Imagining a life beyond this one

There is a scene in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds in which a German officer respectfully refuses to divulge the whereabouts of his fellow soldiers. "Actually, we're all tickled to hear you say that," says Lieutenant Aldo "The Apache" Raine. "Quite frankly, watching Donny beat Nazi's to death is the closest we ever get to going to the movies." He calls into a tunnel for Sergeant Donny Donowitz. "You might know him as 'The Bear Jew'". After a few tense moments Donny struts out of the gloom carrying a baseball bat. The German officer stares death in the face. The first blow strikes him across the head and sends him sprawling to the ground. He receives two more body blows. He is visibly alive. We then observe the scene from high up in the woods as the Bear Jew delivers several crushing hammers to the skull.

From up here in the tree-tops Officer Werner is witnessing the end of his own human existence. If life continues after death, this is the way it could be realised. A micro-second before the passing away - perhaps simultaneously - you assume the form of an entity observing the obliteration of your empty corpse. There is no pain with it.

At the same time more expansive than the universe, and yet smaller than the smallest particle, you are neither of these things. You are made of no material known to this life. You are part of a whole, but entirely individual.

This spirit/entity exists outside of time and in this way is able to take in the whole of mankind's existence from beginning to end. But, if we stand outside of time then, surely we would already know this life? No, our existence began here on this earth. The first sucking of air into our lungs was like the breath of life being blown into our nostrils so that we became a living soul. Only after we have passed from this life shall we be able to go back and forth, and truly understand all things. Why does it start so? We do not yet know. Perhaps it is as with everything: We will not be told. We will not listen. We must experience it to fully appreciate it.

In the life beyond this one, time is inconsequential. A thousand years will be as one day, one day as a thousand years. We will be able to go back through life and re-live it in real time, over and over again should we desire to. Rewind, pause, replay, re-live. There will be no need for, "I wish I knew that then," because life is as it is. It will be all about, "Oh, I see." We will be free to do the same through the life of our parents, and our parent's parents, to see how the various threads of our life all came together - what made us who we were. Our understanding will be complete. Our interests will be inextricably tied up with this world - our ancestors, our future generations. Like wisdom personified in Proverbs 8:31 we say, "The things I was especially fond of were with the sons of men." We will reconnect with our parents, and any of our family who departed before us. Our thoughts will be interwoven with their thoughts, our being with their being.

We can watch events from the outside or experience them from the inside. Once one way, then the other, over and over, as often as we wish. To observe it from the outside or experience it from the inside, being wrapped up in the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of all participants. To follow the course of one thread, and then go back and follow the course of another. Perhaps follow both at the same time. There will be no interference or participation, just observation and a growing in knowledge and understanding. "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

We will be able to weave in and out of significant points of interest in human existence, or go back through the whole process of evolution, or whatever the method of life's beginning. We will be able to observe and understand. Nothing will be a mystery. Everything will be answered. There will be no need for thinking and extrapolating, for doubt and readjustment. All things will be clear.

As long as we are part of this system, with only these tools and this knowledge at our disposal, we are only ever going to be able to explain things in human terms. Thoughts are electrical impulses; an eye needs precise components in order to operate. But in the life beyond this one things will work in ways that we can't possibly begin to grasp. So we will be able to reach the outer limits of our universe. Partake of the breathtaking beauty, hold it in the palm of your hand (metaphorically). Plunge into the depths, and view the world from the peaks.

What then? Perhaps we get another opportunity. Placed on another earth, and sent off to repopulate complete with the knowledge of how this world operates. Another opportunity to get it right, or do a better job. "Your sins are forgiven." How often? Seventy times seven times? Ah, but now I am going off on a flight of fancy...

None of this is determined, of course. Imagining it does not make it so. A life beyond this one cannot be conjured up, just as God cannot be imagined into existence. There is either God, or there is not, and so far it seems in this world that we are destined never to know. The same goes for a life beyond this one. You may choose not to think about it, or to believe that there is nothing. That is your prerogative. There is no right or wrong answer. In this human form it is an unknown unknowable. If it is non-existence, then so be it. But while man has the capacity to hope, to dream, to imagine...Now that I am alive and aware of it, I prefer to imagine living eternally in some form or other beyond the bounds of our understanding.