In The Afterlife
by Jake Block
“In the afterlife,
You could be headed for the serious strife.
Now you make the scene all day,
But tomorrow there’ll be Hell to pay.”
— In the Afterlife (Squirrel Nut Zippers)
In an online correspondence with a colleague by email, I was asked what LaVey thought about the possibility of there being an afterlife, and if I felt that it was a real possibility, now that I’m “in that age group” for whom death is of certain concern. He then went on to say that the reason he found himself wanting to believe in the concept was that he had “so many questions to ask people like Moses, Plato, LaVey, etc.”
I told him that my personal belief was that death is just another damned thing you have to do, and once that last “task of living” is complete, there is no more. No afterlife, no singing with the angels, no heaven or hell, no memories. Not even an enfoldment of one’s personal essence into the “eternal pool.” The Latin “tabulae rasam,” or “clean slate,” is closest to my belief on the matter, not quite oblivion, as ones fingerprints on life as a whole could still be evident, at least for a while. I then told him that LaVey and I did have that conversation one evening, and he was pretty much of the same thought on the matter.
I also told him that we’d spoken about the concept of speaking with others in the afterlife, should such a place or plane of existence exist in death. LaVey was of the opinion that those one might be able to converse with in death would be limited to those one had actually known in the reality of life. If you had not been alive and had not met Moses or Plato during their lifetime, you still would not be able to communicate with them after death. This would presume the idea of some universal intelligence into which one would automatically be assimilated upon one’s death, and this was a concept that LaVey had no belief in, at the time of our conversation. However, if this were possible, LaVey asked, “Why would Moses, Plato or anyone else have an interest in speaking with “Joe Blow” from the 20th Century, in the first place?”
Then, my friend asked me if there were people that I would like to have the ability to interact with after death. In all honesty, it’s not the first time… or the tenth… that I had been asked that question and, if someone had asked me this same question at various points in my life, my response would probably have been very different than it would be today. If, and that’s a big “IF,” I could believe in the concept, I could come up with any number of people from whom I would seek enlightenment or clarification on things that have historically been ascertained in their philosophies or historical importance. As for persons… individuals with whom I had shared some form of relationship… I could probably limit that contact list to the number of fingers on one hand. And in reality much fewer than that, to possibly none.
The reason is that I’ve pretty much taken the measure of people in general, and those of unique closeness in my life specifically, that I’ve hoped to be open and honest enough with me in real life that I would want to carry on a relationship with after death. But again, my answer might have been different at various points in my life, dependent upon my personal relationship and understanding of a given individual at that time. I know I might sound cynical and jaded, and I suppose that I am. Like most people, I’ve found that “love, trust and friendships” ebb and flow like the tides, and where we might be emotionally connected with an individual that we think and sincerely hope will be someone we can place our trust and faith in, time and tides bring changes that we might never suspect. I’ve trusted the words and promises of those who’ve loved me and found them to be lacking and self-serving, with validity that had substance only in the heat of the moment, but waning when applied to the realities of life. Over the course of my life, it’s brought me to the feeling that “I would like to believe you, but time will tell.”
IF there WERE the possibility of communication and relationships “in the afterlife,” to be quite honest, there are only two creatures thus far in my life whose love and loyalty have touched me deeply enough, that I can absolutely say would make me cherish the belief in an afterlife and look fondly to it. It’s perhaps telling that neither was a human being. Both were cats that spent many years with me until their inevitable deaths.
Seytan was my beautiful, white Turkish Van cat that I got as a kitten while stationed in Turkey in 1972. She and i were inseparable for 17 years, through “thick and thin,” with the kind of bond that one seldom finds with anyone, regardless of species. She died in 1989, and I mourn her still.
WYSIWYG was a handsome yellow rescue cat that came to me in 1998 and we became “thick as thieves” for 15 years, sharing the same type of relationship that I had with Seytan, but more like a father and son who would take on the world together and have fun doing it. He died in 2013 and, like Seytan, I mourn him still.
These are the types of associations that I would consider worthy of existing “beyond the veil of death,” but I don’t think that, in the long run, people can pull them off, as it seems to be a mark upon our species that close associations and the demands of trust seem to cast a harsh light on the idea that “familiarity breeds contempt.” Truly, relationships between people where loyalties and love are inviolate over a lifetime seem to be as “rare as hen’s teeth,” and I would think that only the purest of these could carry through beyond the grave… if at all.
So, philosophically, I find myself unable to believe in the concept of an afterlife, as well as the possibility of communication between those who would share that realm, should it exist. I’d prefer that clean slate and a severing of the ties between the living and the dead. It might hold hope for others, and if it gives them comfort in the face of death, it serves a valid purpose. Unfortunately, it’s just a concept I am unable to wrap my head around, even as the gap between life and death shortens with every passing year.