You were on your way home when you died.
Not just because we move daily closer to death but also because our understanding—our grasp of the world—may be gone before we get there.
It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless.
Something like birth, a natural mystery, elements that split and recombine. Not an embarrassing thing. Not an offense to reason, or our nature.
You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.
The world is nothing but change. Our life is only perception.
And that’s when you met me.
And what makes you think the gods don’t care about what’s up to us?
“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”
“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.
“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”
“Yup,” I said.
If there were anything harmful on the other side of death, they would have made sure that the ability to avoid it was within you.
“I… I died?”
“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.
Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly. Like if atoms, dispersed. If oneness, quenched or changed.
You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”
“More or less,” I said.
If it makes no difference whether you look at the world for this long or that long…then death shouldn’t scare you.
“Are you god?” You asked.
“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”
“My kids… my wife,” you said.
“What about them?”
“Will they be all right?”
“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”
Love family, truth and justice. To enter others’ minds and let them enter yours.
You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.
How have you behaved to the gods, to your parents, to your siblings, to your wife, to your children, to your teachers, to your nurses, to your friends, to your relatives, to those who obey you? Have they all had from you nothing “wrong and unworthy, either word or deed”? Consider all that you’ve gone through, all that you’ve survived. And that the story of your life is done, your assignment complete. How many good things have you seen? How much pain and pleasure have you resisted? How many honors have you declined? How many unkind people have you been kind to?
“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”
Two characteristics shared by gods and humans (and every rational creature):
i. Not to let others hold you back.
ii. To locate goodness in thinking and doing the right thing, and to limit your desires to that.
“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”
“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”
“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”
“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”
Death. The end of sense-perception, of being controlled by our emotions, of mental activity, of enslavement to our bodies.
You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”
“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”
Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.
Cold or warm.
Tired or well-rested.
Despised or honored.
Dying … or busy with other assignments.
“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”
“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”
When you deal with fellow human beings, behave as one. They share in the logos.
I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.
What humans experience is part of human experience.
“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”
“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”
“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”
“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”
External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now.
“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”
“Where you come from?” You said.
“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”
We need the help of fortune and the gods.
“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”
“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”
People exist for one another. You can instruct or endure them.
“So what’s the point of it all?”
“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”
“And why were you born? For pleasure?”
To accept it without arrogance, to let it go with indifference.
“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.
“Stick to what’s in front of you—idea, action, utterance.”
I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”
“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”
“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”
“Just me? What about everyone else?”
“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”
That whatever happens has always happened, and always will, and is happening at this very moment, everywhere. Just like this. What links one human being to all humans: not blood, or birth, but mind.
You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”
“All you. Different incarnations of you.”
“Wait. I’m everyone!?”
“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.
All things are drawn toward what is like them, if such a thing exists… But look how things are now. The rational things are the only ones that have lost that sense of attraction—of convergence. Only there do we not see that intermingling. But however much they try to avoid it, there’s no escaping. Nature is stronger. As you can see if you look closely. Concrete objects can pull free of the earth more easily than humans can escape humanity.
“I’m every human being who ever lived?”
“Or who will ever live, yes.”
“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”
“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.
“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.
“And you’re the millions he killed.”
“And you’re everyone who followed him.”
You fell silent.
The fruit of the logos nourishes both us and it. And other things spring from it too
“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”
You thought for a long time.
As long as you do what’s proper to your nature, and accept what the world’s nature has in store—as long as you work for others’ good, by any and all means—what is there that can harm you?
“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”
“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”
Now they see you as a beast, a monkey. But in a week they’ll think you’re a god—if you rediscover your beliefs and honor the logos.
“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”
“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”
To live with the gods.
“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”
“An egg.” I answered.
As the sponge and egg white that relieve ophthalmia
“Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”
You’ve lived as a citizen in a great city. Five years or a hundred—what’s the difference? The laws make no distinction. And to be sent away from it, not by a tyrant or a dishonest judge, but by Nature, who first invited you in—why is that so terrible? Like the impresario ringing down the curtain on an actor: “But I’ve only gotten through three acts …!” Yes. This will be a drama in three acts, the length fixed by the power that directed your creation, and now directs your dissolution. Neither was yours to determine. So make your exit with grace—the same grace shown to you.
And I sent you on your way.
Illustration: keith negley