These last few years, I clean a church gym for an hour, then host pick-up games for 2-3 hours. Today, we had 14 players, so we had to rotate teams.
Today was also going to be my swan song.
I’m 69 years old with a bad heart and a few other maladies. For over a year, it has been my brain that has been giving me the most trouble.
Without fail, at some point during the game(s), my brain freezes up on me. I don’t know where I am, which way I am supposed to be running, or who my team-mates are. Heaven forbid I should be given the ball with no opening for me to shoot – I “blank out” and the defense picks me apart.
So, today was going to be the end. I had notes about what I was going to say and to whom I would share my story. I knew to whom I wanted to give one of my basketballs.
But a funny thing happened instead.
I had too much fun.
Maybe next year.
If there are no families or no basketball on the “other side,” I’d just as soon not go
copyright 2009 by Vincent O’Neil (used by permission)
Dying has some distinct disadvantages. For one, there are plenty of things this earth has to offer. For another, I’m not to sure what’s waiting for us. Before I die, I want to climb a pyramid and get lost in the Cairo museum. I want to raft down the Colorado and see the Grand Canyon from the bottom. I want to stare at the works and writings of Leonardo da Vinci. I doubt any of this stuff will be available in the next life. If there is no basketball or no families over there, I’d just as soon stay here.
It just doesn’t make sense that we will become angels sitting on clouds playing harps. Especially if that is an “eternal” reward. Eternity – that is one heck of a long time! What will YOU be doing a million years from now? Ten million years? Sitting on a cloud and playing a harp?
In all of the near-death experiences I’ve read about, a couple of things are quite clear. The “heaven” most people describe is full of love that gives you a warm-fuzzy feeling. There are also plenty of opportunities to learn. I like the reports that describe library-type locations where we can simply open a book and learn all about that particular subject automatically. All of that is very nice, but it is also clear that wherever we end up immediately after death is not our final destination. No one has ever come back from the dead to describe what awaits us after we leave the white light full of friendly people and angels.
Throughout the history of the earth, various peoples have held the belief it is possible to become a god. No thank you! There is no way I want to look down on my earth and watch war, poverty, murder, and hate. I’d rather not, if you don’t mind, and because I don’t have the ambition to become a god, I definitely won’t have that opportunity! So, if I can’t reach the top echelons of the hereafter, won’t I struggle with whatever position I inherit? Won’t it be hell for me to be told, “See what you could have had, if you had just done one last thing the way you were supposed to?” I’ve won a lot of trophies in my time, and believe you me, there is a lot of truth to the old Nike commercial, “You don’t win silver, you loose gold.”
A few near-death experiences have told of a hellish reception. Those trips to the other side aren’t repeated as often as the warm-fuzzy versions, because who wants to admit they deserve to go to hell when they die! We only have reports of the two extremes, but I can’t help but think there must be more than two levels in the final hereafter. Those near-death experiences tell of a “waiting room,” if you will. There are just too many personality traits in this life for us all to be lumped together as either just “good” or just “bad.”
It makes sense there are more than just two places to choose from in the next life. Dante described a hell of various levels. If there are many degrees of hell, there are probably many levels of heaven. The New Testament describes “many mansions.” According to Webster, nirvana is the “final beatitude that transcends suffering – a place or state of oblivion.” What if we substitute the word “level” or “degree” for “beatitude.” (The dictionary also indicates this teaching of Buddhism is “apparently unattainable.”)
When I was growing up, I mentioned several times that I didn’t think heaven was going to be all that wonderful, and I was told, “You will change. What was important to you here will fall away, and your whole spirit will be full of good and wonderful new things you never thought of before.” I never bought into that. I still don’t. Whatever level we arrive at, we will be with people of a like mind and character. Murderers will hang out with murderers; nerds will hang out with nerds; social workers will hang out in the back alleys. Whatever spirit is in us in this life will carry over with us into the next – and there is the rub. Is there basketball in the next life? Are there river-rafting expeditions down canyon rivers?
What about families? The ultimate is to have someone you love with you throughout the ages, maybe to even have children. Is there sex in heaven? Why not? Some have suggested the only way to have a family is in the top degree of the top level of the beyond. But what about those who don’t make the top degree of the top level? Can you have an intimate relationship in a lower level? To some people, the ability to have eternal sexual relations without the fear of pregnancy, would be pure heaven, regardless of the assigned level!
On the other hand, if you live a fairly righteous life, but fail to follow the exact formula for the top degree, won’t it be hell to be denied the love of a mate for eternity? You may end up just on the outskirts of heaven, with the ability to see the streets of gold, but you will be forbidden to walk those streets. It will be a grand existence – surely better than the levels below you full of people who didn’t care about right and wrong, and layers below those who kill one another. No, you won’t be down with those people, you just won’t be up with the best people. Just don’t wander over to the edge of the suburbs where you can see those couples happily strolling down those streets of gold.
By the way, who makes the streets of gold anyway? Somebody has to dig out the ore. Somebody has to smelt the rocks. Somebody has to pour the molten gold into frames. Maybe the angels who attend the gods will do that kind of thing. They almost made it to godhood, but just missed, so they can’t share in families, but hey, they are IN heaven, aren’t they? Or do they get punished at the end of the work day to come down and stay where we are? “Wow, you shoulda seen this palace I was working on today!”
So, after we walk around the clouds a bit, do we go home for dinner? Do we eat in the next life? Steak, shrimp – ice cream? I love most kinds of music, but I doubt I’ll be able to listen to the Beatles or Elvis. Will I be able to put together a “pick-up” game of football or basketball?
Maybe I’ll just stay here for awhile and play basketball, listen to music, and eat a pizza. I’ll just soak up all those tacos, sci-fi movies, candy bars, cashews, mountain hikes, swimming, movies, almonds, baklava, pecan pie, ice cream. . . . . . .
Maybe I should be like my mother, who lived on this earth 93 years and wrung every drop out of this life she could.
The next life. It boggles the mind.