Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Reader Survey/Heaven?/Mark Twain

(P1) Philosophical

What Afterlife - A Readers' Survey

What (if anything) happens to us after our death?

Pure Energy
(with energy body? without energy body?)?
Lights Out (nothing at all)?,

Please answer
and comment below - Please really try! (you too, Moe)!

Please Post Your Comments Here about the above or any below and/or Read the Comments of Others.You can sign in as "blogger" or "other" but please add your name or initials to your text. Or email me at We need your feedback.

(P2) Poetical


This weird wonderful
weaving lattice of illusions
simultaneously held and disregarded.

My sister believes my dear
demented mother left
for heaven sometime ago.

Simply put, Mom has gone
somewhere farther away
even than New York is

from San Francisco, some
where our mother attempts to
explain from an infinitely interesting

tower of tongues as though she were
the Oracle of Delphi at the last moments
providing wisdom to her children straining

to comprehend what wandering meanings
she finds for where she's been when back
to time she journeys home to us.

(P2) Political

Mark Twain - Still Here When We Need Him

My friend and unofficial mentor, Bill Edelen posed 2 questions in his January 22d column, "My Hero: Mark Twain":

1. Do parents have a right to insist that their children grow up to be as ignorant as they are? In a democracy the answer is "yes." So, the next question:
2. Do the public schools have to be a party to this tragic process of promotion and cooperating with bigotry and ignorance? In a democracy founded on the separation of church and state, the answer is a loud resounding "NO."

Edelen continues: "Directly above my computer, framed, are these words about a writer's 'worthy calling' by Mark Twain" 'ours is a useful trade...a worthy calling...and it has one serious purpose, one aim, one specialty, and it is constant to it...the deriding of shams...the exposure of pretentious falsities...the laughing of stupid superstitions out of existence...Whoso is engaged in this sort of warfare is the natural enemy of royalties...nobilities...privileges...and all kindred swindles...and is the natural fiend of human rights and human liberties.' "

The column is a bit too long for this space, so I will here give you a link to the entire column.


Michael M. said...

Hi Eddie, it must be tough now for you with your mom...let me know if I can help...this might not be helpful but I have two answers to the afterlife is that I believe we are beasts and, so
as beasts, we get that makes me "believe" in life, only here, not after...but I will
add this proviso: Sogyal Rinpoche (Tibetan Book of Living & Dying) asks that we just not take sides, sort of wait and see what happens...that doesn't require
believing in anything or making any effort...reminds me of the "now" John drew on your watch! Yeah, be
here wow! That works for me. Hugs your friend Michael

Sara B. said...
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Larry C. said...

Dear Eddie: Your poem "Heaven" is very moving, probably enhanced by some of our dialogue about what you are going through. It also made me think of my Dear Stepdad, one of the sweetest guys in the whole world who retreated into Alzheimer's four years before we buried him. So painful I had to stop visiting much of the last year of his life.

My personal feelings about Heaven, life after, etc.? Very conflicted. I'm a cultural Jew but not a religious one. This comes from someone who was raised by an Orthodox Jewish Grandmother (another wonderful human who had great impact on my life.)

If push comes to shove, I think "dust to dust" feels right.

Of course, I really believe in people....all peoples. And think we need to do a better job of supporting each other!

Norman Mitroff said...

We become the spirit of our friends/family and previous "noses".

Our bodies go back to the Earth and fertilize the ground.

Sarah W. said...

in response to your survey;

I'm halfway between thinking lights out (simple version) and
reincarnation (complex version). I've often described my religious
affiliation as an Enthalpian (yes, my own word) -- meaning I believe
in the First Law of Thermodynamics; energy can't be created or
destroyed, only transferred. This supports my theory of reincarnation
because life is a form of energy -- a dead body has the exact chemical
composition (before decomposition) as a living one. The only thing
missing is energy. You could go on and on about what kind of energy it
is, but I truly believe it's a form that we just haven't learned how
to detect. When you die, that energy is transferred -- because energy
can't be destroyed. Hopefully my ramblings made sense

Duncan said...

As you know, Eddie, I think Sarah here is on the right track. Here's my comment:

We will be forever what (not who)we are now. Each one of us is part of all that exists and all that exists is part of us. When you remember who you are, you will know this.

Hey, you want to think about something really wild? Watch the program "The Death Star" on Science Channel. You want to know what energy? Watch that program!

Gayle Swift said...

Ed, you ask really big questions...but here goes. I believe in the continuation of life. Life or consciousness is the animating life giving force, whether we are in form, in a body or out of form, pure consciousness. When you tease back the fabric of creation what you find is pure potential, pure consciousness waiting to come into form.
This body of mine, this personality of mine will not continue...that is the mortal aspect of my being. But, the immortal part is soul, is consiousness and that is what continues. The moral of this must be to become conscious, to wake up to the moment, where immortality meets the mortal. Who was it who said, wake up before die and die before you die. These paradoxes speak to something that does transcend death....the soul. The task of the spiritual seeker is to live more and more from the soul's perspective....meeting life in all its forms. Gayle

Edward Coletti said...

Around the time I began Ed Coletti's P3, a reader in India complimented a poem. He told me it reminded him of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj's book of anwers to questions I Am That. Of course, I immediately ordered it and tried it out. I found Sri to be a difficult guru. However, I picked it up again today. Although I heard a few things I didn't want to, some of the following is very useful:

"No university will teach you how to live so that when the time of dying comes, you can say" I lived well, I do not need to live again. Most of us die wishing we could live again. So many mistakes committed, so much left undone. Most of the people vegetate, but do not live. They merely gather experience and enrich their memory. But experience is the denial of Reality, which is neither sensory nor conceptual, neither of the body, nor of the mind, though it includes and transcends both."

