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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Musings on the Afterlife

While browsing the General Discussion forum on the Aussie Mortal Kombat fansite, Kamidogu, I came upon a thread asking whether suicides go to Hell, as many popular religions believe.  I thought for awhile about this question, and wound up crafting this response, which turned into a reflection on my own thoughts about the afterlife.  I thought posting that here would be a great way to revive this blog I've been neglecting.  XD

I'm holding out hope that the afterlife is sort of how it was depicted in the movie What Dreams May Come, at least for Heaven anyway, where it is big enough for everyone to have their own, tailor-made place. If that is the case, and I really hope it is, my Heaven is sure to kick a lot of ass just by virtue of my interests, likes, and eccentric/weird personality. One of the first things I want to do is challenge Bruce Lee to a game of Mortal Kombat...don't worry, guys, I think I can beat him so long as both of our definitions of Mortal Kombat are the same. If it's the video game, I think I've got a chance, but if his idea is a real fight, I'm probably fucked...but wait...it's MY Heaven! MY DOMAIN!!! *cackles maniacally...

Holding true to the What Dreams May Come idea, which really did a lot to influence and shape what I think/hope the afterlife is like, I think in the case of suicides, if they do go to Hell (and this is an opinion I waver on constantly), it wouldn't be a place of physical torture and anguish, but rather a place that torments them mentally. Suicide, like some religions believe, would be a violation not so much of rejecting God's gift of life, but more so of a natural order, or perhaps some sort of pseudo-predestined plan for life...and I hesitate to say that because I'm a bit skeptical of the idea of predestination. Hell, I believe for them, would essentially be their life gone wrong, an eternity spent living out what they knew to be their life, but with the miserable/negative parts augmented. I believe this would be the case because, with many people, misery is like gravity...some people become so steeped in it they come to view it as their "normal."

I have a close friend who seems perpetually miserable. With some of the things he's endured (the most poignant being a three year relationship which became an engagement that was broken off due to her mother not letting her move away with him so he could attend school; she then wound up promptly dating and marrying another), he seems to have every right to be miserable, but with the string of setbacks he's faced, I would almost say he is emotionally damaged, and to him misery is his "base emotion," if you will. I think suicide is something that is constantly on his mind, but an action he ultimately can't bring himself to enact due to the stubborn friendship I've established with him, plus my making sure he's around people who bring the happiness out in him each week on campus. I don't want to believe that a guy like him would go to Hell if he decided to commit suicide one day, because he's one of the nicest guys I know; but if going to Hell is a fact for those who kill themselves, I would have to believe it would be due to their own inability to escape the emotions and things that plagued them. If good people go to Hell, I think it's mainly due to their own inability to forgive themselves for their own perceived misdeeds and an often misplaced sense of guilt. It would essentially be a Hell of their own construct, like Heaven would be under this idea.

I'm not so convinced that the soul transcends the spectrum of emotions we know in life, like many religious people believe. I imagine Heaven would give us infinite reasons to be happy, and would undoubtedly encourage the positive emotions, but there is something that scares me about not potentially feeling certain emotions again, like anger, sorrow, or grief. To me, having the option to feel however you want is one of the greatest gifts to have in existence, and the idea of having that stripped away by Heaven sort of disheartens me. I personally believe you would still maintain that emotional freedom in my idea of Heaven, but perhaps a potential punishment in Hell would be the emotional handicap that those of deep faith would believe for Heaven. It makes logical sense to me when I think of it that way. Not saying I'd spend my entire eternity feeling miserable in Heaven, but it wouldn't be Heaven for me if I couldn't feel however I pleased.

But back on point, the constructs of such an afterlife would hinge on whether emotional capacity is maintained beyond death, which I believe to be so. Given the fact I believe this, I would wager that if one committed suicide, their skewed mental and emotional states would ultimately create for them their own personalized Hell. I guess you could say that Heaven and Hell would be mental constructs, in a sense, shaped by a person's own mind and given life via the person's emotions. Saying that, the line is blurred between the two...so is there really this separation??? I would argue yes, if only based upon my idea that Heaven would grant emotional freedom, while Hell would handicap that freedom. Heaven would be easier to mold and control with the mind, while Hell would be volatile and essentially uncontrollable, not conforming to anything but what torments the person unfortunate to occupy it. You could say that the one defined rule in the afterlife is that Heaven offers a person freedom, while Hell does not, and as such the formations of such afterlives are formed by the person based upon that rule.

The movie was based on a book, which to my knowledge is markedly different in many respects to what the movie depicted. One concept contained within the book, which the movie likely overlooked for more dramatic effect, was the idea of people in Hell serving "penances" for their sins and infractions committed against the natural order of things. In other words, people damned to Hell would not necessarily remain there forever, but would serve what could be thought of as prison terms before being offered a second chance at life to secure entry to Heaven. For example, by committing suicide, the character Ann (called Annie in the movie) was damned to Hell for a period of 24 years, and ultimately was reincarnated because she was not yet ready for Heaven. I like this idea of Hell as a sort of prison/reformatory of sorts. Very unique concept, if I do say so myself.

This theory of mine gets complicated really fast, as you can tell. Like many ideas and theories on the afterlife, it has its points of contention I'm sure. While I personally hold this idea to be a distinct possibility...perhaps even a truth...I acknowledge I could be completely wrong on the matter entirely, and like everyone else I won't know what is to happen (or not) until after my own death. I think it an appropriate time to admit I don't necessarily believe in one "true" religion or belief system or one "correct" path to a positive afterlife. I'm skeptical of whether there is one definite "Heaven/Hell." Back on point, though, I think the main reason why I grew to love this concept of the afterlife that was illustrated in What Dreams May Come is because of my belief in Heaven as a sort of paradise. This concept of Heaven was the best one, to my observation, that satisfied that belief, as it introduced to me a Heaven I could essentially tailor to my own interests, etc. I deem it a deeply reassuring concept to grasp onto, and will likely continue to do so throughout the remainder of my life.