properly labeling fatal poisons"). But do I believe in Purgatory?

No. Or Heaven or Hell, for that matter.

If there is an afterlife, and the fact that I'm willing to even begin this sentence with an "if' separates me from those who are of the "you die, you end, that's that" school, I suspect it echoes this life in that it is an on-going growth process. We come into this life and don't know anything -- infants are not very bright -- but eventually grow, learn and change. It is a fundamental part of our biological, intellectual and (again, this is controversial) spiritual existence. Since life is ongoing change why would the afterlife be stasis? Your place in eternity is going to be determined by, if you're lucky, 80 or 90 years in the physical realm after which, your place is fixed with no hope for movement or improvement? This is too much like a caste system and makes about as much sense.

Instead, I suspect that if any part of an individual continues on after physical death, he/she goes into the next realm as the equivalent of a newborn baby and then has to go through...well, think of it as spiritual diaper training. Just as everyone here has to learn how to not soil themselves, I suspect that if there is a next world, new arrivees are taught by those who have been there a while to do the spiritual equivalent. It is an ongoing learning process, an ongoing growth process, and eventually you evolve into something else.

I believe this view of the afterlife is based on the fact that I like my existence and like learning for its own sake, and would like that process to continue rather than simply end. Purgatory, Hell and even Heaven represent as much of an "end" as "you die, that's that."

*Freudian typo (which is a written Freudian slip): Initially, in this sentence "what I believe" was capitalized, but then I decided to make it lower case. While changing the letters, I accidentally typed an "s" instead of a "w" so that it read "shat I believe." I'm sure some of you will agree.

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