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Musing cheerily about death and the afterlife

Michael Cleverly

“If the afterlife is so wonderful, why did Jesus bother bringing Lazarus back from the dead?”

– Jim Harrison

To me this is an excellent point. He’d be furious right? Mad as a Republican facing environmental legislation that cuts into profits. It’s my understanding that Jesus loved Lazarus … some buddy, yanking him back from paradise!

People get mad at God all the time, confronted with personal tragedy or terrible injustice, crying “why did you do this to me?” and shaking a fist at heaven. I personally can’t believe that God minds. Taking this sort of heat has to be right there in His job description. We share the credit with Him when things go well ” “thank you, God” ” so that we can heap a little blame on Him when life turns into a cosmic s–tstorm.

There’s too much responsibility, so we have to spread it around ” a little for us, a little for Him. Shaking your fist at the sky is pretty much being ticked off at God in the abstract ” we wouldn’t do it if we thought for a second we’d elicit a response.

Lazarus, however, would have been in an entirely different situation, more mano a mano. He’s pissed, he knows it and presumably the Big Guy knows it. The Big Guy’s omnipotent, but hell, Lazarus doesn’t want to push, no matter how mad he is, because, face it, that’s the option … hell. So he’s gracious.

“Hey yo, Jesus, this is really great. Thanks, I mean, paradise was cool, of course, you know, but it’s super “special” to be back, to see you again.”

The man has to bite his tongue; one doesn’t even want to think about bitch-slapping the deity. “So listen, Jesus, buddy, do you think my 80 virgins are missing me? I was just getting to know Raquel ” really sweet kid, know what I mean? [That’s right, we get more virgins than those ratprick terrorists any day of the week.]

“So J-man, what’s up? How come I’m here? By the way, what’s that stench, you know, like something died?” Thin ice here, speculation is that Lazarus was a leper, so he really shouldn’t gripe.

“What? Making a statement? There are other ways of making a statement. Did you see Raquel’s rack?” Listen, if a dead guy can appreciate rackage, then more power to him.

“Look, J, I didn’t say jack about you and my sister, right? Something happened, nothing happened, not my business, what goes on in the cave stays in the cave, dig?” It’s always a good idea to give a fella a way out.

“OK, OK, you never laid a glove on her. Hooker smooker, not everyone named Mary who isn’t your mother is a floozy. She’s young, she’s hot, what else is she supposed to do. There is nothing else to do. She loves you, bro. So does Martha.”

Anyway, you get the idea. Clearly Lazarus didn’t hold a grudge; he went on and preached Jesus’ word until the next time he died. The Bible doesn’t mention that Lazarus went to heaven after his first demise or his second. It only guaranteed that reward to one person, but in the case of Lazarus I think it’s safe to assume.

Those of us without Lazarus’ connections have a little more to worry about, or not, depending on your beliefs.

The 16th-century poet and clergyman John Donne wrote, “Death be not proud … die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee …” (sic). Donne was writing from the perspective of his faith, his religious conviction in eternal salvation. This is great if you happen to have such convictions.

Contemporary thinker Robert Pogue Harrison writes, “While it is true that we speak with the words of the dead, it is equally true that the dead speak in and through the voices of the living. We inherit their words so as to lend them a voice.” Libraries are filled with the words of the dead ” just say something worth remembering. This being the secular take on life after death.

For me, I’ve noticed that as I get older the inevitable decay of the senses is occurring. My eyesight sucks after years of painting with my nose 6 inches from the canvas, and I’ve got this constant ringing in my ears. This stuff is annoying, of course, but I see it as nature’s way of weaning us from the world. When we leave, perhaps we’ll miss it less if our perceptions and memories are fuzzy, vague.

One is as

In autumn

On the trees

The leaves

– Giuseppe Ungaretti

I feel fine. This is the sort of thing that cheers me up.


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