Edvard Munch, The Scream

Some thoughts on the afterlife

October 21, 2021

   One of the advantages of reaching “advanced” age without being religious is that you are free to imagine the afterlife any way you wish. And I had this thought the other day: what if your dreams are prequels to what your consciousness will actually experience when your body dies? For me, if true, it’s going to be one hell of a wild ride.

   Flying in a plane very low – between skyscrapers – has been a recurring staple of my dreamscapes long before 9/11. The plane is flying about midway up the buildings, and I keep waiting for it to hit something but it never does. I’m also looking forward to those dreams when I’m falling down stairways and not getting hurt.

And I had this thought the other day: what if your dreams are prequels to what your consciousness will actually experience when your body dies?

   Some dreams are so vivid I can remember them clearly long after I’ve had them. Like the one where my village is being overrun by scimitar wielding Saracen hordes, but they never catch me. Or the World War II one where my squad is being mowed down, but none of the bullets are hitting me. I’m not a hero in any of these dreams, mind you. I’m actually running for my sorry little life.

   You might think the sex dreams I’ve had would be the ones I’m really looking forward to experiencing in the afterlife, but no. In every case I’m thwarted, usually by gangs of relatives or people I know appearing just as things are heating up. And the genitalia can sometimes be bizarre. Well, enough about that.

   Then there’s the series of dreams where I’m either stuck in some unhappy situation or hopelessly lost in a city. One in particular is a very realistic dream, where I make the terrible mistake of agreeing to relocate back to a little town in upstate New York, where I actually did once live. My former neighbors can’t understand why I moved back. The house leaks from every nook and cranny, and there’s no transfer out this time.

   And there’s the whole trove of being late for class, unprepared for a test or lost looking for my class that I’ll have to experience to the fullest in the afterlife. The one where I’m graduating law school is the one I’m looking forward to the least.

   I’m particularly looking forward to, though, the ones I wake up from laughing uproariously or with a sense of having stumbled upon a great idea for a novel. I can’t wait to experience what was so funny, or what was so brilliant, since I certainly didn’t see it that way when I woke up from those dreams.

   The tricky part of the afterlife will be avoiding the real people in my dreams who have died in real life. Most of them I don’t ever want to see again. Maybe I can mix and match my dreams, so that when I run into somebody I don’t want to see, I can get myself lost in a city, or just hide in the middle of one of those scimitar wielding Saracen raids,

   I am hoping to have some measure of control over the eventual outcomes of these consciousness prequels when they occur for real. I guess that’s what the religious call faith.

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