Life’s a Journey…
I love this picture from the Astronomy Picture of the Day website. The description of the photo from the website is very technical:
What’s that strange light down the road? Dust orbiting the Sun. At certain times of the year, a band of sun-reflecting dust from the inner Solar System appears prominently just after sunset—or just before sunrise—and is called zodiacal light. Although the origin of this dust is still being researched, a leading hypothesis holds that zodiacal dust originates mostly from faint Jupiter-family comets and slowly spirals into the Sun. Recent analysis of dust emitted by Comet 67P, visited by ESA’s robotic Rosetta spacecraft, bolster this hypothesis. Pictured when climbing a road up to Teide National Park in the Canary Islands of Spain, a bright triangle of zodiacal light appeared in the distance soon after sunset. Captured on June 21, the scene includes bright Regulus, alpha star of Leo, standing above center toward the left. The Beehive Star Cluster (M44) can be spotted below center, closer to the horizon and also immersed in the zodiacal glow.
Actually, the picture means more to me than that. Whenever I travel, I like to leave around sunrise. I imagine the road stretching out before me on the way to my destination. The journey itself is meaningful, almost irrespective of the destination. If I am flying, I make a point to get to the airport hours before the flight, and I make the airport into an intermediate destination, with surprises of its own.
If I am driving, I like the idea of getting out of Los Angeles traffic before most people have woken up. When the sun rises, I like to be in open country, which in the context of Southern California, usually means the desert.
To me, life is travel. It is something of a truism that life’s a journey … but it really is. It is a journey on which we have little notion of the destination. So I resolve to enjoy the journey as much as possible. Who knows what wonders may await us?
Well, What Is It Like Being a Spirit in the Afterlife?
There is a delightful story in Alfred Döblin’s Bright Magic: Stories (New York: New York Review Books, 2016) entitled “Traffic with the Beyond.” The story is about an attempt to solve a murder using a séance. The spirits, however, take a more active role than is expected of them:
With that, the session ended. Incidentally, van Steen’s rage at the beyond is more comprehensible when we realize the job that this man, who so loved life and had lived in such high style here, had on the other side: Garbage collection! That was the usual assignment for a certain kind of new arrival, whose heart still clung to earthly things and who led a wild life on the other (that is, this) side. Conceited bachelors were given that job as well, and famous luminaries such as scientists, painters, tenors, and generals. For there was garbage in the beyond, stemming from the titanic mass of rotten, shriveled, worthless ideas and preferences that everyone brought with them, gradually threw off, and as it were sweated out of their system—things that no longer had or could have any place in the strict, noble, and spiritual other side. This sad latrine duty was assigned to the merry van Steen. He, and others, had to sweep up this daily rubbish and cart it off to be burned. In his affliction he, like many others, simply scattered the stuff back down onto the earth.
Well, I Guess That’s What the Egyptians Thought
Since I have passed threescore years and ten that is marked as the Old Testament’s standard limit for a length of a life, I am aware that there are many things that I am doing for the last time. Will I ever again see the streets of Buenos Aires? What about the glaciers and waterfalls of Iceland? Can I ever realize my dream of taking the Trans-Siberian Railroad all the way from Moscow to Vladivostok? Or, nearer at hand, what about the hills of San Francisco or the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon? Or even Descanso Gardens and Huntington Gardens?
Let’s take a look at what Psalm 90:10 actually says:
The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
When that day finally comes when I cross over, will I be angrily denied my access to the seventy-two large breasted virgins promised by Islam because I have not died fighting the infidel? Will St. Peter slam the pearly gates in my face because I once cussed out an aggressive panhandler? Will I be reborn in Brazil as a microcephalous infant due to my new mother’s having contracted the Zika virus? Will there, perhaps, be nothing? Or will there be a something I cannot imagine?
Because of the limitations inherent in our condition, I will continue to soldier on. So far I have been doing pretty well, considering. I’ll try to put off the “labour and sorrow” as long as I can, knowing full well that nobody lives forever.
Perhaps I write this because I am bummed out by all the famous people younger than me who recently died, like David Bowie and Glenn Frey and Natalie Cole and even the guy who played Leatherface.
I continue to walk the earth, but with a lighter step.