I Eddie really have no need to live again. I truly expect the light switch to be thrown and the lights will go out. I seldom understood the "promise" of religion of an afterlife to be together again with loved ones. All this seemed to be was a hedge against pain. I do remember my therapist, Charles Beck seventeen years ago telling me of an elderly woman who, dying, realized she had never lived. I decided to always live and to not engage in self-alienating behavior which I recently dubbed "a small suicide of the soul."

Even though I expect to be cremated, I've long toyed with the idea of a burial and tombstone with the words "HE LIVED" So, other than the residue from story forms of hell, I have absolutely no fear of death nor expectation of afterlife. Once I told some female friends all that I've just mentioned. Lightheartedly I added "Of course, if I had a guarntee that the afterlife would be good, I'd be all for it." She was appalled, "But you have no control over it!" Of course not. And I'm prepared to be wrong also. But I've found that those who adhere to the hope and expectation of eternal life have a difficult time understanding me anyway.

Duncan said...

Sorry to jump in here again, but in my impatience I made a mistake in my earlier submission. What I meant to say is this:

We will be forever what (not who)we are now. Each one of us is part of all that exists and all that exists is part of us. When you remember WHAT you are, you will know this.

Who you are is your personality and What you are is an expression of the never ending IT.

Joe Carpenter said...
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Joe Carpenter said...
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Joe Carpenter said...

This comment is from Joe Carpenter whose thought-provoking article on where to place our political and social attention, "We Are The People" appears in the current issue of the Utne Reader. I recommend it to everybody. - Ed

Hi Ed -

Thanks very much for your note, and for your kind words.
Thanks, too, for the link to your wonderful site. I've just been poking about there, for a while, and I was - I am, indeed, pleased to meet such a man as Ed Coletti.
You have a fine mind, sir - and a big, wide heart.

About - "an afterlife." My 2 cents:

In the 1930's, a fellow named Douglas Harding was hiking in the Himalayas. At one point, in an instant, he realized that he'd been confused about the nature / existence of - his head. His thoughts, and sometimes various sensations, had always endeavored to place this "head" atop his shoulders. However, as he was wandering about in the Himalayas, looking at the astonishing scenery, he was jolted by the fact that, for the most part, he did not experience a head in that "space," where he thought his head was, but, rather, moment to moment, in day to day life, he experienced an "empty space." Somehow, he'd just never noticed! He realized, too, that that space was filled, at the moment, with the clear, crisp grandeur of the Himalayas, but that it generally contained "the world." This empty space, where he'd always believed he had a head, was filled with life - with, well, with everything. He said, later: "...I lost a head, and gained the whole world."

This understanding, this insight, is sometimes called enlightenment, or awakening... as if waking from a dream.
Rumi refers to it in several places. In this example, he calls it "presence" -
"...The presence that one second is soil, then water, fire, smoke, woof, warp, a friend, a shame, a modesty,
is too vast and intimate for partnership. Observers watch as presence takes thousands of forms.
But inside your eyes, the presence does not brighten or dim; it just lives there..."
In this one, he calls it "another world" -
"People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open. Don't go back to sleep!"
In this one, he speaks of what happened to him, after this insight, after "losing a head, and gaining a world:"
"...He has ransacked my house so that no one lives here anymore,
just a boy running barefoot all through it."

Let's pretend, for the moment, that this "space," this "presence," is actually that "Reality, which is neither sensory nor conceptual, neither of the body, nor of the mind, though it includes and transcends both," as Nisargadatta puts it.
Let's pretend, further, that "the world," the stuff which occupies this "space" - whatever it might be at any given moment... the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa, a row of filthy garbage cans, the kitchen sink, the pizza delivery guy, the lawn in the back yard, a portion of one's body and a computer screen and keyboard, a dreadful and vivid old memory, a fantasy involving several nurses and a bedbath, the darkness of the insides of the eyelids - whatever...
let's pretend that this "world" is a magnificent painting - a living, breathing, constantly moving, ever changing painting, astonishingly "lifelike."

I ofttimes think that, as we age, and perhaps acquire a bit of wisdom, there come some odd 'pentimento experiences,' as it were. There is something "else," sometimes, in the painting, beneath the painting. There arise odd questions, strange presentiments, experiences which do not make sense. We grow older, still, and the painting sometimes almost seems transparent, and the painting now sometimes contains odd images and strange dreams, insights, certainties...

Then, one day, an "unseen hand" comes and wipes away all the paint of the painting that is "one's life." That "empty space," that "presence" we've talked about, above, is entirely unaffected. It remains as "presence," powerful, aware, alive - but the painting has been wiped away. One could call this "death."
But now, the 'pentimento' painting is revealed; there is another painting beneath the old one. It is a "new," old painting - and the "stuff" of this painting is what fills that "empty space," for a while, or perhaps for a very long time. And then, perhaps, the empty space somehow conjures up a brand new painting to cover the old, new one, and we call this "birth." Though, of course, that "empty space," has remained, throughout, entirely unaffected - "including and transcending both body and mind" - and infinitely more.

Anyway -
Sorry about all the blab. Your site has inspired me a bit, it seems.
Thanks very much for your letter and your site, and for the opportunity to meet Ed Coletti...

Please be well, Ed.

- joe carpenter